Budding Writer, 1979: I could do worse

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A foggy field at sunrise in North Hero, Vermont, April 8 2021. By Howard Fielding. Offered under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

As a student and as a journalist, I’ve never been one to speak up, to ask questions. For a student, this can mean the difference between a B and an A. For a journalist, it can mean mediocrity or success. That’s one reason why I was always a better editor than reporter: fewer questions.

Looking back through my journals of my first year as a freelance writer, I found that this reluctance and procrastination plagued me from my very first news beat:

I procrastinated again on calling Pat Hammond, which may mean I’ll go into the Fairlee meeting tomorrow cold. Oh, well. I could do worse. I could forget it entirely.

Today I also told Tex about the “Strangelove” story — he figured it needed “a little revision” — and read it to Bev, who at least appreciated the puns. …

And now it’s midnight. After chatting with Roger, I went back and reread several October-November entries in my journal — oddly, mostly Hanover entries — and my resolutions for 1979. I’m pleased to note I enjoyed it. I’m also pleased to note I meet my own standards.

Journal, Volume II
8 April 1979

“I could do worse.” I could certainly have done better by making the phone call.

Pat Hammond was a reporter for the Journal Opinion from Orford, New Hampshire, across the Connecticut River from Fairlee, Vermont. I was inheriting the Fairlee beat from her. She knew the context, continuity, and characters that could make my reporting more than just a transcript. Not calling her was a mistake. Worse, it was rude.

Tex’s comment that my over-the-top story about a fictional character based on him needed “a little revision” was charitable. Today it’s too late for me to make amends and apologize.

Bev, always the pundit, is still a dear Facebook friend. When I previously posted about this story, which I titled “The Wedding Presence,” she was equally charitable. She said she remembered it. She didn’t say what she thought of it.

And as for meeting my own standards for my 1979 resolutions, today I can honestly say that I was meeting the minimum requirements. I wasn’t throwing myself into them. That, like speaking up and asking questions, can mean the difference between an A grade and a gentleman’s B.

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