Next week, I’ll celebrate 37 years at the Killeen Daily Herald.
I can’t even begin to imagine how many columns and editorials I’ve written, how many articles I’ve edited and how many pages I’ve proofed in that time.
To be sure, the business has changed since I first walked into the old Herald office on Avenue A in 1979.
That newsroom was a beehive of clacking typewriters, chattering reporters and jangling phones. The daily din was punctuated by the clunking beat of the old AP teletype machine pushing out news copy, with a small bell sounding whenever a bulletin was coming across the wire.
I’ll never forget that day in March 1981 when the bell rang four times — an urgent news flash. President Reagan had just been shot. Like newsrooms across the country, we went into overdrive to remake our front page.
More than three decades later, the old typewriters have been replaced by computers, the phones are digital and AP news alerts show up on our flat-screen displays. We’re not only putting out a daily newspaper in print form, but we’re also posting news on our website, on Facebook and via Twitter and Instagram. We share videos and photo galleries, and we use Google analytics to research our audience interests.
But we still have chattering reporters — and that’s a good thing.
For all the electronic advances and high-tech wizardry, it’s still impossible to tell the story without a good reporter on the other side of the keyboard.
And for all the talk of journalism being in decline, I’d disagree.
For more than two months this summer, the Herald played host to four young college students who took part in a paid summer internship. After they’d been here for about a week, it dawned on me that it was the first time in my career I was three times as old as another employee. Amazing.
But over the course of the summer, I came to realize how much these young students enjoyed journalism and how eager they were to learn. Some of their articles were a bit rough at first, but they worked hard, took pride in their work and enjoyed themselves along the way.
Our interns contributed some important stories to our coverage, including a package on water quality and another on the enactment of the state’s campus carry gun law.
Several of the students thanked me for helping them with their articles and they all said how much the experience meant to them.
It made me realize how important it is that we pass on the best traditions of journalism to the next generation of reporters and editors. They are the ones who will be tasked with chronicling people’s lives, digging for the facts and pushing for transparency in our governmental agencies.
When I first started working at the Herald, we had a city editor who brought out the best in young reporters — partly through intimidation and partly through patient teaching.
That editor — Craig Thomason, had a sharp wit, a West Texas twang and a love for journalism that made him a favorite with reporters and editors alike. He moved on from the Herald to the San Antonio Express-News, where he had a long career as that paper’s city editor, mentoring countless young journalists along the way.
Another such editor was Lee James, who retired from the Herald last fall. Like Craig, Lee sometimes took a tough-love approach to teaching reporters the ropes, but he was always encouraging and quick to praise a well-written article.
Sadly, we lost both Craig and Lee earlier this year. They each leave a void that is impossible to fill.
I know they’re looking down on old newspaper editors like me — as well as our next generation of journalists, rooting us on.
It’s a great profession and I’m proud to be a part of it.
Dave Miller is deputy managing editor / opinion of the Killeen Daily Herald. Contact him at email@example.com or 254-501-7543.