Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A decade later and still going strong

So Monday was my 10th anniversary at my job — quite the anomaly for someone in my career in and in the “40 and under” bracket. But rather than philosophizing today, I just wanted to reflect on what it was like when I started at my job 10 years ago.
One of the first thing coworkers ask when they hear how long I’ve been here is “how old were you when you started?” I don’t take that as an offense — I look younger than my age and any time you hear someone has done something for 10 years you want to know how the heck that is possible. I was 21 when I started, though I turned 22 just a month later. It was my first full-time job out of college, and I had graduated a semester early thanks to some AP credits from high school and taking 21-credit semesters through most of college. As a college freshman I thought my accelerated pace would allow me to study a semester abroad, but once I got engaged in junior year, or rather as I knew I was on the path to marriage, I decided graduating early would help me get a job more easily than if I waited to May when everyone else was applying at the same time.
My finance/now husband was still in school and had two more years to go, so I knew I wanted to stay in Maryland. Rather than putting all my hope in the two or three job openings I could find in Maryland, I decided to send my resume and maybe two or three clips to every weekly newspaper in Central Maryland. Journalism school had very responsibly taught me to set my goals low — both in expectations for salary and types of positions that would be available to a newbie. So while I didn’t really want to write for a Jewish weekly newspaper that would require an hour commute from my house, I figured that could be my only offer.
I was very excited when I started getting emails back from editors who were interested in me. Several weeklies from all over said they would be more than happy to have me contribute, though probably as a freelancer since they did not have any fulltime positions open. The bi-weekly Cecil Whig got back to me about a part-time position, and one of my editors from the previous summer’s internships emailed me about a position opening at his former paper, the Carroll County Times. I interviewed for both positions, didn’t hear back from Carroll County or was told that they weren’t sure when they would be able to hire for the position was open, so I took the job at Cecil Whig. For three weeks. Then I got the fulltime offer at Carroll, and with my wedding less than six months away, I had to take it. Plus my husband had an aunt and uncle and cousins that he was close to there so it felt more familiar than foreign.
I started out as the agriculture and environment reporter, also taking over two towns on the western side of the county that were also the smallest towns in the county. The reporter who had covered those towns, Jamie, drove me out to see them and show me where the town halls were located and reviewed her source list with me so that I could have people to call when I needed a story idea. She was only about a year and a half older than me, but the fact that she’d been a reporter all that time when I still felt like an intern had me in awe of her ability to handle everything so smoothly. I also really liked her writing style, and the fact that she wrote short stories and later was pursuing her MFA in writing. She wasn’t afraid to use more of a magazine style in a daily newspaper setting, and I think I adopted a bit of her informal tone.
I sat next to Jeff, the county reporter, and a real sourpuss in general. I felt like he constantly disapproved of me. Behind me sat Dawn, the education reporter, who was pretty nice and I think was known as the person who had been there the longest at five years.
I remember that Megen had also sat behind me, so now I’m rethinking where Dawn sat. Anyway, Megen covered Westminster, and she was so quiet — extremely quiet — that even by sitting two feet away I didn’t learn very much about her. She and Boris, the South Carroll reporter, lived in the same house that was divided into apartments, owned by the sports editor’s parents. Boris was a few years older than me and kind of all over the place. I remember he would come in on the weekends to finish his weekend stories because he couldn’t write two of them on Fridays, like everyone else did.
Lauren was the state house reporter, so I didn’t really meet her until two months after I started. But I was super impressed with her professionalism and the way she carried herself. She and I are still Facebook friends and comment on each other’s statuses a surprising amount considering I didn’t feel like I really got to know her when we worked together. I do remember that she came to my 23rd birthday party though and gave me a gift, a book of 1,001 questions, to keep on my desk for when I got bored. She was so cool!
And the final news reporter was Mia, the cops reporter, who I spent a lot of time with during my first week or two so that I could train how to do all of the cops and courts checks. I didn’t get to know Mia very well either, but she didn’t seem very happy working there. I think we only overlapped there by about six months, so it was good that I had all of that cops training so that I could fill in until they hired her replacement, another Jamie, this one a guy, who would be like a total brother to me at the paper since we were the same age and hired so relatively close to each other. He later became my editor, and I became his landlord. But that’s another story.
I don’t think I had any timeframe in mind when I started at the Carroll County Times, but I don’t think I ever would have imagined I would make it to 10 years. Not that I hate it here — because that couldn’t be further from the truth. But what 21 year old can really predict where he or she will be in a decade?
I'm no longer the super shy, youngest on the team, can't-go-out-on-the-weekends-because-I'm-commuting-an-hour-from-my-parents'-house cub reporter that I was in 2002. I've seen a lot of changes at the paper, and worked with 60-some reporters who have come and gone over that decade, and I'm on my fifth editor. I've learned to ride the tide of both good times and bad times.
A lot of times people I’m interviewing ask me how long I’ve been with the paper, and when I’ve said nine years, I get a look of total shock. Back when the answer was four or five years, people would ask if I wanted to move on to a bigger paper or make it to New York, and I’d always smile and shake my head no.
“I just want to live somewhere nice and have a job I like,” is my genuine response. And I feel like I'm doing pretty good with that.


  1. Oh, man, I haven't thought of Boris in YEARS. Or Jeff, for that matter. I think I'll always have fond memories of those years.

  2. Correction: I made a list of all previous reporter co-workers and came up with 40. And I don't think that was everyone, but 60 might be a stretch.

  3. 10 Years?!?! Sheeeeesh. You're right about the job contentedness . . . it's really pretty great to have a nice job in a nice place with nice people and nice, albeit modest, income. I'm becoming a fan of consistency.