For Christmas this year, one of the gifts under the tree was a green three-ring binder. The gift tag said it was from Conrad Black.
Ok, I thought when I saw that it was addressed to me. Colour me confused.
Then I opened the cover and saw what was inside.
Copies of a few issues of the first weekly newspaper I ever worked at.
I’m pretty sure this little gem among my reporting experiences is part of what got me into Ryerson’s journalism program back in 2000. I seem to recall it had prominent play in my letter of intent, coming before both a co-op placement at the St. Thomas Times-Journal and various high school editorial positions.
The story is this – when I was 11, I went wild for the Disney box office flop, Newsies. I loved it. I wanted to wear the scruffy hobo-kid clothing. I wanted to dance and sing in the streets. I wanted to live in New York City. Most of all though, I wanted to work at a newspaper (despite the fact that the newspaper is kind of the bad guy in this movie…though now that I think about it, it wasn’t the writers who were villainous – it was the publishers).
Since I was pretty sure there were no local papers willing to take an 11-year-old intern, I went the DIY route, enlisting my indifferent brother as co-publisher and establishing a weekly Saturday paper for the house.
The A&M Times was short-lived, as I decided early on that my brother lacked the requisite commitment. My Dad, on the other hand, seemed like a go-getter. Without missing an issue, I fired Mike (to this day, he remains indifferent. “The pay was awful anyway,” he tells me), replaced him with my Dad, and re-branded the paper.
It was a pretty simple publication, consisting of:
- A streamlined horoscope that catered to the five astrological signs in my immediate family.
- A missing things section.
- An advice column.
- Movie reviews.
- Random interviews with family members.
- Comics (which were essentially just plagiarized Far Side panels)
- Bulletins about who was going over to a friend’s house and when, who was playing in which hockey games where, upcoming skating competitions, favourite desserts recently made, etc.
It had a single short hiatus (owing largely to Friday night sleepovers) after which it resumed its regular publication schedule, complete with a special re-launch edition.
It wasn’t intense in terms of content, but I WAS. Many was the Friday night I’d be up late, curled in an armchair with a yellow legal pad (aka the printing press) in my lap, tearing my hair out because I didn’t have enough material and my deadline was fast-approaching.
My Mom would tell me to go to bed and finish in the morning and I would spazz out.
“Morning?” I’d ask. “This paper is being delivered in the morning! I have a deadline tonight!”And then I would procrastinate by drinking a pop or eating popcorn or watching TGIF, but I would eventually get around to it and the paper would be rolled and wrapped in plastic on the porch Saturday morning.
I don’t remember when we suspended publication, but the question has come up ever since – what happened to these back issues? Is it possible we threw them out? They had to be somewhere, didn’t they?
Indeed! This year, my sister found them at her house. She and my Dad photocopied them and put them together in this binder and I’m so glad they did.
What have I learned since then?
- How to organize my deadlines.
- There is no such thing as a “Manager” of the paper.
- How to spell “decisions.”
- It’s not necessary to sign every single page of writing I submit.
- Plagiarism is illegal. Apologies to Gary Larson.
All that aside though, do you think I should include some/any of these pieces in my portfolio from now on? They show initiative, no?