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New Day, Old Company
Remembering my days as a baby journalist
So Tuesdays. This is weird after damn near a decade of Fridays, but hey, change is inevitable and I can adapt, right?
Also, sharing a day with Chris Rose** is pretty cool, especially considering that he was one of the writers who made me want to be a journalist way back 20-plus years ago. (The other was Petula Dvorka, now at the Washington Post.)
It was probably 1995 or 1996 when I read a piece of his (that I have never been able to find again) about a small-town Louisiana football game. The language was spare but evocative, and it made me feel something in the pit of my stomach. “I want to write like that,” I thought, and so I joined the newspaper staff at my high school (where I now advise the same school newspaper because New Orleans is a city of beautiful cycles).
(Side note: I am like 98 percent certain that this was a Chris Rose piece, but there is a 2 percent part of me that is plagued with doubt that I am misremembering, and as I said, I can’t find the piece to fact-check it.)
The summer after my junior year in high school, I interned at the Times-Picayune and, much to my delight, was assigned to “shadow” Chris Rose for a day or so. The Woolworth’s lunch counter was closing that summer, I think, or maybe it was just the last one left in the city – I don’t really remember what the actual news peg was. But he and I went there and drank mediocre milkshakes and talked about journalism. He told me not to go to J-school – I felt so cool, so savvy and in-the -know calling it “J-school” – and actually encouraged me pretty strenuously to pick anything but journalism as a career. (I give the same advice to kids now, on both counts.)
And that was it. It wasn’t a rich mentorship or anything, but when I’d come home and pick up the paper, I was vaguely disappointed to see he started doing celebrity gossip – but impressed that he could make even that beat have character – and then, of course, after Katrina, I hung on every word. We all did.
So now here we are – sharing space on MyNewOrleans.com, both confessional writers, both parents, both with journalism degrees (despite his advice, I was dead-set on getting one). I don’t claim to be on his level, and he’s the one with the Pulitzer, but I am happy to have such good company over here on Tuesdays.
It’s funny that this latest shift has reminded me of just how it all started – and proved, as always, that New Orleans is a city of beautiful cycles.
**Editor's note: Chris Rose's new blog "Me Again" – a continuation of his New Orleans Magazine column – will begin next week, March 19.