For much of my professional life, many felt I was “young” for what I was doing for a living or had accomplished.
As a 17-year-old reporter for The Roanoke Times, I covered crimes and major stories for the paper. I became a columnist for the paper at 18. Won two writing awards from the Virginia Press Association while still in my teens.
By 21, I have moved on to an Illinois daily where I covered higher educations, wrote columns twice a week and became editor of the weekend edition. Won several awards, broke major stories and created controversy with the column.
But somewhere along the way, I went from being the youngster on the block to the old fart who should be sitting on a creek bank fishing instead of still working the sidelines of a football game taking photos for a newspaper or covering actions of government bodies here in Southwestern Virginia.
With luck, age 70 arrives next month, and I’m still doing what I love to do while some folks suggest it is time to “slow down and enjoy life.”
Doesn’t work that way. Plunging ahead, living on the edge, is my way of enjoying life.
Yes, I’ve crashed a motorcycle three times in the last five years: One crash put me in the hospital and near death in 2012; another broke my left leg in 2015 and the latest left me bruised, scraped and swollen a few months ago. I move a little slower now but I’m still on my feet and able to pursue the profession I love.
After all, working as a newspaperman is — in itself — against the odds these days. Newspapers fall by he wayside, killed by changes in the news business, replaced by web sites, social media and broadcast entities. The Floyd Press, like The Roanoke Times, is owned by billionaire Warren Buffett, who thinks there is still a need for newsprint.
In some ways, continued survival of the newspaper business, owes success to entrepreneurs who thrive in a “new media” world. Jess Bezos, owner of Amazon, bought The Washington Post and reinvigorated it with more resources, more staff and new challenges.
As I write each week for newspaper publication, I also own a political news website and publish the local news site where you read this report.
Some predict imminent death of the newspaper profession. A colleague predicts I could outlive the profession that has helped define my professional life. I will die one day. Hopefully, newspapers will live on.
Aging, however, is something we must live with and eventually die from. Yet the current President of the United States is over 70 and most of the occupants of our Congress are close to or past “retirement age” of 65. Actor-director Clinton Eastwood is 87 and still working.
Working as a newspaperman has seldom been a road to any wealth or comfortable income level. I made more money in 12 years as a political operative in Washington than the more than 40 years working for newspapers.
Still, I was miserable working in politics or working for Congress, the White House, or any other government entity. It was not a coincidence that I walked away from politics and alcohol in the same year — 1994. Consider me a recovering drunk and recovering political hack.
Financially, I’m poorer as a newspaperman. Professionally, I’m a content, happy man who loves what he does.
Someone asked recently: “So, when are you going to really retire?”
My answer: “With luck, retirement will come when they zip up my body bag.”