"Charlie, do you know how to roll your own?" It was my first day on the job selling ads for the Tillamook Headlight Herald Newspaper and the managing editor was standing in the doorway of the composing room holding a 35 mm camera and waving me over.
"Sorry, I don’t smoke," I replied and the rest of the staff laughed.
"Roll your own can? I see you’re not a photographer," he said. "You are now. This is your camera, keep it with you and always have film loaded. Everyone at this newspaper carries a camera. If you see anything interesting or something happening, take pictures. We can catch the story later, but we can’t go back and get a picture. First rule: film is cheap. Don’t be concerned with how many frames you shoot."
“Rule number two,” boomed the voice of the newsroom. “Don’t ever bad mouth the smell in town. Merchants are touchy about that. Around here it’s the smell of money. In fact, don’t speak badly about anyone either. This is a small town. Everyone is related or knows everyone else. Anything you say can circle back. Focus on the good.”
In the fifteen years I worked in small community newspapers, those two rules stuck with me. Even as a publisher, they still rang true. Don’t lose sight of the big picture worrying about saving a few cents and stay positive, every town is a small town.
Charlie teaches Health Science courses at a community college in Washington State. He entertains himself and his students with stories from his experience from two careers, healthcare and community newspapers. He is a contributing author in New Halem Tales Secrets with the story of a newspaper publisher who chooses to keep secrets and the trouble that ensues. New Halem Tales Secrets is available in Amazon’s Kindle Store and will be out for the Nook very soon. Check out the book here. Read excerpts here.
Cattle Grazing. Photo by Gary Halvorson, Oregon State Archives [Attribution], via Wikimedia Commons