A very long time ago a very scared young woman, namely myself, was given a typewriter that kind of worked, a notebook devoid of notes, the briefest of smiles and a nod.
“I guess I got the job,” I muttered to no one in particular.
And though it was long ago, I remember it still.
My very first job as a reporter.
In those days there was no such thing as reading the news ‘on line’, social media did not exist and the words ‘fake news’ did not even come up on Google (oh right, there was no Google).
Print media was very much alive and well.
Once I got the job, I drove home and threw together a meager supper of pancakes with lots of syrup for my family and explained that I probably wouldn’t be around much for the next few years.
The kids absorbed the news, gobbled up the pancakes and wandered off, avoiding dishes and homework just like usual. My husband, a man of few words at the best of times, said something like “congratulations, you’ll do fine” and then wandered off as well.
I was left trying to explain the life changing experience I was about to embark on to our dog, a Heinz 57 black mutt, who appeared to be the only one still hanging around in the kitchen.
The next morning dawned bright and clear, a perfect backdrop for my brand new job.
I entered the black and white world of newspaper reporting bearing a notebook, a Pentax camera and a great deal of determination.
As it turned out, I needed all three.
In those early years when computers were just being born and darkrooms had not yet made their solitary exits, the newsrooms were very much different than they are today.
The newspaper itself was put together with the use of light tables which consisted of sheets of glass with a light under them. Newspaper pages were laid on the light tables and columns and pictures were literally cut and pasted onto the page so that they fit.
It was exacting work requiring precision and concentration.
For me, the very best part of the days that we cut and pasted the newspaper into existence was when the job was done and we would order Kentucky Fried Chicken and sundaes and have a small, impromptu party.
We did this every week as a sort of celebration.
“Yeah,” we would say. “Paper’s done.”
Some people whom I worked with were very good at cutting and pasting. Unfortunately, I wasn’t one of them.
But, you learn as you go and just about the time I got the hang of it, we graduated to computers and before long cutting and pasting had become a thing of the past.
Now we had a new word in our dictionary. It was called pagination. It seemed with our new computers you could put the whole page together using pagination.
Once again, I wasn’t very good at it, but I told myself ‘you learn as you go’.
And after we had paginated the paper, we still celebrated with Kentucky Fried Chicken so that part of deadline day remained constant and good.
Another part of my job was working in the darkroom, developing negatives and making prints.
One time I got the negatives mixed up and when I hung them up, they were totally blank.
I stared fixedly at them, unable to move, knowing I was staring at a reporter’s nightmare. That was the deadline day I found out who my true friends were as they willingly posed for photo shoots I had to somehow create.
I can’t remember when I retired my Pentax camera. I only know it sits dusty and unused on a shelf somewhere. I actually quite loved that little camera. It had been a constant companion for many years, accompanying me to hockey games, graduations, ball games, council meetings and track meets.
Yes, it is different now.
And yet, somehow the same.
Newspapers themselves are kind of ageless, I think.
And newspaper ink, it has a way of getting mixed up in your veins.
And, leaving its mark.