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A Journalist? Me?

by Ron Holdraker
July 12, 2020

I don’t know why, but I always wanted to be a journalist. Oh, sure, there were scores of jobs with less pressure, more money and fewer chances of alienating people, but I guess it was just a calling.

Newspaper was always the biggest draw for me, but for a short time I was swayed by TV news. Weeks after graduating from Syracuse (Newhouse) University, I walked into WHEC in Rochester, a bit cocky with a Syracuse sheepskin and offered my services. Much to my surprise, they actually offered me a job.

Again, being a bit cocky, I was working in the newsroom with local celebrities at the time, Mark Wolfe, Ron Robitaille and radio sportscaster Rich Funke. Of course challenging and capturing media studies, I never really learned to do the simple chore of typing. Something required of “go-fer” news gatherers at the time.

You see, I kind of skipped the whole typing challenge by having my then girlfriend (Now Wife Patti) type all the assignments, term papers and required paperwork necessary for that honored degree in journalism.

I was going to be a successful TV newsman, in the model of Walter Cronkite.

I soon realized TV news was, to put it mildly, boring. I figured out TV news had limits in telling stories. Try to get a news piece into 20, maybe 30 seconds. Have flashy film (this was before video) to grab the watchers and get out quickly.

Me? I wanted to tell stories, stories people would want to actually read. Editorials that would not only inform, but rile up the hairs on the back of readers’ necks occasionally.

I wanted, in short, to write stories I would read. Obviously, no newspaper would allow me to present stories of real people doing real things, saying real words that society often frowned upon. The only way to have fulfillment was to own the medium I wanted to present. 

Imagine a newspaper that presented law and order without restrictions. Imagine an editorial not afraid of common denominators and “social norms”.

Not being a really good businessman, I had a few bumps in the road. There were many years where boxed macaroni and cheese became the main fare for the family. There were years where we went without, due to my stubbornness. There were years under pressure to bend to the pabulum I saw as newspapers began to decline. The hardest times were when my children were upset due to comments about stories I published.

Of course there were advertisers upset at a story close to home that, to this day, would never consider supporting the Times. There were friends and even family who turned their backs on the Times.

Thousands of newspapers crumbled under the changes over the decades. Hundreds of local newspapers, both daily and weekly, disappeared even over the last several months throughout the country.

In many countries news media is restricted, not only by social norms, but government censorship. In Iran, as in many countries throughout the world, journalists have been censored to actual death. Other have been pressured to water down, or ignore the truth.

Here in the good old USA, politicians and social media have branded most media in terms of “fake news”, mostly by those afraid to realize what is happening and have developed their own acceptance of lies.

As a staunch journalist, I have even opposed the party line of perhaps the majority of Times readers and in sharp criticism and contrast, gone after local, state and federal elected officials. 

Happy to say, the Times has survived to be the chief news source for Wayne County and we are still growing. 

We made it through the gauntlet and even the COVID and other hurdles.  

This all means little to most, but trust me, all will rue the day when journalism becomes a figment of imagination

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