This is my first column with the Washington Times Herald, and I thought it would be a good time to introduce myself. As someone who has lived in the media box most of my life this should not take very long. The place to start, Burlington Elementary. I was convinced when I was a fifth grader that my calling was to be the next Brooks Robinson or Paul Hornung, maybe Jerry Lucas. I was thinking I might be one of those rare dual sport professionals like Dick Groat or Chuck Conley.
Imagine my surprise when at the end of my fifth grade year the teacher, Audra Lindley, composed a poem about her class and when she came to me she wrote: “Here’s a lad who is quite up to date and keeps up with the news no matter how late.”
The older I got and realized that I was too slow, too small or lacked the hand-eye coordination that would make me a professional athlete, the more it became apparent that there would have to be a change in direction and oddly enough Miss Lindley turned out to be correct.
I got my start in the media business with a paper route for the Pharos-Tribune making the princely sum of $2 to $5 per week. Then came writing for school papers, followed by years in the media boxes of radio and television. Those sent me off to side trips in sports, sales, video and even administration, but the place I kept getting drawn back to is the spot where Miss Lindley had me pegged: news.
Working in news now seems to be a lot like breathing, but there are certain things I try to hang onto. First is the lesson of Don Hewitt, the creator of 60 Minutes, who always said to tell a good story. The second comes from Abe Lincoln who said tell people the truth and let them decide. There’s also Larry King who said he never learned a thing when he was talking. Put it together and it all comes down to shut up, be as honest as you can, and tell the story.
There are some other things I try to remember. The first is never walk into a story with a preconceived notion. Good stories tell themselves and you can’t get a good story by bending the facts. Another is that the story is what’s important not the reporter. As the old umpire once said call them as you see them, and don’t make it up.
This new job is a bit of a change. The style of writing is different. The technology and tools that are used to advance the story are different. The guy doing it is still a work in progress, but also the same one some of you remember as the guy in the plastic box on the radio, or as the guy in the glass box on the television. Now he’s in the paper box. Still telling stories, still mixing it up in the news, and oddly enough still doing exactly what Miss Lindley predicted those many, many years ago.
Mike Grant can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org