Throat Clearing

Careers in Journalism are a long time forming. For mine, if I can be so presumptuous, it began in distribution.

I delivered the “Courier News” daily, except Sundays, to about 75 residences. Wednesdays, I recall, were a real booger requiring two newspaper sacks, their straps criss-crossed my chest like cowboy gunmen’s bandoliers of bullets thanks to the quantity of advertising inserts.

The more coveted and lucrative (and physically far easier) route was at Muhlenberg Hospital. There, carriers pushed a shopping cart filled with papers and “residents” tipped the delivery boy daily.

Moving to the editorial side, “The Plainfield (NJ) Times,” a thin, tabloid weekly, offered the first opportunity for reporting and writing. For my first story, I rode my bicycle to interview a girl about some achievement of hers. The paper was edited by Howard Polskin, who later went on to a far more illustrious media career as both writer and editor.

While at college, I had the opportunity – I no longer remember how this came about – to write a feature for the “Trenton Times” about a pop singer-songwriter.

I was promoting a benefit concert, to be performed by the then popular and very gracious Harry Chapin.

Somehow, I talked the editor into letting me write a story that would also serve to promote the concert.

Laboring under a tight deadline, struggling to craft the article, and just a little anxious about this big-time assignment, I somewhat nervously brought the finished piece to the editor.

Doubtlessly pleased with my work, I watched in amazement as the editor began his.

Whipping out a blue pencil – really, it was blue and he did whip it out – he quickly and wordlessly scanned my typewritten double spaced text.

Flipping back to the first page, he drew a decisive line through virtually all of the text.

“You’re clearing your throat,” he helpfully, if gruffly, explained.

“Get to the point,” the editor instructed.

While I can’t say I’ve always followed this professional guidance, at times meandering into self-indulgent in-jokes and oddball asides, I have used it with other writers.

That’s what I love about editors. They make writers look good.

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