When I was a journalism student at Chico State writing sports and feature copy for the Wildcat, we had electric typewriters, red pencils, and white out to produce and edit copy. You rewrote and rewrote and rewrote till the editor said it was OK. I remember how laborious and time consuming it felt like when I started.
My next journalism experience involved being an intern for “Action Report.” The broadcast copy and casework for a consumer help TV show was produced in Rolfe Auerbach’s garage in Chico. His show was syndicated in 3 counties with 3 different TV stations, so we had Watts lines to call all over northern California to research consumer complaints. Rolfe’s show was named “Action Report” and his tagline on his show was: “You can get action with Action Report!”After several fascinating months, that internship came to an abrupt end when someone turned Mr. Auerbach in for illegally growing marijuana in his backyard.
A few years later, when I was hired by the Chico Enterprise-Record, I was given a desk and what was known then as a VDT, or Video Display Terminal out in the main room across from a vending machine. They were an early version of an in-house word processing system with screens and a keyboard. I had used one earlier when I worked on the Orion, a newspaper the Chico State Journalism Department had going by then just for us Journalism students.
Much to my surprise after I’d finally graduated, an employment agency got me a job with the Enterprise-Record in Chico. But the man who hired me weighed 300 lbs, gave me a few lightweight writing assignments and some obits to write up, and then ignored me. Mr. 300 lbs, who had to be in his 50’s at least, had his own office, a separate room with a VDT, and a dull,overworked, “Don’t bother me” aura.
The reporters at the sports table and news desk were grouped close enough to talk to each other. I was a “floater” who had no beat and I was supposed to generate my own stories. It took about 2 weeks for me to realize I could not handle the isolation, lack of contact and direction. To this day I have no idea why they hired me. When I resigned, I did it by VDT. Some time later I had to move home with my parents, having no further prospects in Chico, where I’d spent 6 years living and going to school.
My next ill fated adventure involved Ed Bauer, the owner/editor of the Half Moon Bay Review. He was notorious for being a pompous, hot headed, narrow minded,right winger and his paper reflected it. I have heard his paper has been used as a bad example at the Stanford school of journalism, ironic, as Mr. Bauer was a proud graduate of Stanford and owned the paper for 25 years.
When I interviewed for a job with him, he wanted to know who my college adviser was. Officially it was Dr. Chu, and Mr. Bauer then wanted to know if Dr. Chu had worked for a Chinese newspaper I had never heard of. When I said no, it felt like a door had been slammed in my face and the interview was over. I was so repelled by his racism I was relieved I didn’t get the job; I didn’t want to be anywhere around him. Though I eventually spent some time doing paste up in the production room, the job was long hours with dreadful pay, and it wasn’t writing, so I quit.
The final nail in the coffin of my journalistic ambitions came in the form of a friend of my mother’s who was the owner/editor of a small local coastal newspaper named the Beachcomber. Her name was Shirley Zynda. She looked like a kindly blond grandmother, though, in reality she was a good writer and tough as nails underneath. When I asked for a writing job she had me do some of the small business blurbs she featured periodically for businesses that paid for advertising in her paper with a “we’ll see how you do”
attitude about my writing.
At one point I did some production room work for the Beachcomber to “help out” and liked it no more than before. I don’t even remember if I was paid. After several months, out of the blue, Shirley Zynda called me in to see her to inform me that I had no dicipline and couldn’t write, and THAT was THAT. The ease in which she trampled on and discarded me, wrong as I knew her judgement was, crushed me.