The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports

August 21, 2011

I only made 5 bucks a week, but the benefits were incredible


Daily Star

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You might be surprised at how often I'm asked about how I got into this newspaper racket.

Well, truth be known, nobody asks.

Nobody, apparently, cares the least little bit.

But I'm going to tell you, anyway, with the promise that the story is not merely the ramblings of an ancient mind that has seen much better days _ although it is certainly all of that.

I was 16 years old, and way ahead of my time. The kind of vacuous, lay-about behavior we see in so much of today's youth, I had turned into an art form decades before the first home computer came into existence.

I loved sports, but there were no professional scouts panting for my signature on a contract. Neither was my academic acuity causing representatives from Harvard or Yale to compete for the opportunity to offer me a scholarship.

When I wasn't off playing sports with my friends, I was pretty much a "what's on TV tonight?" kind of kid without any focused ambition to speak of.

Then, one day my father showed me a tiny classified ad in the local newspaper. The paper's sports department was looking for someone to cover youth leagues and high school football games.

Possessing far more chutzpah than talent, I applied for the job and then bugged the sports editor until he hired me just to get me off his telephone.

The pay was $5 per week.

That's not a misprint. Not $5 per hour or even $5 per day. Five bucks a week for what turned out to be about 30 or 40 hours. Even back in the 1960s, that wasn't much money. But then again, you get what you pay for.

Looking back at the bilge I was writing as I slowly learned how to type, at five bucks a week I was being grossly overpaid. I mean, I was terrible.

But I learned, even as I endured the teasing of my friends who were making a lot more money at hamburger emporiums and odd jobs than I was earning while writing, editing and laying out newspaper pages. After a couple of years, I got a big raise ... to $10 per week.

But I was working for a newspaper, and I thought I had the best job in the whole world.

Four decades later, I still feel that way.

That first job led to me becoming the paper's sports editor and covering bigger events, including two Super Bowls and several championship boxing matches. While still in my teens, I traveled on the Miami Dolphins' team plane and covered their games, interviewed Muhammad Ali, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano and myriad pro football, basketball and baseball players.

And, oh yeah, I got a career out of the deal.

I promised that there was a reason for this trot down memory lane, and here it is. The Daily Star's sports editor, Dean Russin, is looking for some entry-level help. He doesn't care if you're 18 or 80 as long as you know a little bit about sports, can learn how to type in a box score and have some nights available to get in on the ground floor of this wondrous business.

And while you won't get rich, the pay's a lot better than $5 a week.

Contact Dean at (607) 432-1000, ext. 215 or email him at drussin@thedailystar.com if you're interested. You never know where an opportunity such as this could lead.

All I know is, it's worked out pretty well for me.

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Time's running out for seeing the Oneonta Historical Society's exhibit of Chief Photographer Julie Lewis' 30 years of incredible work at The Daily Star. These outstanding photos at the 183 Main St. gallery come down Sept. 10.

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I've mentioned my career, and Julie's, and it's with genuine sadness that I have one more to discuss.

Longtime Cooperstown-based reporter Tom Grace is retiring from The Daily Star, and everyone here who has had the pleasure of being associated with him isn't at all happy about it.

Tom has been the consummate fair-minded, hard-working, talented and courageous reporter that any newspaper would cherish. His "Uncle Chet" columns have entertained as they have informed, and I'm going to miss them.

Moreover, I'm going to miss Tom, who happens to be a very good guy. Rumor has it that he's thinking of dipping a toe into the political waters. Well, if honesty and integrity have a place in politics, Tom Grace will do very well, indeed.

Sam Pollak is the editor of The Daily Star. He can be reached at spollak@thedailystar.com or at (607) 432-1000, ext. 208.