by Steed Dropout
May, 23, 2014
Bob Harris, one of my editors, slapped a pile of clippings on my desk. “Re-write these,” he instructed me. It was 1958, my first summer on my hometown newspaper.
The clippings were fresh from our afternoon paper. We were the morning paper. We were owned by the same company. We stole from ourselves.
My first reaction was astonishment that they would repeat themselves. I worried that I was writing stories I knew nothing about. Maybe this is what my journalism professors meant when thy told me, “you’re working for one of the worst newspapers in the state of Illinois.”
I owe this worst newspaper the best training I ever got. I learned to write, unflinchingly, about that of which I knew nothing and, perhaps better, I learned newspaper form from the thousands of stories I re-wrote. I could write like a reporter but didn’t have a clue how to be one. I learned, as well, to be able to re-write anything in ten minutes or less.
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