Young reporter changes jobs and meets the copy editor

By John Toth / Editor and Publisher

Thirty-five years ago this month, I walked into the Victoria Advocate newsroom on my first day on the job. It was my second newspaper job. I spent one year at the Daily Tribune in Bay City.
I was hired as a general assignment reporter, mostly covering Education and then cops on the weekends. But I wound up doing all sorts of things, even sports rewrites on Friday nights and advertising copy.
“You won’t like it there,” said Glenn Sedam, the Tribune publisher. Several of his writers who went there didn’t like it. “They don’t do things like we do,” he said.
Well, thanks for telling me this on my last day on the job, I thought. Why couldn’t we have had this conversation two weeks ago when I went to interview? Probably because I didn’t tell Glenn that I was interviewing.
I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. We played tennis on occasion, and he accused me of letting him win. Maybe I did. I didn’t want him to be in a bad mood and come around the newsroom.
The Advocate was a different operation and in a bigger town. I needed that experience. I wanted to climb up the ladder, perhaps even land at the Houston Chronicle one day (like in 1983). But at the time, I had to get settled in Victoria.
One of the Advocate reporters called me aside on my first day and basically told me the same thing Glenn said. Then I started thinking, what had I gotten myself into?
As I walked across the newsroom toward the editorial desks, I saw a young, thin girl with long, wavy hair, staring into her computer screen through a pair of oversized glasses, the trend then. This was also her first day at work.
I introduced myself, we finished work, and went our different ways.
I was a young, pretty aggressive reporter who wanted to write big stories every day. At the Advocate, we had to balance that ambition with also having to write advertising. I kind of resented it, but did it anyway, taking the good with the bad.
Advocate editors wanted good stories, good reporting, just like at every other paper. And I wanted to do just that, and to get to know the Advocate’s new copy editor better.
I went back to The Tribune a few weeks later and ran into Glenn. “Was I right?” he asked. Yes, he was. “Do you want to come back?” he asked. No. I’m fine, I replied. I need to learn to conform to the different newsroom situations.
The Advocate had a big newsroom and the latest computer gear. And, I told Glenn, the paper had a new copy editor.
“But I’ll come back to play tennis with you,” I told him.
“Don’t bother,” he replied. “I need to play with someone who doesn’t let me win.”
“I won’t, now that I don’t work for you,” the banter continued.
I never saw Glenn after that. He died in 2005 at age 88. He was the perfect first-job boss. He just let us do what we felt was needed, so we did everything.
As for the wavy-haired copy editor with the oversized glasses -- we got engaged, married and started a family.
Yes, the Victoria Advocate was a pretty neat place after all.