Journeyman Journalist, 1979: The dilemma, conclusion

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“Snow on the Holly,” October 30, 2020, by Howard Fielding. 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!

In a few short months, I went from stringing for a weekly newspaper at $15 per story to two full-time offers to become the man who makes those assignments.

One was from a rival newspaper chain that planned to buy the Hanover Gazette, a weekly in a town I loved — Hanover, New Hampshire. My employer at the time, the Journal Opinion in Bradford, Vermont, made a counter offer. The money at both papers was good, more than twice the U.S. average household income, although I didn’t know that at the time.

The rival’s package was more generous than the struggling weekly I was working for. The base salary was 12.5 percent better, with benefits my employer did not offer. How could I turn it down?

I was young, inexperienced, and perhaps a bit naive. But I had felt for weeks that I was a mission beyond that of my own career. I thought of myself as a paladin for God, who had a reason for me to be where I was.

Weather continues gray and foreboding.

As expected, I called (and later wrote, for he was not in) Garfield at the Courier to ding the (generous) offer. My reasoning, as I later explained to Robert, was simply based on where I’d feel most comfortable working.

Monday was another full work day — during which I said nothing about the offer, mostly so as not to upset the rest of the staff. I hate playing office politics, but Robert says he doesn’t regret the decision, so OK by me. I got in a phone call during the day — Randy Miller asking me to write a release (sure!) Aside from that, routine.

Tuesday morning was a great surprise. I walked in, and Robert gave me Page 1 to lay out. Whoa! And I did it, too, with only a few minor revisions (but time-consuming changes) within 2 hours, and by press time. I was pleased.

Journal, Volume III
29 and 30 October 1979

Puppeteer Randy Miller was looking for a press release. I faced this ethical issue once before. After the tug-of-war of the previous week, though, it seemed like an easy choice.

And of course my boss didn’t regret the decision. I was thinking of whether he could afford to make the offer. He was thinking of how he won the bidding with a low ball.

For the record, all this soul-searching took place a few months before The Blues Brothers (1980) sent John Belushi and Dan Akroyd on “a mission from God.”

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