It simply doesn't seem possible that 35 years have passed since I entered a newsroom and sat down behind a typewriter for the very first time. That sounds like an old cliché but it isn't meant to be one.
On Oct. 9, 1978, I nervously walked into the office of The Osceola Times, my hometown newspaper. Managing Editor Richard Milton showed me the desk from which I would be operating and promptly handed me my first assignment, interview the local hospital administrator about a job fair being held there.
I listened intently and carefully took notes. Mr. Richter was very kind to this cub reporter. I returned to the office and cranked out my first story on a very old (even back then) manual typewriter. I proceeded to turn in my copy to Richard, who gave me a couple of pointers in red ink and marked it “Page One.”
Man, was I in hog heaven. I couldn't wait to get home and tell Mom and Dad that the first story I ever wrote was going on the front page. Little did I know that a major surprise was coming.
The following morning Richard greeted me and promptly told me there had been a major fire on Main Street the previous night. He sent his son, Ricky, who at the time was the staff photographer, and me. My second interview was with one of my best friends who happened to work at one of the business establishments that burned.
Ricky was also the assistant pressman and was called back to office to work on the press. Before he left, he handed me his 35mm camera and told me to take the photos. I completed that busy morning interviewing the fire chief about the cause of the fire.
My story and photos not only made the front page, it was also the lede story that week.
I spent three memorable years with The Times. During that time, they became almost a second family to me. We played touch football in the fall and enjoyed Christmas parties and other good times together.
Wanting to spread my wings and preparing for marriage, I left The Osceola Times for an opportunity to be a reporter on small daily at Newport. About 18 months later, I jumped at the chance to become the sports editor at the Batesville Daily Guard in 1982. In 1984, I packed my family and me and we headed west to Waldron where I served six years as managing editor of The Waldron News, a weekly, before I returned to the Delta at The Helena Daily World in 1990. The rest they say is history.
Over the next three and a half decades, I covered several major trials, interviewed governors, senators and a future president. I have witnessed such terrible tragedies as the chemical plant explosion here and other incidents in which people lost their lives.
Page 2 of 2 - Without being corny, I honestly will state that I have been truly blessed to be a part of the newspaper business. Believe me, I have seen plenty of changes over the years. No, I don't recall the days of hot lead type but I do recall when photo-offset was the top-of-the-line newspaper production. Personal computers were a welcome addition that somewhat simplified the job, or at least made it a little faster.
It wasn't the perfect job then and it still isn't now. There probably isn't such a creature. As a newspaper writer, or editor, you live somewhat in a fish bowl. All your mistakes that aren't caught are right there in print for the world to see and believe you me I have made my fair share of them.
If I could change anything about the public's concept of newspapers, it would be people's intolerance of mistakes. Very few people write under such deadline pressure. Newspapers certainly are not the only professionals who make errors but there's are the only ones that are forever indelibly etched in print.
Personally, looking back over a 35-year career I wouldn't change a thing.