The photo is grainy, as you might expect of a picture that was printed on newsprint on Feb. 25, 1981. Is that really me? Damn, it is.
Many of the clippings from my nefarious career of 40-some years of writing, photographing, politiking and even managing are yellowed, fading relics packed away in a box somewhere. Some have been lost. Others have faded so badly they are, for the most part, unreadable.
But I discovered this week that every article that I wrote and every photo that was published during my 11-and-a-half year tenure at The Alton Telegraph in Illinois is available on line as a PDF file at The Newspaper Archives, including my first news article published on Friday, May 23, 1969, and my last column on Saturday, February 28, 1981. I can also reread the letters to the editor, many of them angry, about stories I covered.
That final column opened with this:
First, the statistics:
Thls is the 841st column written tor the Alton Telegraph.
The first column appeared Feb. 3, 1970, appearing on an irregular basls until April 7, 1972, when it became weekly.
On Sept. 1l, 1974, the column expanded to twice-weekly.
The letters from readers as a result of the column fill five file drawers at home, plus two file boxes and a drawer at the Telegraph office.
So much for the statlstics.
WRITING A NEWSPAPER column, Westbrook Pegler once said, requires an enormous ego, an armour-plated hide and an unhealthy dose of masochism.
Chicago columnist Mike Royko put it another way: "Anyone who writes a column is nuts — certlfiably, unquestionably nuts. A Chicago mobster makes more money, has more friends and is better respected in town than a newspaper columnist."
Asked why he continued to write the column, Royko replied: "Because I’m too dumb to do anything else. Besides, I’m not Italian."
I caused trouble back then too. I’ve always subscribed to the motto of Chicago journalist Finley Peter Dunne, who said: "It is the job of a newspaperman to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable."
Leaving that job was one of the most difficult decisions of my life. I was living a journalist’s dream, writing about whatever I wanted, crusading when the need arose and going just about anywhere necessary to chase down a story. But it was time to move on to the minefields of Washington and new adventures to chase.
The Newspaper Archives does not yet have The Roanoke Times on line so I can’t go back and retreive my writings and photography there from 1965-69 with but I find that others who carried my photos and stories from wire services are available so I’m beginning a new project to find and download those PDF files to save.