Journeyman Journalist, 1979: The dilemma, Part II

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A few stubborn oaks are all that remain at the end of fall in Southbury, Connecticut, October 28, 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!

Early in my journalistic career — too early, really — I was recruited as editor for a rival weekly by a competitor of my employer, the Journal Opinion. The offer to head the Hanover Gazette was hard to resist.

I was comfortable with Hanover, N.H., where I attended Dartmouth and returned to launch my freelance business. It was a bigger town where news was happening, compared to the smaller satellite and farming communities the JO covered.

Yet I had reasons to stay in Bradford, Vermont. When I have tough choices like that one to make, I make lists comparing the alternatives. This was one of those times:

Hanover Gazette


$180/wk; BS/BC; life ins.; vacations, etc.

Great flexibility in decision-making, etc.; but subject to override.

Lots of overtime at no extra pay.

Proximity of Hanover + potential social life.

Very great challenge.

No real backups exc. from home office.

Be my own boss.

Rather slippery characters in the home office. I wonder if my appeal isn’t largely from hurting the JO.

Chance to make a big reputation through improvements.

Journal Opinion

Managing Editor

$160/wk (maybe more later); no benefits.

Flexibility subject to supervision.

Overtime probably controllable; time to freelance.

No Hanover distractions; social life directable.

Challenge but with assistance.

Staff flexibility and emergency backups.

Staff management and supervision.

Known quantities in staff and boss.

Improvements are gradual; reputation is already building.

Journal, Volume III
25-28 October 1979

Looking at that with a lifetime of experience — two lifetimes, if measured in my age at the time — the choice seems clear. Take the job with the better title, better pay, greater responsibility, and benefits. Simple, huh?

The pay alone was significant: the equivalent of about $41,000 vs. $35,000 a year in today’s dollars.

I had never had a full-time job with benefits, so I didn’t understand the value of life insurance and, more important, medical insurance. Young people entering today’s gig economy are well aware of the importance of insurance. I wasn’t.

Frankly, I’m torn. I now feel as if I’ve been improperly tempted by the Gazette, and that I really don’t trust their men upstairs. But on the other hand, the salary difference alone would come to over $1,000 per year. But on the other hand, I could make up that gap through freelancing (I’d have the time here) and possible raises at the JO.

Essentially, I feel drawn back to the JO, and much like a heel for forcing Robert into the counter-offer. Nevertheless, this could be best for all involved, all considered, for this shake-up might eventually benefit the J-O by concentrating Robert’s and my efforts in our relative areas of specialty.

As I’ve been saying, I’ll have to sleep on it. But I haven’t much time to do that in.


I’m not sure I ever mentioned it, but as a freshman I placed out of the introductory English literature course that focused on Milton’s Paradise Lost. I’ve still never read it. Perhaps that explains why, in Biblical terms, I had trouble understanding temptation when I saw it.

Which one was the snake?

Two little things: It’s BC/BS, not BS/BC. Blue Cross/Blue Shield was the leading (perhaps only) health insurance at the time. And on the other hand … how many hands do you have, Howard?

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