Today, so many people seemed shocked when I tell them that when I was 13 years old I decided I would grow up to be a newspaper reporter. Maybe it’s because they know I didn’t know any African-American newspaper reporters, or that for so many years previously I repeatedly said playing second base for the Chicago Cubs was my planned future.
Most seem to better understand that it was during a tour of the Chicago Tribune that we went through the newsroom and I saw a bunch of men pounding away on manual typewriters, every seemed to have a cigarette and the pace was frenetic. People were shouting “copy” and kids a little older than me ran and grabbed the paper one guy was holding up and delivered it to another desk at the same rate of speed. It was the most exciting thing I’d seen indoors.
I eased away from the tour to ask questions of two men in white shirts standing near the aisle talking with one another. I asked them what they did and I was equally clueless when they said simultaneously “I’m a reporter.” My look must have given away my ignorance as one of them picked up that day’s paper and showed me his name above a story.
That clinched it for me-the excitement of what I later learn was called a newsroom and the fact a pretty regular looking guy could write and thousands of people would read his words was all I needed.