Journeyman Journalist, 1979: The dilemma, Part I

Reading Time: 2 minutes
The sun pokes through another cloud cover over Lake Champlain from North Hero, Vermont, October 24, 2023. By Howard Fielding. Offered under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

About this series: I revisited my journals from my first year as a freelance writer and found they told a story of their own. In this series I get the rare opportunity to give myself and other writers career advice with nearly 50 years of hindsight. Enjoy!

Only a few days after opportunity rang me up, it started breaking down the door. I needed to make some difficult professional and ethical choices — fast.

Big news of the day: The Courier is planning to buy the Gazette, and I am the one they want to head it. Details will be forthcoming Friday, when I meet with Mr. Garfield again. Surprisingly, I’ve had little trouble with the decision itself: if they make me a good offer, I think I’ll take it. I’ve even started making tentative plans for features, articles, interviews, etc.

My trouble, of course, is my loyalty to Robert and the J-O; particularly my personal commitment on the arts page troubles me. However, I feel that the Lord has spoken to me in going into this project, and, with that knowledge, I’m confident that the details can be worked out to everyone’s satisfaction.

Journal, Volume III
24 October 1979

Reading that today, I know that my faith at the time was strong but unsophisticated, even immature. I still had the ‘paladin for God’ mindset. It still resurfaces today.

Soon, though, I was having second thoughts. The Littleton Courier buying the Hanover Gazette would provide opportunities for me, but at what cost for the Journal Opinion?

Mostly, my social life has been usurped by my business decisions over the last few days. I was particularly tossed about on Friday and Sunday, talking with Garfield and company about the Gazette, and Robert about the JO.

I take back my earlier confidence about the Lord talking me into the Gazette deal. Not only would this mean going back on my word and personal commitments, but the work that I felt I was brought to the JO to do is not yet complete; indeed, my leaving could only affect that work “disasterously” (as Robert put it), and it can only be accomplished by my taking the counter-offer Robert has made (and about which I feel guilty).

Journal, Volume III
25 to 28 October 1979

There was really only one way to tell whether I was making the right choices. I would have to make a side-by-side comparison of the benefits and costs of both the Hanover Gazette and the Journal Opinion. These comparisons are often skewed and weighted one way or another, but that in itself would tell where my values were. I had to try.

One more thing: Howard, whichever paper you choose, you’re going to be an editor. It’s time you learned that the correct spelling is disastrously.

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