Journeyman Journalist, 1979: Enjoying the role

Reading Time: 2 minutes
The first day of Standard Time moves sunset to about 4:30 p.m. at Sand Bar State Park, Vermont, November 5, 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!

My first week as managing editor of the Journal Opinion found me getting into the role and distancing myself from my life as a freelancer. Even a rejection letter for my short story got only this short note in the journal: “Ding letter about ‘Bartle, B.'”

I’ll have to fish out that ding letter, which is still in my files, but at least it was clear. The editor at Student Lawyer magazine said the story “paled in comparison” to the original “Bartleby the Scrivener” by Herman Melville. The editor was right: It did. But it was still a parody that student lawyers would enjoy, so I would try again.

Meanwhile, I put it on the shelf and went back to managing a newspaper:

I put together what I think is a great page 1 today — in 3 hours. In other news, I worked some more on “Disco Tex,” did some work on news assignments, and did some preliminary planning for a stylebook. I’m really enjoying this role of managing editor, although there are a few drawbacks.

Journal, Volume III
6 November 1979

I didn’t say what the drawbacks were, although it was clear from the context of that week’s journal entries that time management was a problem. Still, a stylebook was a good idea. Every publication should have one.

In the days of “cold type” composition, glossy black-and-white prints would be “screened” so the concentration of black dots would reproduce the image on the printed page. Halftone prints for newspapers typically were about 85 lines per inch (lpi). This candid portrait accompanied my announcement as managing editor for the Journal Opinion. By Howard Fielding. Offered under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

Also not clear was exactly why it was such a great front page, although it may have had something to do with the handsome fellow on the right being on the cover. Mercifully, I don’t seem to have that clipping in my files.

Not much new at work, although I’m very excited with the progress and potential of my new position. I did a lot of talking, editing, cleaning my office, and even interviewing a job candidate today. Ideas are flowing. Things look good. This week’s paper looks excellent — I think we’ll enter it in the NEPA contest next year.

Journal, Volume III
7 November 1979

Howard, we’ve talked about this. Never put yourself on the front page. The judges at the New England Press Association were weekly editors like you. They would not have been impressed.

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