Journalism 30 years ago to today

I began my career in journalism with a certain amount of surprise and a great deal of trepidation.

I began my career in journalism with a certain amount of surprise and a great deal of trepidation.

I, a housewife with three kids, whose expertise had revolved around making melt in your mouth delicious cinnamon buns, stepped tentatively past the threshold of the newspaper world, not quite able to believe I had made it past the interview stage.

But, somehow, it seemed the paper gods were smiling down on me, and before I knew it, there I was.

A reporter.

My first assignment was to cover a town council meeting, actually understand what they were talking about and then write about it so it made sense not only to me, but also to my readers.

I was so nervous my pen was vibrating, but I wrote copious notes, not understanding too much of anything I wrote. I agonized over my notes later. “What?” I mused. “What was I trying to say? What were they trying to say?

Oh my goodness, I should have stayed in the kitchen.

Whatever was I doing trying to be a reporter? What if I wrote the wrong thing? What if I misquoted somebody?

Actually, for about three decades now those questions have continued to plague me.

When I first began my career as a journalist, I was given an old typewriter to work on. It did not return the carriage all the way, but I was told to improvise, so I did.

I banged stories out on that old typewriter probably with more determination than skill, but my stories ran every week and every week I banged out more.

Editors tore my stuff apart and I wrote and re-wrote and I was completely happy.

I also worked in the darkroom, rolling negatives, developing negatives, and finally making prints.

I was not happy in the darkroom but no one knew, because it was, after all, dark in there. But it was part of the job so I learned it and I did it and was even a tiny bit impressed with myself until the day I accidentally dropped the negs into the wrong solution and they came out blank.

That was the week I learned who my true friends were. A true friend helps you avoid the wrath of an editor and allows you to stage a picture with them in it, even if it is midnight.

On deadline day we cut and pasted all our stories and pictures into strips and somehow we fit them all into these huge pages laid out on giant light tables. After the pages were done, they were taken to the camera in the back where the negatives were shot. Then the negatives were taken somewhere, but by this time, I did not care. I was done.

I was terrible at cutting and pasting. Someone from production who was much better at it was always redoing my pages and I would go around muttering “sorry” and feeling very inadequate.

Finally, after I cut and pasted for what seemed like forever and people went behind me and re-did all my work, we would order Kentucky Fried Chicken and laugh and talk and be all happy.

Deadline day was over. The paper was done.

Finally, one day the little independent newspaper I worked for was sold to a big newspaper chain.

It wasn’t awful. It wasn’t the end of the world. We all kept our jobs. It was simply change.

As it turned out change included no more cutting and pasting. We had to learn to lay out the pages on the computer.

I was terrified. I remembered fondly the days of my typewriter with the carriage that routinely jammed. Sometimes when I struggle to figure out the three remotes we have in our house now, I feel the same way about an old television set we had with a dial that worked only on channels six and eight.

But, of course, change is inevitable and, in the long run, usually good.

Apparently now we are supposed to “tweet” people.

My goodness. What next?

Treena Mielke is editor of The Rimbey Review and is a columnist for Black Press.


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