“You’re one of those old-school journalists, aren’t you?”
A reader shared that sentiment with me not too long ago, and I have to say, it took me back a little. Although I just turned 45, that’s not that old, is it?
My journalism career started at a very young age. I was a teenager, in fact. Sure, there were no cell phones, and the internet was still a meaningless word to most. But my stories were crafted on computers. Clunky computers fitted with monitors providing every color you ever desired, so long as that color was green.
Digital photos certainly weren’t a thing, but that’s OK, because I had become an expert working the darkroom — a skill I was promised by one high school teacher that would serve me for a lifetime.
My very first interview was with the head coach of my high school’s football team. I didn’t trust my ability to write down his words as fast as he said them, so I carried my old boom box with me and recorded everything on a cassette tape.
Just a few years later, after moving to Florida, an editor yelled at me because I had been out in the field on assignment when some major news broke, and he had no idea how to reach me. I decided it was time to enter the modern age, equipping myself with a — well, it was a pocket pager. If my boss needed me, he could just call that pager, tap in his number, and I would race to the closest payphone I could find.
OK, so maybe I am an old-school journalist. As a young kid, I would watch my dad come home from work and pick up the afternoon paper, slowly flipping through its pages while relaxing in his favorite chair, a hot cup of coffee by his side. I wanted to be like my dad, so after he was done, I would take the newspaper and read it myself. Most of it made little sense to me, but the obituary section would catch my eye. And it was through the stories of those no longer with us that I found my calling.
When I arrived in Riverdale, I wasn’t just joining any newspaper. I was joining the newspaper. There aren’t many community newspapers with the legacy of The Riverdale Press, and I’m reminded of it each and every day I first sit down at my desk and look up at the newspaper’s old banner card that I framed and hung on the wall. It’s the flag you see each week at the top of our front page, but this is the original one Richie Stein designed back in 1971. If you look closely enough, you can still see where he drew the curly flourishes at the end of each “R.”
David and Celia Stein knew a good community needed a good paper. Their sons Buddy and Richie came to the same conclusion, as did every editor who followed then. Today, newspapers feel like an endangered species. Younger people these days feel the need to seek their news online, even if reading a story is constantly interrupted by pop-up ads and videos.
There’s something about holding a newspaper in your hands. It’s big enough that when you open it, the rest of the world disappears — especially when you’re sitting in your favorite chair, with a hot cup of coffee nearby. We spend practically every waking moment staring into a computer screen, or entranced by something on our smartphones. Isn’t it nice to read words off of something that isn’t glowing? From a source that’s a real object in your hands, and not just something digital that disappears the moment you open a new window.
If that makes me old-school, then so be it. In our fast-paced, ever-changing society, it’s easy to quickly discard anything that feels “old.” But there’s a comfort, even wisdom, in age. And it’s nice to know that at least in this part of the Bronx, it’s the kind of old-school feeling we can enjoy each and every week.
The author is editor of The Riverdale Press.