Every now and then I’ll do a radio show and have a host ask about my career. He’ll ask how I started in journalism, and I’ll always bring up those days at the University of Delaware, when I covered the Blue Hens and worked at the student newspaper and … and … and …
It’s a flawed answer.
Truth be told, the journalism bug bit me during my senior year at Mahopac High School, when I worked as the sports editor of our monthly high school newspaper, The Chieftain. Now, to be clear, I sucked. I knew little of writing, little of reporting, little of fact checking. Yes, I’d read a lot of Sport Magazine and Sports Illustrated, and I was a sucker for the New York Times’ sports section. Otherwise, though, I sorta guessed and stabbed my way through the year.
There were mistakes.
Lots of mistakes.
Lots and lots of mistakes.
Even though we were a student newspaper, we didn’t have 100-percent free reign. So, for example, when we mocked a student group in one issue, the principal literally made us walk the halls, remove page 4 from every newspaper, then redistribute. Another time I thought it’d be funny to have a report card of the boys’ basketball team—player by player. In 1989-90 our superstar was a center named Larry Glover, who ultimately played at Norfolk State. I’m pretty sure I gave Larry a C or C-—just to be a dick. We had an athletic director named Gerry Keevins, and he called me into his office and chewed me out. Rightly.
Still, the fun dwarfed the negatives. I loved the editorial meetings, decided who would write what. I loved having a purpose. I loved having a voice. I loved mattering. I loved sitting on my parents’ bed, reading my stories aloud. Mostly, I loved having words escape my mind and wind up on a piece of paper, in the hands of 1,000 students. It didn’t merely feel satisfying—it felt right.
Like this was what I should do with my life.