Off-topic: On newspapers (or how that could be me)

I’m part of the problem.

When The Kid came along in 2010, we stopped reading the daily newspaper. Sunday would roll along and the stack of papers from the previous week would go from the dining room table into the recycling bin. We still sat down and read the Sunday edition over bagels and coffee, but there was no possible way for us to consume a morning newspaper each day. After more than 20 years of subscribing to the newspaper on a daily basis, I rolled back to a weekend-only package.

As this week winds down, I’m thinking more and more about the people at The Post-Standard who will work their last shifts. The Post-Standard enters its last days as a seven-day newspaper, opting to deliver a printed paper on three days, while going all in on their website. I guess there will be a newsstand edition and a digital e-newspaper as well. (If there’s an irony here, it’s that Syracuse.com was one of the better early newspaper websites. It was clean, organized and updated consistently.)

In the genealogy of such things, this blog and my career in communications directly descends from that newsroom. When Syracuse was a two-newspaper town, I wrote for a revolutionary experiment called hj magazine (I can’t find any images of it online and the boxes of newspapers in my basement are buried), a “for teens, by teens” publication that was distributed weekly as a supplement to the paper and in local high schools. It was my first real taste of writing and where I learned so, so, so very much about writing and life. The editors changed, but at its height the people in charge fostered a collegial relationship with the writers. And it was good. The writing, the editing, the issues that this magazine confronted (suicide, homosexuality, relationships, etc.) were excellent. Anyone can say that they made a difference or an impact, but the proof was in the occasional report that a principal would refuse to put a particular issue out in their school because of the topic.

The magazine was an opportunity for me and I didn’t really even know how big it was until I was the little fish in the big pond of my college. Liverpool High School because my beat and I owned it. I regularly had bylines in the main sections of the newspaper when my articles were picked up. I also would regularly get called into the executive principal’s office for a talking to because I was snooping too much for my own good. I actually got fired from a part-time job because of a piece I wrote. I learned how to find, report and write a story. I also became a bit of a celebrity. My headshot ran with movie reviews (there was also a photo with my wearing only a pair of boxers framed in the style of Howard Stern’s Private Parts book cover) that got me noticed and recognized.

Sure, the magazine cost money to produce, but it was more than just eight pages every week. It provided me and many of my cohorts a niche during our teenage years. It helped me develop a voice. It gave me a sense of belonging. I was part of an exclusive community whose meeting space was the double-wide cubicle that belonged to the editor. And, it was that editor who taught me more about writing and developing a story than any professor during my undergraduate or graduate program. And, she’ll be packing her desk today, a casualty of the digital tsunami that has hit Clinton Square. (Funny story: This editor, who is half-Colombian, half-Ukrainian, thought I was a little too suburban white boy for my own good and loved putting me in situations outside of my Wonder bread comfort zone by having to interview people of racial, ethnic and socioeconomic minorities. It was probably one of the best lessons she ever taught me.)

So, it was hj magazine to St. Bonaventure University and its award-winning newspaper. I switched gears from seeking the information to controlling the information in public relations/media relations,sports information. That brought me to Syracuse University, the Syracuse Asshat Company (another former employer who shall never be named) and now the Alzheimer’s Association. And, as a side project, I have this blog.

I have maintained many connections with the editors who gave me a chance. The sports editors that gave me bottom-of-the-pile assignments because I was eager for a byline? They’re my friends on Facebook. The reporters and editors that my magazine editors introduced me to? I pitch them stories now.

Recently, I have thought about a conversation I had with a long-retired managing editor of the newspaper. She told me that I should go to college, work my ass off and call her when I graduated. She said that she wanted to hire hard-working reporters who wanted to write for their hometown newspaper. She said there would be opportunity and “a job for life” if I wanted it. I never made that call, having switched gears in my career path. If I did, I wonder if I might be cleaning out my desk today.

To those clocking out for the last time, my heart bleeds for you. To the one’s that are my friends, I lift my Starbucks and salute you. You gave me my start. You might tell me that I had a voice all along, but you gave me my megaphone.

If it wasn’t for you, I’d be an accountant.

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7 thoughts on “Off-topic: On newspapers (or how that could be me)”

  1. Thanks, Jared. I’m glad that I was able to teach you something about journalism. I’m happier that you found your own path and didn’t go into newspaper journalism. And Thanks for making me cry on my first day of unemployment. At least I achieved what I set out to do when I entered journalism: to make a difference. And I guess I did — with you.

    Oh, and Jared, it’s spelled Ukrainian. You missed an i.

    🙂

    1. You wouldn’t believe it, but I actually became a decent copy editor. I can’t edit my own work to save my life, but I can make chicken salad from chicken shit with others.

  2. Glad to hear you’re doing well, and still writing Jared. You’ve always had a really natural writing style and voice. Take care … Mike Hirsch, former editor in Syracuse in charge of hj and now Features Editor in Allentown, Pa.

    1. Mike Hirsch! Glad to hear from you. Hope that all is well in Allentown. I’m a frequent visitor to the Lehigh Valley. One of my good friends is the SID at Lafayette.

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