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Celebrating 25 years of publishing

Published May 12, 2020


Working from home has its benefits

By John Toth / The Bulletin

I have been working from home since 1983. It’s not for everybody, but for me, it’s been a great way to make a living.

It started when I got a job at the Houston Chronicle at age 27 as an area reporter covering Brazoria County. There were nine of us in the department, all assigned to a different county. When I applied at the paper, they were hiring for the Brazoria County bureau.

At first I wrote my stories on a gadget called a Teleram that transmitted them to the Chronicle over a phone line. It was very slow, but for sending only text, it was adequate. After the bulky Teleram phase passed, we were issued Radio Shack TRS-80s, which could be taken to meetings or assignments and had the capability to function on batteries.

I transmitted many stories from phone booths as bystanders looked on curiously, wondering what I was doing to that public phone. I was glad to explain, when given a chance, that I was sending my story to my paper. It was at the time leading technology. We felt very fortunate to be able to send a story, then call to make sure the editors got it before going home rather than driving to the Chronicle and working from there.

We felt like we could go anywhere and cover anything as long as we could find a public phone or ask to use a phone.

The Chronicle invested in this technology, which cost a small fortune at the time, to give more flexibility to its area reporters. It made our jobs a lot easier. They also did it because the paper’s downtown headquarters did not have enough room in the newsroom to accommodate us.

That’s how my 37-year-long work-from-home journalism career started.
It was a good fit for me. But some reporters transferred to different departments because they wanted to go to work. I didn’t understand why, since working for a major daily and not having to deal with Houston traffic was truly a gift.

My commute was from bedroom, to kitchen, to desk.

I was working a lot more efficiently at home. I got a lot more done with a lot less hassle.

After we started The Bulletin more than 25 years ago, I kept things as they were and continued the home office concept. One of our other businesses actually enabled us to run The Bulletin out of the same building, but we never did.

The Chronicle really did me a big favor introducing me to the work-from-home method. It took some discipline because nobody saw what I was doing. There was no time clock to punch. Luckily, I was young and driven by ego and ambition and chased a lot of stories. I didn’t want to get beaten on a story, and I wanted to land on P1 every time, which was not possible at the Chronicle. There was a lot of competition for Page 1. But I got my fair share.

The Bulletin directly benefited from the Chronicle way of doing things. I took its formula and applied it to my paper. It has worked all these years.

There has been one downside: I tried to call in sick one day, but nobody picked up the phone.

So, I really don’t understand why people would want to go to work and mess with all that traffic when they can get the same thing done at home with a lot less trouble and expense. And, they are helping to keep our air clean.

Each year, seven million people are killed by pollution we spew into our air. COVID-19 is not going to kill nearly that many, yet we shut the whole world down to try to beat it.

We don’t know what this virus can do and want to reduce the fatality rate as much as possible. But what about the seven million people who lose their lives annually due to the pollution we generate?

Go outside and smell and feel the clean, fresh air. When we solve this virus problem, that air is once again going to be a lot dirtier.

One way to keep it like this is by working from home as much as possible. You’re saving time, wear on your car and also helping the environment. It’s a win-win all around.

Well, someone is knocking at the door. I better put a shirt on and see who it is.

(John looks forward to hearing from you on this subject. Send me a note at john.bulletin@gmail.com. You can even send an old-fashioned letter to: The Bulletin, P.O. Box 2426, Angleton, TX. 77516.)