Newsroom career dissected

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 3, 2002

The following column is a reprint of an article penned by Macguire on March 30, 2002.

From the time a "cub" reporter first starts hustling copy and typing out obits with one finger, he has a golden dream of things to be.

The dream unfolds in a torturously slow as frozen molasses manner, but is relieved at milepost intervals that each, in its own way fills the maturing newsman with a great feeling of euphoria.

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His first step, following the copy boy, obit-taking segment of his journalistic career, happens when he is finally rewarded with the lowliest beat in the scheme of things.

It is then that he becomes a police and fire reporter for the first time and is given a chance to try his wings.

He is told by his iron-jawed city editor to either sink or swim.

This provides the first in a series of blissful milestones n one that inflates the old ego for several weeks before slowly ebbing.

Then for a spell, he is subjected to the drudgery of his rounds, a day-in-day-out sameness that appears will be with him ad nauseum.

Suddenly, Dullsville ends when he reaches the next milestone n a scoop. He gets the drop on wire services, the newscasters and everyone else in the news-dispensing business.

He is praised for his doggedness, his devotion to duty and is rewarded with that ever-coveted raise in pay. Euphoria again sets in.

Other milestones drift onto the scene at respectable intervals.

The first byline provides one milestone, assignment to the statehouse beat furnishes another, and then the penultimate bonanza-assignment to the office of city editor, from which vantage-point he himself tutors the upstart "cubs" and keeps things stirred up generally.

When the latter status is attained, the high-riding cloud keeps rising and rising until it reaches astronomical heights.

The ultimate n the highest point in any newsman's career n arrives but once in the lifetime of a very limited number of newspapermen.

And that rarity occurs when he races into the newsroom, after the presses have started their daily grind and with bated breath, in all sincerity, hollers "stop the presses."

This is such a rarity, that you could perhaps count the number of times in history it has ever occurred on your fingers and toes.

Your correspondent was fortunate enough (or unfortunate n depending on your angle) to have had just such an experience.

Such an event transpired in the early morning hours of May 7, 1968.

It was a sad occasion indeed, that caused the press stoppage, the replating and gathering of reactions of people in high places and translating them into intelligible reports for public consumption.

It was sad because it was then that the newsroom gang toiled throughout the entire morning, fashioning to perfection a report on the death of Alabama's only lady governor, Lurleen Burns Wallace.

The milestones in the ongoing clearing-house work of your local merchants and industry are not entirely unlike those in the world of newspaperdom.

The change, the continuing pursuit of perfection in those operations and the continuing newness of each day's events there are equally fascinating as are the happenings in the news gathering and dispensing arena.

Buster MacGuire is copy editor and columnist for the Greenville Advocate.

He may be reached by calling 334.382.3111.