morning, before I turned my favorite Saturday
morning news show on, I unfolded the newspaper.
It wasn’t in pristine condition. My husband
had first dibs on it when he collected it from
the driveway to take it to breakfast at MacDonald’s
so the B Section was on top and there it was.
A swell of sadness and memories, losses and gains
of very different kinds.
entire story and image above the fold was about
the death of USA’s forty-first President.
What, you might ask, does this have to do with
literature. I am going to tell you and it has
little or nothing to do with politics.
poetry and fiction are my first loves, my love
of writing was forged in journalism. And this
story in the Los Angeles Times made me
reflect on it. The Times was ready for
this story. It is an example of what journalism
can teach a writer: Anticipation. Preparedness.
Organization. Accuracy. Writing with clarity (short
sentences, sometimes pithy leads). I am grateful
to journalism for the what it taught me.
story was more biography than obituary. That is
a trend these days, but this story clarified the
death and life of a gentleman who lead our nation
through some perilous times. Like world transition
after the break of the Soviet Union. Like a Germany
divided. Some things I had forgotten. And some
things I have been afraid I will never see again
in politics (back to that gentility thing again
and, OK, a little politics, too!)
mused about my first “job” in journalism.
I was a “reporter” for my high school
newspaper, a job I mostly wanted because that’s
where the cutest and smartest boys were and I
was able to wander the halls of my school with
an official pass when few others could. I wasn’t
there for the right reasons, but I was soon converted.
I thought about my second job in journalism when
I was only eighteen as a staff writer in the “society”
department at The Salt Lake Tribune,
our state’s major newspaper. It was there
I fell in love not with the men on the sports
desk but with the thud, thud, thud of the printing
press when it started rolling, the smell of the
molten lead when I delivered out pages—the
“layout”—to the backshop. The
smear of fresh printer’s ink on my fingers
when I opened those pages in print the next morning.
I thought about all that goes into a story like
the death of a president on short notice. It wasn’t
a miracle. It was preparation. Still, this story
must have lit up the newsroom when the death of
a man who was president when much of our population
was not yet born became news. I would have loved
being in the newsroom. The rush for files. The
quick edits and re-edits. The writing of a headline
that filled the entire width of the paper. The
font. The masthead. The camaraderie. Feeling part
of history being made in some small but important
am still learning many of the lessons journalism
teaches, but my love for it when it is at its
best is complete.