My start in journalism

The editors were in the front row. From left—John Cuitai, Mitch Jacobs, Jon Kozak, Dennis Feenaghty and some guy.
Editors in the front row. From left—John Cuitai, Mitch Jacobs, Jon Kozak, Dennis Feenaghty, Chris Reich and some guy.

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.

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