Tuesday, December 9, 2014


I started at the newspaper almost eight years ago, though I'd been writing for them for a couple of years before that. The story is kind of well-known. I lied my way into the gig and then kept at it until it more or less became the truth.

This blog was started because another blog the Gazette paid me to write for wasn't any good, didn't have any readers and the paper wanted real value for their measly $35 a month. I lost my slot on the company blog roster to Hippie Killer and Raging Red, who'd been brought on to write about food. Through the early creation of their blog, that was how I learned their real names --back when any of us believed in anonymity.

I failed at one blog, but wasn't ready to quit blogging and started this one. The title was created around the idea that it would be subjects I wanted to write about, but would either get me in trouble or was considered too personal for the paper.

Also I could say fuck as much as I wanted and be as mercilessly honest as I could stand without weeping.

The newspaper job came later. I got it because I was writing one or two stories a week for the entertainment section and one or two a month for the Sunday section. They had an opening. I seemed like someone the editors thought they could bring along and train up, even though I lacked a journalism degree and hadn't attended even a respected state college.

I hadn't gone to even WVU and, honestly, had only been to Morgantown three times since I'd come to West Virginia, but it hardly mattered. They didn't want me to do anything important, just write little stories that seemed to be more about occupying space than telling anyone THE TRUTH. I could do that and talk to whatever stray musicians happened to amble into town.   

For weeks, maybe months, I was out of my depth in the newsroom. I didn't write nearly enough and everyone seemed to know so much more about everything than I did. As little good as it did me, I took a copy of Strunk and White's "Elements of Style" with me when I went to the bathroom. I tried to read the work of the writers in the room everyone talked about and had no clue what made one better than the other.

I sucked. I was awful. I knew I was awful, and any second they were going to pack my things up in a box and tell me to go. 

I hung in there. The people in my little corner of the second floor basement were kind. I got good advice from the old, Jewish guy who wore gardening gloves to type sometimes. The two ladies with grown or almost grown children listened to my fears. They encouraged me.

I was lucky. My editors were good ones. They were patient. They were teachers. I learned to write for them. They taught me to focus more, write responsibly, and I learned to tell different kinds of stories than I thought I ever could.

I felt like a kid there for a long time. I relished that. I loved it. It felt like I'd somehow slept very late the night after I'd graduated from college, woke up, and ten years had passed like an unsettling dream. The paper was a new start, a new beginning, a new life, and I have never regretted going into work. I never dreaded having to be there or wished Monday morning was suddenly Friday at five.

People left from time to time. At first, I didn't think much of it. Some of the newer reporters, out of school for a year or two, they moved on, which was sad sometimes, but understandable. They weren't from Charleston or West Virginia and never meant to stay in the first place. They took better jobs in bigger cities and I wished them well when they left.

A few people retired. They put in 20 or 30 or however many years and decided they'd had enough. We had a cake or else met at somebody's house, drank wine and ate cheese and then said good-bye.

One guy left because he was a raging drunk. To this day, he's the only person I've ever witnessed being fired in that newsroom.

A few years ago, things started getting darker or maybe I just began to notice it. People began to leave, not necessarily because they'd found a better job, but because they were fed up. They felt poorly used, underpaid and over-stressed for what they'd signed on for.

A little over a year ago, I stopped being the kid. As unlikely as it seemed to me, I became the veteran, sharing space with others who were wide-eyed and hopeful. I've tried to help them as others helped me and tried to be encouraging as others encouraged me.

It has never been enough and all of the people who came to replace the people who were my friends have been replaced by other people and are now, themselves, in the process of packing up and moving on.

Others will come.

But now, I feel very alone. Soon, the last person connecting me to my first days at the paper will be gone, the victim of people who maybe should have been a little more curious as to why she was so angry all the time.

And now, I have hard days, too. I still don't come in on Monday and dream of Friday, but I often wonder why I feel like I am treated so shabbily. I wonder what it is the people I work for think of me and consider that they must think very little indeed. My pay, which has scarcely changed in eight years, does not encourage me to believe otherwise.

Sometimes, I wonder if I've stayed too long. Other times I wonder if I've stayed too long to leave.

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