As near as I can recall I was about 11 years old when I received my first typewriter as a Christmas present. It was constructed in the nature of a toy but it was actually functional in that it had a ribbon and a wheel that was mounted facing the typist. On that wheel were most of the characters that you find on a current electric typewriter. You could also insert a piece of paper and roll it up by hand. The real challenge of this miniature marvel was that you had to turn that wheel by hand to the letter you wanted to type and then strike a single key. To add letters and form a word you had to repeat the manual process. It wasn’t likely that you were going to write more than a sentence or two in a sitting.
At that particular time, World War II was hot and heavy and when you got home from school there were all sorts of news flashes on the radio. For kicks, and a few cents, I would note the major flashes on a pad and then laboriously crank out four or five copies on my little machine. Walking through the neighborhood I would be able to sell my little news flashes for a few pennies each – good enough to buy almost a week’s worth of candy in those days.
The next time I got in front of a typewriter was in high school when it was a mandatory class — though none of us athletes thought was very necessary. In those days you worked on a very stiff upright machine that had no correcting tape; you used a lot of paper before you could turn in an error-free typing exercise.
As it was to turn out much later, it was the most important high school class I ever took. The reason being that in the dead of winter, in snow-covered Pusan, Korea, where I had been walking guard duty and performing other menial assignments, one morning at mail call the sergeant asked, “Is there any man in the company who can type?” Despite having learned that in the Army you never raise your hand to volunteer, both my hands went up simultaneously. Since I was the only one volunteering I got the job of company clerk, which meant I spent my time in a cozy office. Later, one of the grizzled vets who was being discharged came in and noted that he could find no one else in the battalion who could type, so he had sought me out to replace him as intelligence sergeant at headquarters. The typing duties associated with that job occurred on a weekly basis and were occasioned by taking an intelligence gathering, all day outing to small villages in the area that was later to become Pusan Perimeter during the Korean conflict. With the aid of two interpreters I would interview the mayors of those towns and then type up the reports that would later make its way up the chain of command and eventually to MacArthur’s headquarters in Japan. A week or so later the information we sent in would come back, along with that of other intelligence gathering Army entities.
On the troop ship coming back to the U.S., typing once again came in handy as I got to produce the daily poop sheet (a mimeographed affair) for all on board.
Typing became an integral part of my college career while studying for a journalism degree at the University of Nevada (now with “Reno” in the name). During those years I also was a stringer for the Nevada State Journal and would often study the typing techniques of others in the newsroom; from the hunt and peckers to the fluid “no look at the keyboard” types.
As I moved into working for a living I managed to become an editor, a publisher and eventually an ad agency owner. In all of those pursuits my typewriter was beside my desk chair.
Now, as a weekly columnist for the Daily Sparks Tribune, I feel I have run the complete gamut of the journalistic field including print, radio and television copy writing.
My best advice to young students in this field is to learn to type as fast as you think.
When I was younger, the word “reporter” brought to mind visions dimly-lit, smoke filled rooms packed with heavy typewriters and printing presses. I thought Lois Lane was the quintessential journalist and that everywhere there was a Superman just waiting to be discovered and written about. The real world is never quite like our imaginations, and I’ve found out that there are better journalists to look up to than the fictional heroine. I am no Lois Lane, but I can call myself a journalist just like my comic book alter ego.
I was first exposed to the exciting world of newspapers two years ago during my sophomore year of high school. I worked for The Shield, Reed High School’s student-run paper. I have always liked my English classes and writing was a hobby I enjoyed and wanted to expand.
A year later I was sitting in the editor seat and my teacher recognized my ambition. I wanted to move up into the big leagues, so to speak, so he referred me to the Sparks Tribune, which printed our little school paper. Editor Nathan Orme put me to the test and decided to give me a shot. So, I started my internship at 16 years old and I am now approaching my two-year anniversary as a Tribune employee as the youngest member of the team.
I should add that I am by no means a hard-hitting, groundbreaking reporter (not yet, anyway). Since I’m still in high school I work on Saturdays, when I lay out the paper and make the content fit on the page. I write a story here and there, but I spend most of my time inside the newsroom instead of outside hitting the pavement. For now, it gives me a chance to practice in a real-world environment while going to school.
Working at the Sparks Tribune has exposed me to a world foreign to most people my age. I’ve met some amazing people and learned what real journalists are like, not just the ones in my imagination. (The real world might not be quite so exciting and dramatic, but is still just as amazing. Lois Lane can’t hold a candle to our reporters.)
I’ve learned some interesting things about myself and about the job I have aspired to while in high school. I’ve tried my hand at interviews, articles, photography, editing and layout. I like to think that I’ve seen most aspects of the paper; I can say with confidence that I’ve learned so much from my editor and the wonderful people of the paper. Without them I would still be just a high schooler who dreams about changing the world through writing.
I don’t know where I’ll end up in life, but because of my experiences at the Sparks Tribune, I know that I want my future to include writing and photography. At the very least I have cultivated habits and interests that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.
After I graduate from Reed this spring, I will be attending the University of Nevada, Reno in the fall. I am currently an English major, although by the time this publishes that may have changed, as it has changed several times already. I’m trying to keep an open mind and see where life takes me. I do know, however, that I’ll continue to be at the Sparks Tribune for a few more years.
I doubt I’ll be the youngest employee for much longer; I would encourage anyone who is interested in journalism or writing in general to give newspapers a try. The Sparks Tribune has given me invaluable experience and helped me make some very important decisions about my future.