This year will mark a decade of me being a journalist. That time includes some radio station work, some newspaper work, some television work and some digital work. Newspeople don’t make tons of money (if they decide they want to, they can leave and go into PR), but looking back on my childhood, it seems I was fated to enter this career.
I’ve loved to write since I was a kid. But there are two time periods I remember growing up that seem to really foreshadow me becoming a newsperson.
The first came when I was about seven or eight and lived in Cleveland, Tennessee with my grandparents (my parents were there too, but we were living with my grandparents at the time).
My pops had this old typewriter I found in the closet one day. It was probably a relic from his time as a manager at Wonder Bread before he got a computer in this office.
Well I really took to this typewriter, so much so that I ended up costing him money. He went out and bought paper for the thing, and if that wasn’t enough, I used it so much, he had to buy replacement ribbon. Still, because I was the only grandchild at the time with all the love and attention, he did it.
What did I use all this paper and ribbon for? Well, every day without fail I’d type up a one-page news report modeled after what I saw my grandparents reading in the newspaper. The information wasn’t any good. The grammar and spelling were equally terrible. But I typed it up and proudly presented it to my uncles, my parents, my grandparents, anyone that would bother to pretend reading it. I even had little sections, sports, weather, news, and I made up little stories for each. I guess I was fake news before fake news was a thing.
My habits didn’t get any better when we moved to Stevensville, Michigan. We lived on a cul-de-sac, and I became friends with the kids next door and across the street.
I didn’t have access to a typewriter anymore, so I downgraded. I figured out if you folded a paper into quarters and cut one of the sections, you made a little booklet with a cover, a back, and some inside pages.
I would take our actual newspaper, steal weather and stories from it (not whole articles, just lead sentences) and actually place it in our neighbor’s mailbox across the street. THEN I had the guts to charge her. It was 25 cents per paper, but still.
So, to recap. I broke copyright law distributing content others wrote as my own and some sort of USPS laws by putting unauthorized deliveries in people’s mailboxes without proper postage.
My eventual journalism career thankfully didn’t include any of those habits, but it sure is funny to look back at what I used to do as a child and where I ended up today.