Mark Saxenmeyer is the President, CEO, and Executive Director of The Reporters Inc. For more information about him, click here.

Letter from the President

So Much to Discover, Even in the Alley


January 2013

Our Minneapolis townhouse has a stunning view out back: an alley.

I’m not joking. I love alleys. Cities with alleys can hide their unmentionables away, like garbage. If you’re familiar with New York City, you know what I’m talking about. That city could use some alleys. Ever walked down a NYC sidewalk when the trashcans are hauled to the street? It’s not pretty.

Garbage aside, I’ve witnessed some interesting sights in our alley recently. For example, there’s the rough-around-the-edges bottle blonde who lives two doors to our left. I think she’s a single mom; she has one young daughter. She works late hours. Every now and again, in the wee hours of the morning, I hear her car pull up in the alley. She usually heads out to her back patio, drinking, talking loudly, and flirting with her guests. She always has a different guest with her, a different man. She has a lot of guests.

 

To our right, there’s some kind of office building. I think it’s an advertising agency. If you look in the windows, it’s home to some uber-mod décor and an open floor plan. Its employees come into the alley for their smoke breaks. They take a lot of them, and sometimes they’re not too careful about where they flick their ashes and drop their butts. They’re out there in the rain and the snow and the freezing cold, blowing their smoke into the wind. Perhaps they’re stressed, striving for the next great product tag line, as they suck on those cigs. Some inhale so very deeply. Some take just a few drags and then hustle back inside.

 

Last weekend, a car pulled into he alley and stopped. A guy with sunglasses and gold chains got out and started dancing in front of the car, to rap music. He appeared to be lip-synching to the rhymes. Two other guys got out as well, and recorded him with small hand-held cameras. They did this over and over again. I’m assuming they were taping some kind of music video. Maybe he’ll be the next Jay-Z or Lil Wayne. Or MC Hammer. Hard to say.

 

Part of me wants to open the door to our back patio and find out more about these alley goings-on. I’ve got quite a few questions. But, just like you, I’ve also got a pretty busy life and a hectic schedule. There’s not a lot of time to unravel the mysteries of my alleyway.

 

As a journalist, I make a living trying to unravel all kinds of things; I get paid to turn them into interesting, informative reports. Unfortunately, many of those journalistic mysteries also remain untold. In fact, at my TV news day job, I’ve got piles of files of subjects and issues that went untouched and undiscovered in 2012. As the year ended, the pile stood at 184 (yes, I counted them). 184 stories I wanted to cover but couldn’t, most often because of time constraints.

 

Among them: the story of a mentally unstable woman accused of faking an entire military career; the story of the nonprofit that steps in to pay the mortgages of families with critically ill children; the story of four native American middle school girls who were strip-searched at school in an over-zealous frenzy to discover a teenage thief.

 

I wanted to follow around city assessors as they reviewed residential properties and re-appraised them in the post-recession economy; I wanted to follow up on an elderly woman’s claim that “mean girls” were bullying her at her retirement home.

 

I wanted to interview the transgender woman who was sent to prison after stabbing a man who taunted her in a neighborhood bar; I wanted to look into a rash of suicides in which the victims chose to die by laying down in traffic.

 

I wanted to interview the young Somali refugees who were badly burned when their village was set on fire during government-backed genocide. I wanted to find the Mexican immigrant who was beaten in his jail cell when he complained about the need to use the restroom. I wanted to help the elderly Jewish couple who begged me to intervene in an anti-Semitic dispute with their landlord.

 

If time were plentiful, I’d have told those stories. If time were plentiful, those of us who care deeply about The Reporters Inc. would have pursued them through this nonprofit’s unique and impassioned mission. We’re determined to uncover subjects and explore concerns that are ignored, overlooked, inadequately examined, misrepresented, or undiscovered by other media.

 

But again, that takes time. And it also takes money. To put it simply, we’d appreciate your support. To put it bluntly, we need your support.

 

So many stories. So many mysteries. Even in our every-day lives. As I dive into 2013, maybe I’ll make an effort to chat up my night owl neighbor, when she and I are both on our patios. Maybe I’ll ask the smokers about the ad campaigns they’re working on, in between puffs. And if the aspiring rapper makes a repeat appearance, maybe I’ll get his name, and tell him I knew-him-when, on his road to superstardom.

So much to discover, even in the back alley.

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