The first time I was actually published as a journalist, my article went to the front page. I think my name was below the fold, but my by-line went with the main headline and photograph.
I had gotten this gig, as three-week reporter at my home town paper, after my first semester as journalism major in my second year of college. [The first year I fancied myself a lot more of tech sort until I realized, oh snap, I am decidedly liberal arts.] The home town, a term used loosely as it was only home during my high school years and where my parents stayed after my Dad retired, had a population of about 30,000.
The stint was achieved with networking. One of the advisers for the program was a man who fed to every incoming journalism student that they needed, no NEEDED, an internship in order to earmark future success. He lobbied all across our fine state to make the university’s journalism program something of a mill for producing newbie reporters, photographers, and people who would fetch coffee for these reporters and journalists – because there were people who ultimately ended up in journalism because they didn’t feel that they were artsy enough for a proper English degree.
[Oh no silly, that wasn’t me!]
This adviser had boundless optimism and enthusiasm to go with his strange combination of a deep orange tan, silver hair, and white-hooded eyes. An internship in my small town? “Pashaw,” he guffawed, “Hand me the phone, girl!” Lo and behold, he then immediately spoke to the editor of the paper and got me an spot for the winter break. And since the first semester’s courses in journalism at my university had all the fine traits of academic excellence, (no matter how much of a novice I still was) I was led into this excursion with grace and confidence.
Actually, aside from all the general education classes I took in the first semester, I had only taken one solitary journalism class. Journalism 101 had a strung-out Mama Cass look-alike who cried when she talked about what The Man did to society and who told us to make a mix tape of songs as class assignment.
She had done too many drugs at Woodstock. This was not speculation, but a topic for class. Her tests were not to be studied for, but to be waded through while pondering such things as, ‘My God, what was the number one hit from Elvis in 1957 because that’s the answer to 32… Oh, damn, the lyrics are answer 33…’
She was also my class adviser, the person who would craft the scheduling of your courses for a balanced and – oh you know where I’m going with this? Yes, you probably do.
I walked into her office as she was springing around like a tie-dye whirlwind. She snatched my course listings out of my hands.
“You…you’ve taken a lot of German classes.”
“Yes, I’m going to double major.”
“FABULOUS! THAT IS GREAT.”
I stepped back and she eyed the paper again.
“You should minor in German with all these credits.”
“But…I’m majoring in it…so…”
A cackle of laughter. “You are SO RIGHT.”
She then debated the merits of print journalism against the workings of The Man. She waved my paper again and slapped it against her palm. “I know what you should DO!”
“You should minor in GERMAN!”
“But the double major…”
“NO, a minor, with all these credi-”
“I’m MAJORING IN IT.”
A pause with a toothy smile, “…That is SO GREAT!”
This is when I decided to take my education in my own hands.
Tomorrow, how I made a story that landed me on the front page.