Hooked for life
I was talking recently to a friend with whom I worked at the London Free Press. He still lives in London and told me that the Free Press building was being demolished. Demolished, I thought, it was just built in 1965. Then I thought, oops, that was fifty-eight years ago. We must have been teenagers at the time.
I was lucky enough to win the London Free Press Editorial Award as a result of writing a high school news column in Guelph, my home town. The award paid for half my tuition at what is now Western University plus $1,000 ($10,000 in today’s money), for working summers at the Free Press. The Free Press was where I began learning how to write because editors would throw stories back in my face and say things like, “This needs more interviews,” or “The lede is the in the fourth paragraph.”
The paper had four morning editions dispatched to the four corners of the compass from Windsor to Waterloo, Port Dover to Wiarton. In the evening there were two more editions, one for London home delivery, and a second “bulldog” edition with late news and closing markets. The outside four pages were pink. There were bureaus in Sarnia, Strathroy, Woodstock, and St. Thomas plus local stringers in numerous communities. There were about twenty reporters in the newsroom (all men except for Lenore Crawford who wrote about arts and culture), plus a separate department of female journalists who did stories on cooking, gardening, clubs, and crafts. That privileged white male ruling class seems terribly outdated by today’s standards.
In addition to summer work, I often worked the 5:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. shift on rewrite many evenings during the school year. There were three of us sitting at typewriters on stands, taking directions from the night news editor. I also worked on the student paper, The Gazette, where senior people would graduate thereby creating openings at the top. I started in first year by writing briefs, those one-paragraph items filling out a story at the bottom of the page. By third year, I was the managing editor. |
Hooked in high school, I soon became enthralled by the process and the product of writing. I was lucky to find my vocation so early in life. Some people never find the work that they love.