My first real step into the news business sometime in the early to mid-1990s left much to be desired. I dared to answer a help wanted ad for a part-time reporter’s position with the Daily Advocate. I had no background, not a single published piece of work, nadda.
I had some nerve.
The newspaper was located on the corner of West Main and Sycamore streets, and my expectations were a mix of oblivious to overblown.
I distinctly recall the skylights and the clunky computers set before far too many empty chairs. It was not the newsroom of Lois Lane and Clark Kent, not even Spider-Man. There followed an unfortunate interview with an editor not privy to entertaining the wanton desires of a wanna-be writer. I get it. He could have been nicer to the young woman with a plan to be a recluse science fiction and fantasy writer who wanted nothing more than to live on a tiny farm outside Arcanum with a moat and a herd of Great Pyrenees, but I get it.
The better day came a dozen years later in the form of another help wanted ad. Once again, it was the Daily Advocate. I still had nothing to my name, but it was a different editor who noted something in my tenacity or perhaps the fact I came free. My first story was an Easter egg hunt in the city park. It was the happiest day in this wanna-be writer’s life as everyone has to start somewhere.
When I left the newspaper after three-plus years as a stringer turned columnist and paginator back in the 00s, I honestly thought that was the end of that business. I went on to write a column for a Hawaiian newspaper on my Midwest gardening adventures. I completed my first book, a post-apocalypse set in the village of Arcanum, where I happened to be living at the time. (No, it wasn’t a farm with a dozen Great Pyrenees, sad to report). Only to go through a personal apocalypse that had me putting my resume out in answer to every help wanted ad, including the Piqua Daily Call.
My interview with Susan Hartley, the editor, was the best interview I ever had. I felt confident and hopeful. It was April 2011, and when the call came that I was hired, I was on the moon, only to be faced with the shocking realization I had misread the help wanted ad.
The nerve and audacity of my youth were gone.
You see, I was under the impression I would mostly paginate and cover a few board meetings, work not far removed from what I had done previously. When I was called into Susan’s office that first day to ask if I was ready to cover the City of Piqua commission meeting as the new city-beat reporter, my legs turned to rubber.
I can laugh about it now, nine years, and goodness knows how many articles later, how I panicked. My mind tried to devise a plausible reason as to why I suddenly quit a much-coveted and needed job to my mother (My daughters and I were living with her at the time) but came up blank. So off I went to the meeting, anxiety-riddled. If it all blew up in my face, a saying my mother likes to share quite often rang in my ears, “They’ll never see you again.”
However, it didn’t blow up because I had someone who believed in me, and the rest, as they say, is a life-changing adventure just minus the farm, moat, and a dozen enormous dogs. That’s OK, sometimes the Universe has other plans and paths, and you have to follow wherever it may lead you or make your own. That’s the funny thing about plans and paths. They have a habit of changing when we least expect it. So while I knew it would happen someday, it still came as something of a shock the news Susan Hartley, former editor of the Piqua Daily Call and current editor for the Daily Advocate, is leaving us.
I finally find myself at a loss for typed words because how do you thank someone for believing in you when no else would, not even yourself? How to thank someone for the grand, life-changing adventures?
Thank you, Susan! I hope this new path brings great adventures to you and yours, and maybe a farm, moat, and a dozen cats instead of a dozen dogs (or perhaps just skip the pets since someone is understandably allergic). Honestly, I don’t know how else to say it or what to write, and I was trying to find the best quote on paths and such but found something that is far more fitting from my experience in your newsrooms.
“Be bold enough to live life on your terms, and never, ever apologize for it. Go against the grain, refuse to conform, take the road less traveled instead of the well-beaten path. Laugh in the face of adversity, and leap before you look. Dance as though everybody is watching. March to the beat of your own drummer. And stubbornly refuse to fit in.” ― Mandy Hale
Bethany J. Royer-DeLong is a reporter for the Daily Advocate and Early Bird and a life-long resident of Darke County. She holds a bachelor’s degree in work psychology and a master’s degree in organizational leadership because she’s a sucker for all things jobs. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.