I started writing this column 40 years ago, the day I walked into a newsroom for the first time and got paid for the work I did. But my newspaper career started long before that.
I printed my first newspaper in fifth grade. Really. Printed it. We didn’t have fancy copiers in those days, so like some Medieval scribe I hand printed three copies of a single page, two-sided “newspaper” in pencil on scratch paper. It had all the basic fifth-grade news, even an advice column by “Flan Anders,” no less. Classmates liked it.
After all these years, I still enjoy putting together every issue of the newspaper, more than 1,000 here at the Enterprise, probably close to 8,000 or more over the years. I still want to hear what readers have to say.
I don’t know how many words I’ve penned. The “Complete Works of Buzz Eggleston” will probably fill a very large trash bin.
People naturally assume journalism is about that aspect of the job – about writing, that is, not filling trash bins. And it is, but that’s just a small part. Art is about more than paint. Pottery is more than clay. And journalism is more about psychology, sociology, and a bunch of other ologies. It is about people. It’s about change and spotting change. By definition change is what’s new, change is “News.”
In my early days, newspapers were regarded by some as a form of manufacturing. I started on the nightshift manufacturing news stories on a manual typewriter, again, on scrap paper, but in triplicate separated by carbon paper. Desktop ashtrays overflowed, coffee flowed. It was a gritty, and in my case, very late-night business.
Editors actually used pencils and rulers, called pica poles, and glue pots to paste the scraps of paper together. Type was set on Linotype machines. They melted lead in a process to eventually form pages suitable for offset presses. It was all so very modern at the time.
Computers came along and replaced the typewriter, but not much else. The Internet as we know it came much later. Libraries, telephones and personal interviews were our main research tools into the 1990s. We wore ties and dress coats. We were formal.
Back in the Pleistocene, I went from being a reporter to become an editor, a person who cleans up other’s writings among other things, and I have edited countless words in the years since I assumed that title. I’ve also chosen thousands of photos to print, made countless story assignments, answered readers’ questions or tried to, heard their stories and dealt with their complaints. I’ve made mistakes – lots of them – and did my best to make up for them. You can never really make them “right.”
Retirement will be nice. That said, since announcing my exit plan, I’ve been surprised by some people’s reactions. Maybe I chose the wrong word. Maybe I should have said “career change” instead of retirement or maybe “retirement from newspapers.” I plan to do other things now. If called upon, I’ll contribute to the Enterprise now and then. Mostly, though, I plan to sit back less than I do now and as much as possible avoid deadlines.
I am indebted to my family, especially wife Karen. She tolerated my obsession with this business, my frequent ab-sence, and stood by me in good times and bad.
I am indebted to the excellent people at the Calaveras Enterprise, past and present, who also tolerated me and whose professional expertise made my work better.
I am indebted to the kindness of those who pay to read the Enterprise and those who paid to read the other newspapers I worked on over the years. And I’m especially indebted to those who kindly – or not – opened their lives and occasionally their filing cabinets to my probing questions.
I am indebted to all who shared their writing skills with me and who helped me to better tell stories.
I am most deeply grateful to the warm and hospitable people of Calaveras County who welcomed me 10 years ago and who have patiently mentored me as I learned my way around here.
Newspaper work has always been interesting, never more than it is today. I am leaving it at the onset of a new era with new challenges and opportunities. Worn ways of communicating are being discarded, again, and new ones tailored to consumers’ choices are coming online. News and how we convey it will always change.
I would say this to you, though: Never take newspapers, freedom of speech, or democracy for granted. Stand up and defend them, not for their sake, but for your own.
Thanks for sharing your news with me and thanks for all the years you have allowed me to share news with you.
Contact Buzz Eggleston at email@example.com – or not.
Contact Buzz Eggleston at firstname.lastname@example.org