Her name is Samantha Marie Watson. We know her as Sam, as do readers of the Peninsula Pulse.
Sam began working for us in June 2022, immediately after earning her UW-Madison journalism degree. We knew from her résumé and interviews that she was intelligent, with enough experience to show us her talents as a reporter and writer. She had a leadership role on her student newspaper, and earlier this year, she was named Wisconsin’s Rookie Reporter of the Year through the Wisconsin Newspaper Association for her work on our newspaper.
There are intangibles that go with this job of reporting, characteristics that candidates can’t point to or describe on paper and that we can only hope they have or can learn. They need enthusiasm, endless curiosity and the ability to handle deadline pressure week after week after week. They need to be flexible as news and priorities shift.
Until we began working with Sam, we didn’t know whether she had these characteristics. We soon learned she did – and that she executed them with a grace and equanimity that’s unusual for one so young. She’s an editor’s dream, frankly, in that she works independently to find, source and research her stories. She writes well and quickly with accuracy, and she is able to glean lessons that inform her future stories from the sometimes painful exercise of close editing.
But she’s also a good human being: diligent, gentle, gracious and kind. Often she’s quite serious – until a luminous smile and soft laugh crack open her face. She has become an integral member of our Pulse family; she has chosen to make the Door community her own.
On Wednesday morning, July 19, Sam was driving south on Highway 57 toward Baileys Harbor on her way to work when she was in a head-on collision. The other driver had veered into her lane, according to the report from the Door County Sheriff’s Office, and was also injured. Emergency responders had to cut Sam out of her vehicle before airlifting her to Green Bay. She suffered broken bones in almost every part of her body – both of her legs, an arm, a collarbone, an ankle. She was in surgery for about five hours, and the next morning, emerging from ICU, she immediately began physical therapy while awaiting more surgery on her ankle.
We know her spirit is strong and that her young body will aid her. But her physical therapy and recovery period will be long and likely grueling. She and her partner, Matthew Smith – who worked at the Sister Bay branch of Nicolet Bank and will now be her full-time caregiver during her recovery – are handling their new circumstances as well as they can.
We are reserving a position for Sam, who said she is interested in remaining within the community and keeping her job. Meanwhile, there is a hole in our newsroom, a hole in our hearts. She won’t be answering emails or covering meetings or stories for a while, and I wanted you to know that, and why.
Godspeed on your recovery, Sam. We’re looking forward to having you back on our team.