Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A Milestone - My 40th Anniversary at The Mercury

Ivana and Donald Trump at Kmart in Sanatoga
     On May 20, 1974, I was hired by editor Bob Boyle and started my career at The Mercury as a copyboy. Today marks my 40th anniversary at the paper. It has been a life long commitment and if there is one person I owe thanks, it would be my wife Deb.
     She has put up with a lot over the years with me out on news events at all hours of the day and night. It's not easy to stay married working in the media environment but I try to keep it balanced juggling a home life while I continue to chase news. So thanks Deb, I couldn't do this without you. Luv ya.
     At one point years ago I interviewed with a printing company thinking maybe it was time for a change when the owner told me something that I had never thought of before. He said that he'd be glad to hire me but reminded me that I most likely wouldn't be able to stay inside working an eight to ten hour shift behind a desk after being on the streets all those years. The friend said I'd be like a caged lion. He was right and I didn't take the job.
Doehler's fire
     It was too late for me to change and I remind young journalists to make sure they know that this is what they want to do because the ink runs thick in your blood and I don't think any other profession would work for me. I grumble some days as no job is perfect but still glad to be a part of the news.
     I enjoyed working as a copyboy for two years cutting my teeth learning from Mr. Boyle and photographer Tom Kelly. I covered elections, wrote up news briefs, picked up area weekly and daily newspapers. And any other odds and ends the editor needed me to do. I rode shotgun with Kelly many days starting out at 10 am on my own time before beginning my 3-11 pm shift. I'd hang around the photo department and when he raced out the door on a fire or some other spot news scene I'd be right with him. I watched and learned snapping pictures on all the events. It was the days of the black and white newspaper, what I like to call the golden era of the news biz. There was something about developing b&w film, making a print in the darkroom, then running it out to the city editors desk on deadline for the front page.
      The USA Today forced all newspapers into the color era around 1993 and at first it looked like comic book color to me. I was managing the photo department and was responsible for taking us into color. We started with a Fuji film processor,  a Nikon scanner and a MacIntosh Quardra 950, the first desktop computer I would work on. The photographers made four color negative separations and black and white halftones which were then pasted up in the composing room. From that point changes came at a daily pace, if you weren't of the mindset to learn new techniques and updated computer programs there was no place for you in the newsroom.
     The best day came in 2001when Journal Register Offset opened in Exton and The Mercury was finally printed on a high quality brand spanking new offset press. Before that the paper was printed on an ancient press and the color always had a dusty look to it. Many a day I was called into the publishers office to explain why photos looked muddy. I had the pleasure of shooting the first papers coming off of the new press on startup night. It was an exciting evening, and basically in my mind I was vindicated when I saw the crisp and clean images reproduced.
Chilly Dog
     Shortly after that mechanics tore the press out and piece by piece removed the old beast from The Mercury building. It had served its time printing out decades of historic papers. I drove over to Mayer Pollock Steel Corporation where the steel was taken to be recycled. It laid in a heap on top of other worn out scrap metal.  I snapped a photo and printed it with a caption that stated "REST IN PIECES!"  I wasn't sentimental about the change though I saw many a paper roll off that old press after covering late night news.
Stirring Sunshine
     Now we are into 'the social media' era a far cry from where I started. Tweeting, touting, emailing, texting, blogging all in the name of speed. Constantly changing, faster now then at any time in my career. I'm using a Mac laptop and sending art from a MIFI jetpack.  We also use iPhones snapping photos and video then transmitting the news through cell towers to my twitter followers online.  The news cycles through in seconds. A desk editor will also pick up these news items and move it to the website for the masses who want instant gratification and news as it happens. There is no waiting until the next days paper but I have to say I still like seeing and smelling a fresh daily paper.
FDNY Remembering 9-11
     I have snapped thousands and thousands of photos over the 40 years. In that time I have had the honor of photographing many interesting people. The assignments about people are the ones I like most. When I'm out with someone of advanced age or a rather seasoned individual I will ask them the secrets to a long life. Some are teetotalers others drink wine, some exercise some don't, but the majority seem to be smiling happy people. I'll have to work on that.
Police on a shooting scene
     I've met famous sports figures and military heroes. These folks have stories if you can get them to talk. Most are modest and I remind them that they aren't bragging just conveying information that readers would love to hear.
    For the paper, I have travelled to California, Louisiana, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, Washington, D.C. and Florida. Mostly, coverage is within the tri-county area.
Spring-Ford wins state hoop title
    If the alarm sounds on my anniversary date, I'll be running out the door just like always. Only these days it's more like a quick jog to the car on a sore knee.  I tell people all the time, this job makes you old and this job keeps you young. That may sound strange, but I can be dragging one minute and the next I'm flying around like a 'twenty something'.
    It's a fast paced business that doesn't show any signs of slowing down.  I'll be out driving my black pickup truck looking for news that day.
     And I just want to thank my wife again and tell her I'll be home for dinner but I may be a little late if the fire whistle blows.


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