Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Goodbye Babylon

So, this is a post about my colleague, Brandie Kessler, leaving for a new job in the fairytale land of York, Pa.

But I couldn't think of a good title and went with my standby, naming it after a song I like.

If I remember correctly, Brandie was the first reporter I met here at the Mercury (meaning Evan must not have been working that day or was out of the office when I came in). Brandie showed me the basic things you'd need to know in the day to day here: numbers for police departments, how to file the obituaries, what bin has police reports, where the candy is kept when we have it.

For the first four or five months, Brandie would help me out, providing suggestions on how to do something or where I could call to get certain info. But she would always preface or conclude any advice with some variation of: "You don't have to do this, I'm not trying to tell you what to do, you could also just do you own thing."

That has since disappeared (or maybe I've just completely and utterly tuned it out).

Something I have not been able to tune out is her enthusiasm for soccer.

For me, soccer has always been to sport what hipsters are to general society: something that thinks of itself as very cool and legitimate but hard to take seriously and thought of as almost a parody of itself by the vast majority of everyone else.

I don't like hipsters. I don't like soccer. 

But Brandie seems to live for the sport and one of my favorite memories was during the U.S.-Japan gold medal game in the Olympics this summer.

Brandie had it on and lived and died with every play, muttering terrible curses most of the time while watching the TV behind my back. I documented her watching through photos I posted to Twitter. (You'll have to dig for them.)

At one point, there was a pretty involved storm outside and she joked about what would happen if the power went out.

Less than five minutes later, boom, everything goes dark.

The whining "No!" from her behind me was somewhere between 6-year-old dropping a lollipop and Luke Skywalker being told his dad is the guy that just cut his hand off.

Going back to cursing: there was a time in this newsroom that, as far as I knew, it was open season to voice your frustration in whatever four-letter word best described your anxiety.

Sometime in the winter/early spring, we got a note saying otherwise. Sicne then, cursing has been like bootlegging in Prohibition in here. It's done, it's generally known about, but it's frowned upon if you're blatant with it.

Shortly after that note went out, Brandie took great pleasure in reading a quote out of one of the police reports she'd picked up.

"Give me the FUCKING car, motherFUCKER!" she yelled. (It was something to that effect)

Nancy, our editor gave her a pointed look and Brandie looked back.

"I was just quoting something from a story," she said, matter-of-factly.

I'm not sure what Nancy heard, but I definitely heard a six-year-old again, saying, "Nyah-nyah, you can't get me."

The six-year-old quality of Brandie is definitely her appeal, though. She's lost none of the enthusiasm you'd usually associate with a little kid.

She is competitive almost to a fault, and for that reason she dives into stories without reservation. God forbid if TV cameras show up for a story. If they do, she'll hit a source up for all he or she's worth because Brandie wants the story better than anyone else will have it.

That competitiveness jumpstarted our "Fill the Lab" food drive, during which we tried to get as much food and laundry detergent as we could so that we might have been able to fill our media lab.

All throughout that campaign, she said, "We're winning!" or "We're gonna win!"

I never got her to pin down what the hell we were winning or who we were even competing against, but her "winning" attitude fed a lot of people that really needed it this past spring and summer.

As you grow older, especially in a business like this where you encounter or discuss sad or terrible things almost daily, there is a certain jadedness you attain. Some of the comments I make now as a 24-year-old would probably sound pretty harsh to the 21-year-old journalism student I was before I started getting paid to write. But that's just the way things go.

With Brandie, however, her six years here don't seem to make her nearly as jaded as I've become in just one year. She still seems to feel as deeply for everyone she writes about and still feels the vitriol for the criminals.

More than a few times, I've called her "Captain America" for her desire to write about the bad guys and hold them publicly responsible. Just a week ago, I asked her how many times she's cried while on the clock.

Those qualities, to feel so deeply about what you do despite a sensory overload that comes daily, are probably what make her good at what she does and why we're definitely going to be taking a pretty big hit here at The Mercury after Sunday.


  1. Nice post, Frank! We don't get more jaded. We just get older. Give my best to Brandie!

  2. Brandie's leaving?


    Why am I always the last one to know this stuff?

  3. Surprisingly, I didn't cry reading this, but I did smile a lot. Thanks, Frank! I promise to stop in every now and again and swear a bit for old times' sake.

  4. Brandie, don't ruin the nostalgia. Stay away.

  5. You know, Frank, this may be too serious for this kind of blog but I can't help myself. I met you a few months ago when I came to visit Brandie and she brought me to the news room and you were there. I have to say, you have captured the essence of Brandie. I have watched her grow from the time she was very little into a very accomplished and professional individual. I so love the fact that her emotions play such an important role in the way she attacks life, because that's what she does. I am absolutely proud of who and what she has become and so very proud that one of her colleagues thinks enough of her to write about her in such a special way. I am sure she is going on to bigger and better things but I want to thank you for honoring her in a way that only another writer can. With words to capture who she is.

  6. Haha, that was a good read! How eloquently you have captured the essence of Brandie.