I’ve always loved discovering things about people and writing the results. At age 5, I spied on neighboring kids from behind fences and bushes, and recorded their activities in a journal. (“Jackie runs down driveway. Falls. Cries. Ha!”)
At 8 I conducted a door-to-door poll of the 1968 presidential race, which creeped out some neighbors but enabled me to predict Nixon’s victory before the networks did. At 11 I earned my first writing award, for cleverly filling in the bubbles on a cartoon panel about a hero called Superfish. I won a 10-gallon tank, thus learning that great writers can furnish their homes for free.
I figured that skill would nicely supplement my career as a baseball player. Tragically, that career ended early due to injury: My ego was crushed when I didn’t even make it onto junior varsity in high school. The coach’s insight into my potential saved me years of practicing in delusion. I found solace in covering sports.
As much as I enjoyed writing about my friends playing hockey, I grew frustrated. I wanted to write about real life, about things that matter – like dead fish.
That was my first big news story as a pro: 100,000 fish go belly-up in a lake because algae depleted the oxygen. I didn’t know that fish could suffocate.
Starting with that first job in community news ($150 a week), I’ve been lucky; my career lets me blend my desire for discovery, my love of storytelling and my ambition to make a difference. I’ve exposed a few wrongs (child abuse in youth groups), helped a few people (homeless mothers whose shelter faced a shutdown), made authority uncomfortable (“You have ruined my career,” a city health commissioner yelled) and flat-out had fun (jumping out of planes).
I’ve done that by reporting and editing at weeklies, dailies and trade publications. I’ve done some time on the other side of the notebooks, as a communicator for nonprofits: going on TV to tell people how to drive in the snow (slowly) and helping groups that focus on youth tell their stories. I’ve elevated the work of my colleagues as a college teacher and fellowship mentor.
Thus I furnished my home. Good thing I can’t hit a curveball.