Sunday, August 9, 2009

The life of kings

“… as I look back over a misspent life, I find myself more and more convinced that I had more fun doing news reporting than in any other enterprise. It is really the life of kings.”
-H.L. Mencken

Four years ago today, I began my journalism career at the Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail. I enjoyed the job immensely because it was so unique. I saw things and talked to people that would make many jealous and/or cringe. What follows over the next two days is my list of best and worst moments on the job.

The Best Moments

1: Katrina - I became a reporter because I wanted a job that few other people could do. Little did I know that three weeks into my career, I would be thrust into one of the biggest stories of my generation. We all remember the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf Coast, and how it took days to get aid to the evacuees. But I was just a spectator until four days after the storm when my boss at the Daily Mail turned to me and asked if I wanted to go to New Orleans. The 130th West Virginia Airlift Wing was preparing to leave immediately to evacuate the injured and offered one position for a reporter on the C-130. We would be gone during Labor Day weekend and none of the other reporters could go, so my editor turned to me. I packed my bags, rushed to Yeager Airport and was in the New Orleans area before midnight. I never entered the city, but spent much of the time at Louis Armstrong International Airport. There, I saw things that I could barely describe in words, especially for a rookie reporter. It was the most difficult and satisfying assignment of my career.

2: Obama stumps at W&J - It’s not often you get to cover the future leader of the free world. But there was Barack Obama, standing just a few feet away from me at Washington & Jefferson College, discussing veterans’ care. Although he still had not secured the Democratic nomination for president, it was clear he would in just a couple months. As exciting as this assignment was for me, I could only cringe watching the traveling press that had to follow him to each campaign event. How boring would this be to hear the same speech and dig to find that small nugget of new information. Sen. John McCain came to Washington a few months later while introducing his new vice presidential pick, Sarah Palin. My only regret is that I was not in town that weekend and did not have a chance to cover the Republican challenger.

3: The byline - Even four years after my career began, I still got a rush from seeing my name next to a story. Sure, not a lot of people actually care about who wrote the story, but it does give some insight on the author and how the story will read. There is something about the byline that puts a stamp on your story: You stand by your work. And to make things even more interesting, we reporters include our e-mail addresses and work phone numbers so any angry reader/source can easily contact us to let their complaints be known. In a time when the Internet allows for anonymous posts and comments, a newspaper reporter literally put his name beside his work.

My worst memories on the job will appear Monday…


  1. Covering last year's election certainly was a highlight of my career, too. Nice post Mike.

  2. For me, my best moments were arguing over Havoc on the Hill with Scooter. You know, even with my obsession or sorts with quotes, I never read that on. It is, indeed, the life of kings. My mentor, Bill Moushey, used to tell us students "have fun" as way of a goodbye. It was only when I was in a real, working newsroom at my first job that I understood what he meant. And as for the Observer -- I had more fun in that newsroom than I probably should have with you guys.

  3. You two more than earned your 1st place award for Havoc on the Hill. That's what great reporting is all about.