GREENE COUNTY, PA
GREENE COUNTY, PA
Footprints & Spotlights: The Story Of Local Writer Steve Barrett
Written By Caitlin Carlisle
Reporters aim to report the truth, but it’s human nature to present your version of that truth. Here at ExploreGreene.org, we decided it would be a unique experience for both the readers and our local reporters to get inside their heads and see what has them working so hard to make Greene County a great place to live.
Our first piece is focused on Steve Barrett, the managing editor of the Greene County Messenger, a weekly publication owned by Ogden Newspapers Inc. and the sister paper of the Herald-Standard. I started out with a thorough set of questions that I thought would be interesting for our readers. However, the interview went in a very different direction.
It’s easy to talk to Steve Barrett. Anyone who knows Steve (or has passed him on the street) knows his genuine interest in people and their stories. It is that authenticity that makes the Greene County Messenger a cornerstone of our local media and an anticipated weekly release.
Steve started with the Greene County Messenger in 1996 and quickly garnered a reputation for presenting touching stories that deeply impacted the community. To understand how this all came about, we have to go back to New Jersey in 1968, which is where and he was born.
Steve is the youngest of three siblings, and the Barrett children were labeled as “Preacher’s Kids,” as their father, Reverend Dr. David L. Barrett, was a Presbyterian minister. Dr. Barrett was a passionate leader who, along with his wife, Carole, ensured their children had a loving home and a hefty helping of strong principles.
Steve was often in awe of his father and his fearless convictions and ability to give goodness to so many people. But what good is a preacher’s kid without a little rebellion? Abhorring cliché as adolescents often do, Steve developed an affinity for heavy metal and hard rock music. That passion and creativity was welcomed at home. Steve’s father taught him not to be afraid of sharing his passion, because that passion is his armor. His father had left some large footprints in the mind of an impressionable young person.
In 1994, Steve was offered a job as a freelance reporter at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, covering human interest stories. Early on, he found that this type of writing was far more difficult than he anticipated. He realized that to find a great story, he needed to know the right people and ask the right questions. Getting those people to open up about their experiences meant that Steve’s reputation and trustworthiness were on the line.
When I asked Steve about a defining moment in his career, he didn’t hesitate to tell me the story of one of his earliest articles. Being a Waynesburg College (now Waynesburg University) alum, he heard about the college's head of security who may have had an interesting story to tell. Steve learned that the man was signed in the late '80s to play for an NFL team during a strike. Becoming totally immersed in his story, Steve spent hours with his subject looking at photos and ticket stubs. When the article was published, the man reached out to Steve to made one point very clear – don’t ever stop pursuing your dreams.
From that moment forward, his path was made clear to him. So much in fact, that he immediately scribbled himself a note that became his mantra, “Everybody has a story to tell – it’s your job to find it.” Steve now had laser beam focus and with fresh excitement found great satisfaction in the remarkable human side of events and the power those stories could have.
He carried this passion to the Greene County Messenger when Daniel Morris, Sr. brought Steve on as an editor in 1996. It was there that Steve refined his views on the responsibility of the press and how he could contribute to the community.
Steve said, “It is important to shine a spotlight on what happened, but to try to humanize it a little bit. In a world filled with hatred and negativity, we still have responsibilities as reporters to find the good things; to continue to find those glimmers of hope.”
It’s only natural for a reporter to have their sights set on getting a great story. It’s something entirely different to hold equally close the duty to not sensationalize or misconstrue potentially emotional or challenging stories. In reading Steve’s work, it’s easy to see the analytical “pause” in his articles. Where other reporters may race to just report the immediate presentation of facts, Steve chooses to take a moment to reflect on the impact of those facts. It’s in these stories that we see the best of who we are – resilience, forgiveness, kindness and hope.
In the same way his father aimed to inform but inspire, Steve has found his own way to stand in those footsteps. Every week we read a carefully presented and gently considered vision of events that gives us an opportunity to see the grace in our fellow neighbors and beauty at a time when hatred is a first response.
There’s enough goodness to go around, and every week, Steve Barrett makes sure we all get our share.
Written By Caitlin Carlisle
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