Route Bay City is committed to telling Bay County's positive stories of growth, entrepreneurship, and community development.
Behind those stories are Route's writers and photographers, locally-based people who are working to show Bay County to the world. Today we have a Q&A with Route writer Kathy Petersen Roberts, and is the first article of a series where we get to know the people behind Route.
Route: Can you tell us a bit about your background in writing and journalism?
Kathy Petersen Roberts: I have a Bachelor’s Degree in print journalism from Central Michigan University and I worked at The Bay City Times from 1987 to 2002. I was a reporter and an editor at the paper.
With your background in reporting, what kind of lessons have you learned about telling great stories?
I think the biggest lesson I learned is if someone is passionate about something, then it’s fun to hear them talk about it. I can talk to anyone about almost anything for an hour or two. I don’t care how little interest I have in the topic, if I really pay attention to what that person is saying, I’ll learn something.
After 15 years in a newsroom, I also am confident that every person has a story to tell. Most of us have more than one.
What kinds of stories do you like reporting on the most?
I’m pretty fickle when it comes to favorites. I think whatever I’m writing about at the moment is my favorite.
Why did you want to get involved with Route?
I love the concept behind Route. I moved to Bay City in 1987 with every intention of staying no more than 5 years. By the time 5 years rolled around, I knew I was staying. I love the people, like the location, enjoy the summer festivals, and get a kick out of watching the Saginaw River change with the seasons. (I sound ridiculously perky, don’t I?)
What effect do you think there will be on the area having a publication dedicated to telling the positive stories Bay County is creating?
One of the best changes Route could bring about is encouraging people to see that Bay City is special. I think some people see Bay City as a downtrodden blue-collar town with few opportunities and lots of bars. That may have been true at one time, but it’s not true anymore. There’s a lot going on here. Sadly, some people living in Bay City and the surrounding towns don’t notice how we've changed. It would be great if Route could build a new reputation for our community.
Why do you think Bay County is a place worth telling stories about?
Our diversity is amazing. You can start your day watching nature and walking along the Saginaw Bay in the Bay City State Recreation Area. Then, drive less than 10 minutes to visit a downtown coffeehouse and shop at a few boutiques. Finally, drive over one of our signature drawbridges and discover the Midland Street district’s restaurants, bars, and an abundance of live entertainment. On a summer weekend when there’s a festival, there are even more opportunities. What’s not to love about living here?
Why do you think stories are such a powerful way of connecting with people?
Humans have been storytellers since the very beginning. Cavemen were scratching stories of hunts onto their walls. Stories are a way of illustrating what’s important to a community. At the beginning of life, we use stories to teach toddlers basic life skills like how to get along with each other. At the end of life, stories help us share our personal history with our families. Stories matter.
What do you hope to accomplish with your storytelling?
I love when a story spurs someone to do something. When I was at the paper, I never got tired of seeing someone approach the podium at City Hall during public comment clutching a story I wrote. If my stories help someone understand their community and then do something to make it better, I’m a very happy reporter.