New reporter: How I got to Sweet Home

Benny Westcott

The first time I heard about Sweet Home was in a Lynyrd Skynyrd song.

But that was Sweet Home, Alabama.

You see, I come from quite far away. Pennsylvania, to be precise.

When I learned that Sweet Home was actually a real place, I was excited. I was even more excited when I told my first interviewee, Police Chief Jeff Lynn, that I liked mountains, and he responded, “Oh, we have those in spades.”

Not that I didn’t know that already. It’s just hard to see them this time of year, with the clouds.

When my dad and I drove around the area on one of those rare winter sunny days here in the Willamette Valley, we had already been in town for about half a week. We were caught off-guard and pleasantly surprised by the towering land masses popping up all around us, which had previously gone unnoticed to our eyes, obscured by the water droplets that hang over the valley during the year’s damper months.

Needless to say, I was quite happy to see these welcome sights, and it made me even more excited to break out my hiking boots, mountain bike, and inflate my paddleboard, some of my most preferred equipment for getting out into the beautiful natural areas surrounding Sweet Home. Our town’s population certainly shouldn’t take these natural beauties for granted, and I for one am thankful to call such a place my new home.

I am also grateful that the people who have welcomed me into this community so far have been just as sweet as the vistas. The people in this town that I have had the chance to interact with have shown me nothing but kindness, enthusiasm and respect. Which is nice, you know.

Because it wasn’t a walk in the park to get here. It took me about 37 hours to drive to Sweet Home from Pennsylvania, a trip that featured a lot of Holiday Inns, corn fields, and a failed attempt to listen to Bruce Springsteen’s entire discography.

I come from a family with experience in journalism, print publications, and the written word.

My mom was an English teacher before taking on her current role as managing editor of the Purple Martin Conservation Association’s quarterly magazine.

My dad was a reporter for the Erie Times News for a decade, before he and another former reporter started a communications company, Turn Two Communications.

I bring some amount of experience into this role, having written for my college newspaper at Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y., the Adirondack Explorer covering the beautiful Adirondack Park in upstate New York, and the West County Journal, a small weekly newspaper for my hometown of Fairview, Pa.

But journalism, like the people and communities it serves, is always changing, so experience can only go so far.

I believe that good reporting, to a large extent, is about the readers. If you have any suggestions for how I can improve my articles, or if you know a story you think should be told or a perspective that should see the light of day, feel free to reach out to me. I am open to new ideas. And old ones too.

And rain or shine, I look forward to telling Sweet Home’s stories to the people that live, work and play here.

Reach me at [email protected].