April 27th, 2006 10:45 EST
Profile of Janice Kiaski of the Steubenville Herald-Star
Everyone has a story, a piece of him or her just waiting to be shared. There are also artists who specialize in molding a story into an enchanting tale, taking one person and showcasing their life in a way that allows others to feel acquainted with them. It is “fun and light-hearted”, says Janice Kiaski of the Steubenville Herald-Star and Weirton Daily Times.
Kiaski is this kind of artist. She is a feature writer and her specialty is the softer side of news reporting. Feature articles are crafted to tell a story; they maybe humorous, dramatic or simply a meaningful narration of recent events. Words are the medium and when the writer carefully develops their work, it is a masterpiece
She is currently an editor, columnist, and feature writer for a small area in the Ohio Valley.
The Herald-Star circulates about 18,000 newspapers a day to residents who work in mills, on farms and other blue-collar jobs. The Ohio Valley is the kind of place where you not only know your neighbor, but you also know their parents and friends. The towns are nestled between tree-lined hills, with the Ohio River flowing inside. They seem protected from the hustle of urban living.
Living and writing in such a place allows Kiaski to be recognized and known by readers. Her excitement is obvious as she describes the great feeling of being approached by strangers in line at the grocery store. “There is always positive feedback, which is cool from people I don’t know.” She explains that this is one the best parts about her job. “It’s flattering, humbling.”
Kiaski realized in high school that English and creative writing were her favorite subjects. Therefore, she attended West Liberty State College in West Liberty, W.Va., for a bachelor’s degree in communications. About two weeks after graduating in 1979, the young journalist began reporting for the Herald-Star. She was first assigned city council meetings and took obituaries over the phone. With the ink, still drying on their sheepskin most journalists would be thrilled to have a reporting job. However, Kiaski laughs while explaining that she hated those stories and wondered what she was doing in journalism.
Yet, she continued to work at the paper and eventually was able to move on to writing a human-interest story and column, which run in the Valley Life Section of the Sunday edition. Kiaski says her column is “humor or an observation of life”. The story is about people and events in the Ohio Valley and can come from reader’s suggestions or Kiaski’s own ideas. Her articles have been about a local woman’s singing career or a weight-loss challenge at a city library. “It is an honor to share people’s stories in the paper,” explains Kiaski. Her column has covered her own family’s recent love of pepperoni rolls or simple thoughts that would make a good country song.
Feature writing is the more delicate side of reporting, but it still follows the same guidelines. Kiaski says the best advice she can give is to, “get facts straight. If you do not understand, neither will the reader.” Interviewing is another essential piece of feature writing. The journalist must get important quotes and details with which to create a story. To do this well Kiaski says, “Learn to put people at ease”. She went on to describe writing as being a part of local, national and perhaps even international history, which makes it a challenge every day.
After contemplating the question of the most significant event in her career, Kiaski firmly answers that there is not one single story that stands above the rest. “There is no one great story that I can choose. Every story is something to work on or change for the next one.”