Budding Writer, 1979: A long day

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Apple (foreground) and pear trees are in bloom in North Hero, Vermont, May 10, 2023. By Howard Fielding. Offered under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

Weekly newspapers often call on editors to squeeze a lot of work into that last day before going to press. This wasn’t my first “long day,” and it wouldn’t be my last.

A long day, during which I found (a) that Robert is considering making me Arts/Social editor and giving me a free hand, (b) that [the town and village clerk] saved the L-P story for us by forgetting to tell the Valley News reporter, (c) that I can copy edit and headline within schedule, and write articles on an hourly wage, and (d) that my letter + review to the Hop publicity office might break the ice. Robert complimented me on my background and interest and seems interested in keeping me around the paper.

Journal, Volume II
10 May 1979

What was really going on here? I was still too young and naive to realize it, but:

  1. Robert was dangling the bait. I had told him several times that I wanted to be arts editor, so he hinted at making that come true. Oh, and also Social editor. That’s weddings and engagements and, in those days, long, rambling town gossip columns.
  2. The town clerk, my “source,” may have withheld information from the Valley News reporter because she liked me, or, more likely, she wanted the local paper to get the story first. I still had to discover it for myself.
  3. Copy editing and headline writing can become a routine when you face a deadline. Practice makes perfect. As for writing on an hourly wage, that’s the way it should be. An employee should be paid by the hour, not by the project as a freelancer would. Conflating the two is bad labor practice that the IRS frowns upon.
  4. I think the letter and review to the arts center was designed to set up a comp ticket arrangement for our arts coverage. The Hop already knew me from my days on the campus newspaper, so it gave me an edge.
  5. Robert was playing to my vanity. He complimented me on my background and interest, and seemed interested in keeping me around, because he was losing employees in his already-small staff. That would become obvious over the next few weeks.

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