I’ve been pondering this last column for quite some time, probably since the day I began to give serious consideration to a voluntary separation program offered by the Daily Globe’s parent company. I won’t give you a full rundown of why I decided to take it, except to say it was time for a change, and the timing was right. And no, I haven’t decided what I am going to do. But this isn’t retirement, not at my age, not on a journalist’s salary. There is work ahead — much work, I would guess — in my future, but before I ponder those choices …
Today is my last day in the Daily Globe newsroom.
I can remember my first day, not quite 28 years ago, like it was yesterday.
I had come back to Worthington from Colorado to regroup after a layoff from a sales job. I didn’t intend to stay in my hometown for any length of time; I just had to figure out if I was going to go back to school, head back to Colorado or try somewhere else. In the meantime, I bartended and worked in a local clothing store.
Daily Globe Editor Ray Crippen called: Would I be interested in filling a vacant Lifestyles editor position? The starting salary — $5 an hour! — was more than I’d been making at those other jobs, so why not? I had been editor of the high school newspaper, and it would only be temporary, after all. After a brief meeting with Ray, I started a few days later, at the end of October 1988.
I had no idea what I was doing. Someone sat me down in front of a computer, gave me some brief instructions on how to operate it, and left me to construct some sort of a story. I failed miserably. If someone had told me that I would still be employed a week later — let alone 28 years! — I would have been laughed loudly in their face. No way was this occupation for me.
But somehow I persevered, despite many missteps. I made it through a major election night, less than a week later, and was rewarded with a piece of fruit on my desk from Ray — his low-key way of acknowledging the effort. I began to intently read what my coworkers were turning out and modeled my own stories after theirs. I learned the ins and outs of newspaper layout — at that time “pasted up” (using wax) by hand in the backshop — and narrowly avoided a bad typo of the word “ship” in a military service notice, thanks to the keen eye of one of those paste-up people.
Story by story, page by page, I began to fit into my job. I met a guy (Bryan), fell in love and decided that Worthington was a pretty good place to be.
And here I am, 28 years later, preparing to depart from a temporary job that turned into an accidental career.
Along the way, I’ve mastered any number of computer programs, and gone from that paste-up method of layout to increasingly more sophisticated computer-based systems. I found that I enjoyed the creative aspects of layout, turning words and pictures into a pleasing, eye-catching design. I developed a talent for looking at a dummy page and visualizing what I was going to put where.
And I wrote. Lots of stories. Some more interesting than others. Some that I outright detested having to do (farm tab assignments and politics, most notably) and others that were a sheer pleasure, from interview to final product.
I guess I could, using a weekly average, estimate how many stories I’ve written in 28 years, but I don’t think I want to know.
I also don’t want to know how many reporters and editors have come and gone through the newsroom — many just fresh out of college and clueless about what they were doing, just as I was back in 1988. I tried to be a mentor and joked many times over the years that I always seemed to be training them to move on to somewhere else, although it really wasn’t a joke. But it’s been a pleasure to watch them learn and succeed, both in the Daily Globe newsroom and elsewhere.
I didn’t really intend to relive my journalism career in this final missive. Instead, I want to use it as an opportunity to say thank you.
Thank you to every person who agreed to be subject of a story. I hope I did you justice in my telling of it.
Thank you to the people who stopped me in the grocery store to give me a possible lead for a story. There were many days when journalists scramble for ideas, so all tips are appreciated. (And a journalist quickly learns that they are always working, always searching for story ideas, on and off the clock.)
Thank you to all the colleagues with whom I have crossed paths. You inspired me to be a better journalist, and you all taught me something about our craft and dealing with people, for good or bad.
And most of all, thank you to the Daily Globe’s faithful readers. Without you, I wouldn’t have had a job — a career — for 28 years. It’s been a pleasure to tell the stories of the greater Worthington community.