I had not gone eight months between assignments of gathering information and photos for a feature story since I was about 19 years old — (44 years ago) — until the recent COVID-related layoff.
As I turned 20, I was involved in a series of university news service internships until graduation before joining a newsroom full-time for the first time in January 1980. So, there has never been a long-term break from journalistic duties like the temporary layoff period between March 31 and Nov. 16.
So, Wednesday afternoon when I walked into a local business to begin work on an upcoming story, it was a spiritual renewal. It involves the interviews, setting up the photos that portray the essence of the story, inputting those photos and editing them in the office, transcribing the interview audio files and, then, beginning the writing process. The journey to the end product has many layers of tasks.
For awhile this summer I thought I was ready for full-time retirement. You get into a routine and it starts to feel all right. Different, but OK.
On my first day back on the job, however, I was reminded that the candle of inspiration has not been extinguished. It’s still an enjoyable means of employment, even if it was never “lucrative.” When you began this gig working on a Royal typewriter and mixing chemicals in a film darkroom, and can now enjoy the digital version of the work with a variety of video and social media duties, you must be hooked for life.
Author Jeff Pearlman, who recently wrote a book on the Shaq-Kobe Lakers era, exchanged messages with me recently because his next project is a book about Bo Jackson. He saw somewhere online that I had written about Chuck Long’s appearance during his book tour stop in Creston, and messaged me on Twitter about how to get in touch with the former Hawkeye great who finished a close second to Bo in the 1985 Heisman Trophy balloting.
In his book about former NFL quarterback Brett Favre, Pearlman noted that Brett finally hung up the cleats when he realized he’d reached the state of “terrible.” He couldn’t live with himself to go out there and perform at a level so inferior to what he had once known.
The work could approach terrible someday, and I’d be ready to send the last story. I hope (my wife) Deb or someone informs me when that time is approaching. Better too soon than too late.
For my first story back on the job, I’m just dusting off the rust and hoping for better than terrible. The process of getting there is still rewarding.
An informed public, not an influenced public, is still the goal of local journalism, even if many national media institutions have bent toward shaping a philosophy, rather than disseminate the important facts affecting your life.
I hope it’s appreciated locally that it’s still the approach of the Creston News Advertiser to bring reliable information to local residents five days a week. We’re not perfect, but there is still a team dedicated to doing it right. You don’t find that in many communities this size anymore.
Good luck to all of the other small businesses in the community during these times of so many financial challenges. I’m fortunate that our corporation saw enough hope on the horizon to call some of us back to duty this week.
Feel free to send me your feature story ideas. For the first time since my March 19 column, the email contact information below is accurate! (I had 4,397 unread emails in my box when I returned Monday.)
See you soon, I hope!
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