I was 16 when I walked into the Barrington (Illinois) Courier-Review with the object of being its sports photographer and walked out a salaried sports reporter and editor. Salaried at $10/week, a credit card at the Standard Oil station down the street, and reimbursement for photo supplies.
I learned basic Associated Press style, who-what-when-where-why-how leads, and the capacity to write on deadline. Shortly, I was contributing 40 column-inches and a couple pictures to each week’s paper. It was about as much fun as a teenager could have, and it turned my head toward journalism as a career. At the University of Illinois I majored in Daily Illini, missing so many classes that I had a reoccurring dream that I was in a final exam for a course that I had never attended. In my case, the dream was so plausible that I kept a copy of my class schedule thumb tacked to the bookcase next to my bed so that when I woke in a sweat I could verify my registration. My grades were mediocre enough in the classes I did attend. For more on the Daily Illini, see Roger Ebert and Me.
I found love at Illinois, too, and shortly after graduation married Leanne Bauman, who remains my partner in everything. We stayed on for a masters. I graduated with the first class of MBA students that the university produced, and I believe that I hold the distinction of being one of the lowest paid MBA graduates in the country. This maybe excludes nuns and inmates.
With thoughts of being a great newspaper executive, I took a job at the St. Petersburg Times, working for the legendary Nelson Poynter on one of the South’s few liberal papers, one of five that supported the 1964 Civil Rights Act that changed society before our eyes. I was inept at management but loved journalism until I wandered away into university life. Recently, Nick Casey, the New York Times foreign correspondent who spoke at our grandson’s high school graduation, asked me why I left newspapering, I thought for a second and replied, “Because I figured out that I wasn’t going to be you.”
Academic life, almost all of it at Claremont Graduate University, served me well, and I think that I reciprocated with good work. They gave me some momentos after I had been on the faculty for 35 years. I looked at the watch and concluded that three and a half decades of teaching was both wonderful and sufficient.
The prospect of bookending my career with journalism seemed appealing, and I thought that I might write a dozen or so commentary pieces over a year. Since starting ‘On California’ in 2014, the column has posted 281 pieces, most written by me and edited by Leanne.
Both author and editor need a rest and a taste of retirement*, so we’ll put ‘On California’ on hiatus. Many thanks to the Stuart Foundation for its support. And thanks to you all.
(*Spoiler alert: I’ve flunked retirement before.)
The opinions expressed in On California are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.