Sept. 10, 1990. It was a crisp late-summer day, the morning full of sunshine and promise. My shoes had been polished, my tie tied (by my father) and my car borrowed (from my mother). I was ready and eager for my first day as a reporter for my hometown newspaper, The Evening Sun.
I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
I’d graduated from college that May, intent on finding a job among my peers in the Syracuse area. After a few months of subsisting on hot dogs and rejection letters, I tucked my tail between my legs and headed home to Oxford. Shortly before I left Oswego, my mother had sent me a help wanted ad from this very newspaper, seeking a full-time reporter. She sent it to be funny, knowing full well I had no intention of settling anywhere near the Land of the Bullthistle. Trust me, the irony of my career having started as a joke is not lost on me.
Having done work on my college paper with some success (my weekly column was called “Infinite Wisdom,” humble as I was even then), I thought I knew what to expect from my life as a newspaper man. After all, if Peter Parker and Clark Kent could do it ...
Little did I know that having superhero powers would come in handy in my chosen profession, especially back in those early days. I walked into an Evening Sun newsroom on Hale Street that morning populated by Managing Editor Mary Jane Milner (she retired from the post that Friday, although I’m sure the incidents were unrelated), Sports Editor Tom Rowe and reporters JoAnn Smith, Marty Brodsky and Melissa deCordova (whose seniority over me was negated by a subsequent 10-year absence, something about having kids). I suppose I’d envisioned a leisurely day of learning the ropes and getting acclimated to my new surroundings. Instead, what I got was The Evening Sun Trial By Fire – a tradition that I’ve imposed upon every reporter I’ve ever hired.
“Write an editorial about how cats should be licensed just like dogs, and throw in some rabies stats from the county.” Umm ... OK? An editorial? On my first day? Do cats even get rabies? “Go to the Oxford school board meeting tonight and write a story in the morning.” Oxford? But I graduated from there! They’re going to laugh at me! “Hey, are you driving your grandmother’s car?” No, thank you, it’s my mom’s. Not everyone’s husband is a car dealer! “You dress sharp ... very professional. Knock it off.” Phew, because this is my only suit anyway. But I’m not wearing flannel like you, buddy.
Twenty years later, that’s pretty much all I remember about my early days at the ES. It was a whirlwind of running from one story to the next, never knowing what would come across my desk the next day. And that, really, is what’s held my interest for the last two decades – no two days at Chenango County’s Hometown Daily have ever been the same.
One of my dear friends likes to rub it in, recalling as I got this job that I said it was just “a stepping stone” and I’d soon be on to bigger and better things. Well, I guess you could say that came two years later when I ascended to the throne, err ... editorship, but somewhere along the way I did get sucked in. I fell in love with a town that I’d grown up loathing. I grew obsessed with the nobility and purpose of a profession that I’d used only to earn beer money and pick up chicks in college. I became a member of a community that I’m proud to say I can make a difference in. I’ve laughed and cried; I’ve been despised and loved. I have ink running in my veins.