Sunday, February 23, 2014

The newspaper route, part 1: Baseball cards and doorstep delivery

I'm trying to figure out why I decided to become a newspaper journalist. I don't mean that in a cynical way -- I just can't pinpoint in my youth when I went from not sure what I wanted to be when I grew up (aside from a video game designer) to deciding I wanted to work for a newspaper.

I think I was a seventh-grader, but I can't declare there was a certain event that pushed me toward newspapers. It's not like I watched "Lou Grant" a lot or was inspired by "All the President's Men" (which I didn't see until I was an adult and is my favorite newspaper movie). I do know that in the eighth-grade remembrance booklet the class made for graduation, where we got to list what we wanted our career to be someday, I said journalist.

Here's what else I know: I was fascinated by newspapers from about age 6. We'd get the Sun-Times, and my grandmother would sometimes buy the Sunday edition of Chicago Daily News, which was in it's death throes in the mid-1970s. The Sun-Times was nice because it was it was a tabloid and was easy for my first-grade hands to read. I liked the comics, of course, and the puzzles (especially the Sunday Word Find), and also the weather map. I'm sure I looked at some of the news but didn't quite get what most of it meant. And by the time I became interested in sports (and we switched to the Chicago Tribune on our doorstep every morning), the Sports section, with all its boxscores and other statistics, also became a favorite. Eventually, I started reading the news sections more, but Sports was always what I turned to first.

Here's another thing I know: I used to make my own Sports sections when I was a kid. I didn't do it often, but at least a few times. I'd cut pictures out of the real newspaper to create my section, use my baseball cards and mug shots, and devise my own standings (did I ever put the Cubs in first in my sections?). In an 8-year-old kind of way, I was thinking about design and what I wanted my newspaper to look like.

Here's the final thing I know regarding this: I loved to write. I think I figured that out around age 9. By 12, I had figured out that I was good at it, too.

Add all this together, and perhaps it was natural around age 12 that I wanted to be a newspaper journalist. I'm somewhat amazed that I stuck with it, too. Seriously, how many people follow through as an adult, or even a college student, with their desired career in grade school? Though I briefly flirted with the idea of other vocations (I think urban planner/traffic engineer would have been fun), nothing took hold like the dream of working for a newspaper -- a dream that came to life 30-something years ago.