In nearly 20 years as a journalist, I’ve interviewed everyone from presidents to dairy farmers, stood on Fenway Park grass as the Red Sox celebrated an overdue championship, chased a moose in the North Country of New Hampshire, and flew over Manhattan in a military jet in the days following 9/11.
I’ve read thousands of campaign finance records, criminal reports and municipal files, all to shed light on public and private institutions. I’ve also experienced simple joy by stepping into others’ shoes to write unforgettable feature stories, including an exhilarating skydive and a difficult tryout for a professional baseball team.
It’s been a great ride – one that has required passion, good listening skills, unwavering objectivity, a decent understanding of nearly every facet of life, an ability to produce compelling copy under hourly and daily deadlines, and a tolerance for poor pay.
Writing, though, places second to reading. Reading taught me how to write. To this day, I still can’t list the many whimsical rules of English, but rarely do the writing referees – editors and readers – blow the whistle on one of my sentences. Putting black on white comes naturally because of the thousands of pages I have read on my couch, under the bed covers, and in the backseat of the family car with only the passing lights of other vehicles providing illumination at night. The voices of those many writers have mingled with my voice.
If I ever have to make a valedictory speech for some odd reason, I will try to thank those writers, but I certainly won’t forget to mention the people who helped me on this path.
Thank you, mom; my sister (Don’t worry, Mary, I won’t mention your name); several Plymouth State College professors, including Ann Hoey and Joe Monninger; and Janet Walsh, a city editor who gave me a shot at the Boston Herald because I didn’t start my cover letter with “I’m applying for this job because…”