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
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
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 sense.
am still learning many of the lessons journalism
teaches, but my love for it when it is at its best