I can still remember the day, thirty years ago last week, when I was hired as a part-time member of the Green Bay Press-Gazette sports department. It was a month past my sixteenth birthday, and I was paid a whopping (for that time) $4.50 an hour to take phone calls from high school sports events and write up short summaries for the next day’s paper.
I was very excited and my work felt important. After all, people like my dad read the paper every night. They’d be seeing my work! (My first bylined story was probably one of the most exciting days of my professional career.)
What I didn’t realize was how much I had to learn. Luckily, the Press-Gazette had a large part-time sports staff at the time, and the senior member of that group was instrumental in my development as a writer. Lisa (Foth) Hildebrand went through many of those little game summaries with me, highlighting the good and offering advice on how to fix the not-so-good. The combination was a perfect fit for my desire to be a better writer.
In addition, I had the opportunity to work full-time in the city news department during the summers of my college years. Not only was this great exposure to whole different part of the newspaper world, but other media members who walked the police beat showed me the ropes, as well.
Recently, I began providing a little mentoring help to a student at St. Norbert College. I had forgotten just how much an editor can mean to a writer’s early development – not just to work on articles, but also to provide the “why” behind the suggested fixes and other assorted pearls of wisdom.
I may not be the most skilled teacher yet, but I’d like to think I’ve learned a few things over the course of my career that I can impart on someone just starting out. It seems like I was in that position not that long ago. Thirty years already…. Sheesh!