This was originally written in April 2020 and for some reason never published. It has some good stuff so here it is today.
One of my favorite past times is reading the newspaper. I know, that is kind of “old school” but that is what I grew up with. When I was a youngster growing up in Port Huron, Michigan, I had two paper routes as they were called back in the day. Each morning at 5:30 or 6:00 I would pick up and deliver the Detroit Free Press to about 75 or 80 people in and around my neighborhood. The Free Press was a Daily morning newspaper and that is how lots of adults began each and every day: reading the news. In addition to that route, I also had a Sunday route delivering the Detroit News, which was a weekend fixture in many homes at that time. It was big and heavy and included the Parade magazine and Sunday comics, which I delivered Saturday morning while collecting the subscription money which many people paid each and every week.
It was one of the very first “gig” jobs and we were all independent contractors who collected money and paid our “paper bills” each Saturday.
Nearly 32 years later, I would find myself working for a little twice weekly newspaper in West Jefferson, North Carolina. It was a job that I loved and worked at for over 3 and a half years. I between writing stories I would sell advertising and I walked the streets of that little town almost each and every day in search of “all the news that fits” to coin a phrase.
During that time, I relied heavily on the Winston Salem Journal, which had a Northwest section of the newspaper a couple of times a week. This was normally two or three pages relating to what was happening in Ashe County, the most northwest county in North Carolina. I would read their view on things and then take the stories and add a local element which they didn’t have the staff or time for.
I learned many things during my nearly 3 1/2 years at the Jefferson Times. I learned to load my black and white film in a darkroom and then develop it after a picture taking assignment. Not only did I write the stories, I also took the pictures that often accompanied them. One valuable lesson came on the heels of me taking a photo at the local Ford dealership of several employees receiving awards. They were great shots from the knees up and focused on the framed awards they were receiving. When I printed the photos, my editor asked me if these people had feet. I remember answering “I guess” and his response was classic: “Then where are they?” was his reply. That lesson has lasted the rest of my photographic life along with the “whole body” pictures of the family at the beach.
As I remember we practiced old time journalism at the Times. What I mean by that is we used the pyramid method of story writing along with the who, what, where and why formula. The pyramid method stacks the most important info into the first few paragraphs so that if the editor cut some of the story off the end in order to fit everything in, the sense of the article would not be lost.
It was during the last few months at the Times that a new paper began to be published. It was called USA Today and most of us traditional journalists called it the Mac Paper because it featured a lot of news in short bits and pieces and didn’t seem to have any depth to it. USA Today was indeed a sign of the times and definitely spoke to the attention span of many Americans at that time.
Even though I hated that paper at its beginning, several years later found me buying one out of their television paper boxes almost everyday. I liked the way it was organized with its color coded sections and the focus on the news and entertainment industries. Then, at some point it got way to liberal for me and the cost was more than I could justify, so I stopped buying it. The last time I read it in 2019 was the last time I will ever waste any more money on it. I realized at that point that they were not reporting the news but trying to manipulate the news to fit their liberal agenda. And there you have that.
But that is not the end of the story. Several months ago I began a subscription to the Wall Street Journal after buying their weekend edition at the local Publix. What I have found is that they actually report the news and still write with the intent to inform rather than manipulate. A lot of what they report comes at us through the lens of finance and business but I have found that they do more in depth reporting than almost any other news source. Of course it takes me about a week to wade through the weekend edition and some weeks are better than others in terms of what interests me.
An interesting article I just read in the Journal during this Covid-19 lockdown says that: “Evidence shows that social interaction is a biological requirement, much like eating, drinking and sleeping. Our ability to learn to talk, play, acquire new skills (like making art – my addition), fall in love, conduct business and age in good health all hinge on our motivation to connect with other people, social neuroscientists have found. So, while social distancing reduces transmission of the coronavirus, which is good for us, it also increases anxiety, frustration and loneliness, which is bad for us.”
During this time, it is in our best interest to try and keep connected with one another.
I was alerted via Facebook this morning that John Prine had passed away. I don’t know why he was never on my playlist as it seems like he was a singer/songwriter that I would really like. One of his song lyrics that popped up on my news feed is from a song called Hello in There and one verse goes like this:
Ya’ know that old trees just grow stronger
And old rivers grow wilder ev’ry day
Old people just grow lonesome
Waiting for someone to say, “Hello in there, hello”
In ending this little story, lets take John’s advice and reach out to someone today by phone, by mail, by Facebook, by Zoom or any other ways that come to mind. As a community, let’s post what we are currently reading, listening to, or working on and keep sending those prayers and good thoughts to one another.
Once upon a time long long ago, i was fired from a newspaper job by a fellow who had migrated to Florida from Michigan, having formerly worked for the Detroit Free Press.