“Best Year Ever” contender

Serial arsonist. Local government agency bombing. Robot on Mars. Five-year-old superhero.

I’m wondering if these words/tidings would have shown up in tea leaves if I’d visited a fortune teller Dec. 31, 2012, if images of the Curiosity Rover and an IED detonating aboard a propane tank would have flickered in her crystal ball.

Being surprised was better, I think. The listed topics above were, hands down, my favorite stories to cover these past 364 days. They may have made the top 10 all-time list, and honestly, this is likely my favorite year in journalism thus far.

Why? Variety and thematic, deeper-than-the-headline meanings that I, in my complicated, reaching way, have dissected from each story.

Two of these stories were about fire and how some have used it to damage property around Medford. One man, Alan Leroy McVay, allegedly attached an IED to a a propane tank to make a homemade bomb that he attempted to set off in front of the Jackson County District Attorney’s Office. He will be charged federally for his suspected involvement.

I’ll never forget the morning the explosion was reported; the caution tape, the closed building, the press conferences, the number of agencies involved. It felt more like an episode of ‘Law and Order’ than a day at the Mail Tribune.

Then there were the numerous arson fires set in vacant homes around Medford by persons unknown. They still have not been apprehended.

There’s something spooky about that, knowing they could be standing outside the Mail Tribune right now, planning their next move. On a practical level, it also has to be frustrating. They’ve racked up over $500,000 in damage, and it’s likely that price tag will keep going up.

The other two stories I speak of were about our potential, the best in us.

Take Matt Heverly, the former Medford resident who spends each day – or, as he would term it, “sol” – sending planned movements to the Curiosity Rover, the $2.5 billion NASA robot tasked with finding life, or evidence of past life, on Mars.

Real smarts and imagination are required for something like that, but Matt had additional qualities like humility and kindness that made him a real joy to talk to.

Then there was Miles Scott, the pint-sized Bruce Wayne from Tulelake, Calif., who beat leukemia and became the Batkid for a day, thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

The story I got to do wasn’t just about Miles’ much-watched feats across a faux-Gotham City that made him a national celebrity. It was about how his heroics haven’t stopped, thanks to a foundation his parents and the San Francisco 49ers Foundation set up. Thirty-three cents of every dollar raised will go to Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center’s pediatrics department, where Miles was treated for acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

Like any heartwarming story, there were a handful of idiots that slithered up from the sewers and crypts to screech about how horribly stupid and mismanaged and expensive and overblown and blah blah blah the Batkid phenomenon was. A guest writer for the Washington Post argued that the funds could have/should have been redirected to a more logical, safe course. You know, instead of reaching inside themselves and doing something terribly creative and nice that, in effect, created a foundation devoted to fighting something as awful as childhood leukemia and gave us something to smile about for a day, Make A Wish should have just given that money directly.

Under that logic, we’re all pretty bad people. Because we choose to sometimes buy coffee instead of donating that money to cancer research. In my opinion, that logic dismisses terms like “investment” and “awareness.” And “humanity.”

Either way, an incredible story that captured so many, one I will be grateful to have been a part of forever.

So what’s next? Who knows. That’s one of the most exciting components of the news business; the unpredictability and eternal fields of clouds people like me have to keep clearing away to see what’s next.

I hope you’ll continue on this journey with me and my colleagues. You won’t regret it.

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    Ryan Pfeil

    This is a blog for southern Oregonians to check in on all things geek. Sci-fi, history, comics, movies, video/photo and anything else that would have gotten you shut in a locker in high school. Have fun. Read Full
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