Twenty years ago this week, I landed a part-time job with a newspaper in Americus, Ga. I had just finished my freshman year of college and needed to make a dollar or two while I figured out what I was gonna be when I grew up.
I’ve been a newspaper man ever since. Not because of the dollar or two I’ve made in the business. Not because I have some burning journalistic passion to find the truth and hold government leaders accountable. Not even because I can read my horoscope for weeks in advance on the wires.
It’s because I still haven’t figured out what I want to be when I grow up.
I’ve narrowed it down to author, cowboy, weight guesser and lottery winner, but until I can choose from those four, I think I’ll keep this newspaper gig until they push me out the door — or a window, as my boss Pork Chop considered doing a few days ago.
I’ve actually authored a novel that I keep hidden in my hard drive. I refuse to let anyone read it, which has really hurt sales. The only thing that has hindered my cowboy career is the fact that I have no horse, and that I don’t really know how to do much of anything with a rope except get rope burn. And I’ve tried to make a name for myself in the weight guessing field by giving free estimates, but you’d be amazed how many people walking down the sidewalk don’t appreciate such services — especially women.
So, I’m stuck, er, sticking with newspapers for now. Fortunately, I’ve learned a thing or two about this business over the past 20 years, such as:
Ÿ Mention anything about one of man’s religions (unless you’re a religion writer) and some group will come after you with torches and pitchforks — sometimes torched pitchforks.
Ÿ Someone out there reads the bridge tips. Believe me, I poorly edited some bridge tips about 15 years ago, and several elderly women called looking for the idiot in charge of the bridge tips. I told them I’d give him a message.
Ÿ No matter how many right-wingers you’ve worked with in newsrooms or how many times you’ve cast ballots for Republicans, you’re still considered a “liberal.”
Ÿ “Snuffy Smith” is never funny.
Ÿ Someone out there will call at 11:59 p.m. and think they can get a story in the next day’s paper.
Ÿ Working in sports sounds more fun than it is. My first five years were in sports, and I’ve made a few cameos in sports departments ever since.
Ÿ The person at 101 Elm Street thinks you should put more sports on the front page, the person at 103 thinks you should put more national news on the front, the person at 105 thinks there should be more local news on the front, and the person at 107 thinks today’s “Ziggy” proves we’re biased. And the person at 111 stole 109’s paper this morning.
Ÿ Journalists’ families will always be surprised that they’re working nights and weekends.
Ÿ And, for some reason, we’ll do it all again tomorrow.
ContactChris Johnsonat firstname.lastname@example.org or 706-320-4403.