On-the-job training. That’s how I learned to become a newspaperman.
The college I attended didn’t have a journalism program, so I ended up with a degree in secondary education. Yes. I could have been a high school teacher, if that scares you. But early on, I got ink in my blood as I found life behind a Royal typewriter fascinating.
What wasn’t there to like?
The editor kept a bottle of hooch in a desk drawer. The city hall reporter could write an entire story in the time it took him to smoke one cigarette — always brilliantly done, I might add. A sports writer nicknamed “The Penguin” was beloved by everyone in town. Another sports writer always said “nay tay” instead of “no.” The assistant sports editor was known as “D.A.” — short for “Dirty Al” (we won’t go there). And outside the office, the sports editor could be spotted more often than not with a curvy blonde on his arm.
So, why am I telling you this.
Well, I was reminded about some “on-the-job training” early in my career when talking with an old colleague last week.
It all centered around a sports banquet being hosted by the Cambridge newspaper, where I was the sports editor in the late 1970s and early ’80s. Woody Hayes was our speaker and we did it up right. Hayes grew up in nearby Newcomerstown and several of his old school chums were invited to attend. When his 90-year-old former high school English teacher showed up, tough ol’ Woody Hayes nearly cried.
Then came three lessons I’ll never forget: One was for the good, the other two … let’s just call them rookie mistakes.
Lesson No. 1: Be respectful, but don’t be a wimp.
Our banquet was held after Woody had been fired. The word was Hayes was doing few interviews. Of course, I and the United Press International reporter who attended wanted one. So I bravely approached Hayes and politely asked him if we could have a few minutes to talk. Woody’s eyes bugged out as he took one step back, then he smiled, and with that lisp of his, said, “Why sure.”
Lesson No. 2: When setting up such an interview, always check out the surroundings first.
The banquet was held at the local Elks club and the manager said I could use his office if I scored an interview. I was glad for the offer, but never checked the office.
It was like a closet, so small that Hayes, the UPI guy and I could barely fit inside. But there was a much bigger problem: The office was also wallpapered with Playboy magazine centerfolds. The three of us pretended not to notice as we did our interview. I’ve always wondered since if the Elks manager was born in Michigan.
Lesson No. 3: Look at the photographs closely.
After the banquet, our photo editor said UPI wanted a picture of Woody. Cambridge had a machine that could transmit photos, but it had never been used. In the process of sending a picture for the first time, the photo editor somehow averted the UPI editing station and the picture went directly to every UPI newspaper in Ohio. We didn’t think much of it since we were captivated by the wonderful expression on Woody’s face when he saw his English teacher.
Then the phone rang.
It was United Press International in Columbus and they were screaming. At the bottom of photograph, right in front of Woody, were a bunch of empty beer bottles left on a table from the high school coaches. UPI sent a bulletin to all of its Ohio newspapers stating there was a mandatory kill on the photograph.
At one point the angry UPI guy called us “a bunch of dumb hillbillies.” Weeks later, the photo editor would tell me that wasn’t the case at all. He chalked it up to “on-the-job training.”
ROSES AND THORNS: The sound of animals, hiking boots and bicycles can be heard in the rose garden.
Rose: To Lilly Wilker, 10, of New Bremen. Thanks to Lilly’s animal-calling talent, she and her parents, Amy and Tom, were invited to go to Los Angeles to take part in the Ellen DeGeneres show, “Little Big Shots.” The show aired Sunday night on NBC.
Rose: To Ottawa native Josh Ellerbrock, who this spring plans to hike the 2,600-mile Pacific Crest Trail on the western seaboard. In 2012, he hiked the 2,184-mile Appalachian Trail.
Rose: To Larry Cress, a member of Salem Mennonite Church, and Kent Fultz, owner of Crankers Cycling in Lima. They and a handful of volunteers run a ministry that gives away bicycles.
Thorn: A dog was found near Waynesfield wounded from a shotgun. It later died.
PARTING SHOT: “When I was a little boy, my father proudly told me that the Irish built the jails in this country … then they proceeded to fill them.” — President Ronald Reagan, addressing celebrants at an Irish tavern after he slipped away from the White House on St. Patrick’s Day.
Jim Krumel is the editor of The Lima News. Contact him at 567-242-0391 or at The Lima News, 3515 Elida Road, Lima, Ohio 45807.