It's Al's Turn: You know you've been a reporter for a long time if...
The following is an opinion column written by an Echo Press editorial staff member. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the Echo Press.
Well, it doesn’t seem so long, but I’m now entering my fourth decade as a reporter/editor.
In 1983, I started at the Echo Press as a summer intern — or as they liked to call me back then, “cub reporter.” Lots of fun memories over the years. Lots of great co-workers. Lots of laughter. I still remember my first desk — an empty diaper box that my editor dragged out of the backroom storage. He told me to use it, temporarily, until they could find something better. It sure drew some funny looks from those who walked into our office.
This got me thinking about others in the field that have put in multiple decades. Every year, the Minnesota Newspaper Association presents a Half Century Award to those who have been in the newspaper business for 50 years or more. Even if I count the three years I wrote sports stories for the Parkers Prairie Independent in high school, I’ve still got a ways to go.
I’ve learned a few lessons through the years about writing, reporting, interviewing, taking photos and putting out a newspaper twice a week, along with updating our website with fresh content every day.
There are some things about the job that may not be generally known. For prosperity, here’s some insights.
You know you’ve been a reporter for a long time if:
You’ve written down notes or story ideas on a bar napkin.
You’ve been yelled at, threatened and hung up on just for doing your job.
You’ve been asked to leave a restaurant because of something you wrote.
You’ve had batteries run dry on your camera, your flash (back in the day) or your tape recorder.
You know enough to always carry a pencil – not a pen – with you in the winter.
You’ve been accosted in public for being a Democrat hack AND a Republican hack in the same day.
Someone has actually “hissed” at you when you entered a public meeting.
You’ve interviewed sources at nearly every hour of the day and night.
Your adrenaline kicks in every time you hear a siren, even when you're hundreds of miles from home.
You make a really dumb mistake, like referring to a certain country as “Libya” when it’s “Liberia” or writing that a tip that led to an arrest was “unanimous” when you meant “anonymous.”
After a new reporter asks you when something happened in the area and you say, “2001,” the reporter replies, “Oh, I wasn’t born yet.”
On the flip side:
You still feel good when you see your byline at the top of a story that matters.
You get a great photo – good expressions, good lighting, in focus, the right angle, compelling and worth a thousand words.
You remember, as if it were yesterday, an item from the history column that happened 35 years ago.
Someone makes your day by just saying “good story” – and meaning it.
You read a story from a reporter on your staff that is so touching it causes your eyes to mist over, or so funny and dead-on that you laugh out loud.
You come up with a unique story idea that is well-read and makes a difference.
You start recognizing the last names of people from all over the county and what they do for a living.
You hear from a reader who enjoys reading the paper – just like their dad, granddad and great granddad did.
You no longer look at covering a community event as a work assignment. It’s fun.
You realize that you’re no longer just reporting about the community – you’ve become a part of it as well.
You wouldn’t trade what you do for any other job in the world.
“It’s Our Turn” is a weekly column that rotates among members of the Echo Press editorial staff.