Being a newspaper reporter is about the best way I know to learn about a community, and I’m having a great time learning about Homewood and Flossmoor.
I founded my first newspaper when I was 10.
It folded after one issue, but in that edition, my best friend and I got the word out about what was important in our world: What my brother got for his birthday, what TV shows were on, that sort of thing.
I suppose the project failed because publishing turned out to be hard work, and we were distracted by those TV shows that needed watching and the rhetorical project of trying to talk my brother out of his birthday presents.
A couple years later, journalism snuck up on me again. I started my education in the Des Moines Register’s pre-journalism program. It wasn’t called that. That’s just what it was. It was called delivering newspapers at 6 a.m. out in the weather. I’m sure I didn’t have to trudge through driving snow every day, but it was northeast Iowa. That’s what I remember.
The education part: Every day as I folded those papers and trudged through that snow, I would catch a glimpse of the headlines. Things apparently were happening in the world. The headlines made those things sound interesting. So when I got home each day, I would eat four bowls of sugar-enriched cereal and pore over my copy of the paper to find out what was going on.
I thought it was a job, but it turned out to be a habit.
As I read all those newspapers, journalism seeped into my brain, and I accidentally learned how to write news stories.
I was editor of my junior high school newspaper, editor of my high school newspaper and news editor of my college newspaper (where I met my wife, who comes from a newspaper family).
I got a job as a cub reporter with the St. Joseph (Mo.) Gazette (which no longer exists) by hounding the managing editor until he learned he could put me to work for free as an intern. A month after I started, a full-time position opened up, and the editor decided to save himself the aggravation and hired me.
I veered off the path for a while — got a master’s degree in English, taught college writing and dabbled in website management — but in 2006 I rediscovered journalism.
The Marshall (Mo.) Democrat-News needed a reporter, and I was mighty tired of being a low-paid, overworked adjunct college writing teacher, so I signed on to be low-paid, overworked newspaper reporter. It was the best professional move I ever made. I quickly moved up in the world, becoming a low-paid, overworked editor.
Of course, there are compensations other than money. If joy counts, I was rich.
When I moved to Homewood in 2013 there didn’t seem to be any newspaper jobs open in town, so I created one in order to feed my old reporting habit. The HF Chronicle was born.
Being a newspaper reporter is about the best way I know to learn about a community, and I’m having a great time learning about Homewood and Flossmoor. But the satisfaction comes from sharing what I learn and knowing that, most of the time, at least a few other folks are interested, too.