A Long Trip Down Newspaper Lane
They weren't hiring at the Lily-Tulip paper cup factory or the Katz Discount store or any of the other places where I applied.
Discouraged, I decided to head for Shakey's pizza to try their discount special and drown my sorrows in a couple of draft beers before returning to my pitiful little "apartment," really a ratty converted storefront that was all I could afford.
Time: the summer of 1964. Place: Springfield, Mo. Though I had saved up enough money from my three years in the Army to pay for my first year at Southwest Missouri State and had a little monthly help from the GI Bill, I desperately needed a job. But there didn't seem to be any.
It was dark by the time I left the restaurant on that Saturday. Reluctant to go straight back to my empty pad, I decided to spend a little time driving aimlessly around the empty streets of Springfield while I contemplated my next step.
That's how I happened to end up on Booneville Avenue. As I headed toward the deserted square, something caught my eye: Though all the adjacent stores and offices were closed and dark, one modern building on the right had lights blazing brightly in its windows and lots of cars in its lot. I wondered why.
Then I saw the sign: It was The Springfield Daily News. The folks inside were busy putting out the next morning's paper. On impulse, I parked and walked inside. As it happened, the obituary writer had quit that very afternoon. Kindly, gray-haired City Editor Doyle Hilton hired me on the spot. Thus are destinies forged.
Hard to believe that was nearly 50 years ago. I've been a newspaperman ever since (well, there was that four-year interlude of media assistance work in Russia and Washington), loved every minute of it (well, almost every minute), and can't imagine having done anything else with this checkered life of mine.
These thoughts are occasioned, of course, by our recent announcement that on March 12 I will be turning over the reins of my job as editor of The Pilot - a position I've held longer than any other in my life - to a newer and younger guy named John Nagy.
So far, the transition to a new editor appears to be going smoothly, though it has taken longer than any of us expected when we first set out on this road. I thank Publisher David Woronoff and our terrific news staff for the patience and forbearance they've shown so far, and I will do all I can to help John in his new venture.
Though I will be vacating my -familiar office in the next few days, don't expect to be seeing me on any of our multitudinous Moore County golf courses or at the Senior Enrichment Center anytime soon. The plan is for me to move into a different office and continue working half-time handling opinion pages such as the one you are now reading.
I also hope to continue teaching journalism on the side at Chapel Hill and am looking forward to spending more time on some writing projects I have been neglecting.
Since I love newspapers, which have been my life for all these years, I will continue to watch what happens to them in the coming years with far more than academic interest. I'm glad that most of my career happened to coincide with a kind of golden age for community papers, and I'm proud of the role they have played in keeping their readers informed and thus helping our democratic system work.
When I was discussing all this with my students the other day, one of them asked a good interview question: What aspect of my jobs over the years has given me the greatest pleasure?
By way of reply, I recounted one of my favorite quotes. It's from New York Yankees Manager Casey Stengel, who once described management as "getting paid for home runs other -people hit." I told them about the great satisfaction a person in my kind of job can feel upon seeing other staff people grow and develop and -watching them accomplish things - sometimes later, in other places - that they never thought they could do.
I would like to think that my friend and mentor Doyle Hilton back in Missouri, were he still alive today, might feel a bit of the same -gratification at seeing what happened to that skinny kid who showed up so unexpectedly in his newsroom on that summer evening so long ago.
Steve Bouser is editor of The Pilot. Contact him at (910) 693-2470 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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