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Central California Life Magazine

The Backstory

Sep 23, 2014 01:23PM ● By Cen Cali Life Magazine
The Backstory
"Stories of ordinary people have a place"
by Kelley Campos McCoy, Editor

One of the highlights of grad school for me was when Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Rick Bragg paid a visit to the University of Washington. With his uncombed hair, scraggly beard and tight button-down shirt, Bragg looked like the unrefined, well-fed twin brother of Eagles front man Don Henley. 

I found him incredibly attractive. 

Maybe it was his Southern drawl. Maybe it was how he talked of his experiences as a reporter with exquisite pacing and perfect words. Whatever the reason for his pull on me, I had become an admirer of Bragg's well before then, after I read the stories in The New York Times that garnered him the highest distinction in American journalism. I admire him anew each time I share his works with my news writing students. 

I've been thinking a lot lately about Bragg, writing and what makes a story worth telling. I think Bragg, who grew up poor and has an unabashed affinity for the disenfranchised, got it right when he said, "The stories of ordinary people -- though they’re never really ordinary -- have a place."

Bragg has long understood that the most interesting and important stories aren't always about the wealthy and the powerful, much less the best-dressed and most beautiful, but about common folks like you and me – people who go to work every day (or struggle to find work), raise families and do the best we can, sometimes under difficult circumstances.

Telling the stories of ordinary people is a cornerstone of Central California Life. In every issue, we strive to strike a balance between people who are well-known to readers and people we think readers might like to know. 

Deciding which stories to pursue is one of the toughest parts of our job. For one thing, space is limited. For another, almost 4 million people call Central California home. It is a place of rich ethnic and cultural diversity and political and economic extremes. How do we choose what to cover and what to leave out? 

Stories that get the green light are those that dovetail with the theme of a particular issue (for example, this issue features several stories about education), and those we think our readers will find interesting. Among our criteria are that stories be entertaining, informative and compelling; provide readers with an opportunity to cross paths with folks they would never meet otherwise; and, ideally, give people an appreciation for the vast complexity of the region. 

This process isn’t perfect, but it's the best way we know to bring you the stories of the people who call the heartland of the Golden State home. You can help us by taking advantage of opportunities to connect with us via email and social media. Tell us: Is there someone whose story you’d like to read? Is there a neighborhood, community, school or business doing something noteworthy or reaching an important milestone we should know about? We can't promise we'll cover the story you suggest, but we can assure you we will consider it carefully.

Stories of ordinary people have a place, indeed. In Central California, it’s in the pages of this magazine.