Unbelievable as it may seem to regular readers, 47 years ago, I started off as a newspaper reporter. I don’t mean it’s unlikely I’ve been working that long, for I suspect some of you see me as a great-grandfatherly figure, a doddering old fool who’s lucky not to have oatmeal on his chin and his address pinned to his windbreaker in case he wanders away. No, it’s the newspaper reporter business you may find unlikely. Still, I went into the Army when I was 17, “trained” for 14 weeks in the craft of writing press releases and news stories, always worshipping the mystical inverted pyramid.
I’ll offer further critique in a bit, but first want to offer an example of the kind of writing I started off producing:
Manchester’s Hope Recovery Presents Its Annual Recovery Festival September 30
Manchester, NH— Saturday, September 30, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Hope for New Hampshire Recovery’s annual Festival will be at Arms Park in Manchester, a change from the previous festival’s Veterans Park site. Hope’s festival, the largest north of Boston, draws up to a thousand visitors eager to celebrate their recovery, connect or reconnect with friends and have a great time with fun activities, music, and brief speeches. Admission is free and on-site parking is available.
Over time, the festival, Hope’s only fundraising event, has become a true celebration of recovery. This transition continues this year, with Manchester recovery residences taking the lead in hosting entertaining and fun sideshow-type activities, including a dunk tank, a chess tournament, henna tattoos, a bubble station and more. A complete list of activities and recovery residences putting them on is available at Hope’s website, recoverynh.org.
Additionally, two recovery residences in particular, Into Action and Home Sober Living, have led an incredibly successful donation drive for raffle items like New England Patriots tickets, a big-screen television, an oil painting by local artist DR Cote, a handmade wooden table and lots and lots of gift cards.
At Hope Recovery, community is the message, purpose, and secret ingredient. People at Hope are in recovery, looking for recovery, or just enjoying the positive vibe of a healthy community center. In Johann Hari’s famous words, “The opposite of addiction is connection.” Hope connects people, strengthens relationships and offers hope to the hopeless.
“Recovery doesn’t take place in a vacuum,” said Keith Howard, Hope’s executive director. “A vacuum isn’t just devoid of matter–it lacks life, communication or purpose. Recovery comes when I look into your eyes and recognize you, the best version of you and help you make that recognition reality. Vacuums suck, but community is vital to recovery. At the Recovery Rally, Hope Nation gathers as a tribe for celebration, for encouragement and fun.”
Hope for New Hampshire Recovery, 293 Wilson Street in Manchester, is a peer-driven and peer-led community center. Hope hosts more than 35 recovery meetings a week, ranging from various anonymous (12-Step) fellowships to SMART Recovery, Recovery Dharma and others. Hope’s real strength is in providing a safe and supportive space for people in recovery to support each other. Musical talent shows and more than 700 member-made paintings hang on the walls to help demonstrate that recovery is more than just going to meetings–it’s a brand new and better life.
Who: Hope for New Hampshire Recovery
What: Hope’s Recovery Festival
Where: Arms Park, Manchester, NH
When: September 30, 2023. 11 am to 2 pm
Why: To celebrate recovery from alcohol and other drug addictions
That press release, I believe, is standard-issue, boilerplate, run-of-the-mill news writing. Nothing flashy. Nothing personal. Nothing interesting. “Just the facts, ma’am,” as Sgt. Joe Friday never actually said on “Dragnet.” The release contains little “Keithness,” unlike almost every other blessed thing I’ve written since getting out of the news biz as a radio new director years ago.
Features and columns are what I’ve always loved. Lulling people into a state of comfort with nonchalance, nonsense, and non-sequiturs, then snapping their heads with an outlandish or provocative statement. Sometimes you can even get people to explore and digest information they likely would have otherwise skipped. For example: including a description, discussion and meditation surrounding the square root of Negative One in a piece on Higher Powers in recovery.
Or getting someone to read a press release on Hope’s Recovery Festival, September 30 from 11-2 at Arms Park in Manchester. It’ll be a great time and I look forward to seeing you and you and, most importantly, YOU there.
You matter. I matter. We matter.