Sunday, August 07, 2016

Might-have-beens: A Self-Assessment

I seem to be sifting the detritus of an only moderately well spent career.  I'm remembering my first big break, when Norm Isaacs gave me a job in the City Room at the old Louisville Times in the spring of 1960.  In retrospect, I am surprised he took a chance on me but he didn't have a big budget and the skill threshold was not that-all high.   I don't remember what I said in the interview but here is what I would say if I had a chance for a do-over.

I want this job because you are a great platform.   You've got the resources to support good work and it looks like you have the disposition to put them behind stuff that you think is good.  I'd like to use that kind of opportunity to make things better for us both.

There is a lot I need to learn about the reporting trade and I hope to develop and improve as I go forward.  For the moment, my goal concerns the public use of money: budgets, taxation, public spending.  I want to be a policy wonk.

I'm young and green and not well trained but I am a quick and motivated learner.  I'd love to have a chance to put these talent into play.  I hope you'll give me the scope.


I did get the job, of course, and loved it, and learned a lot, although nothing like the sophisticated program I set for myself in retrospect.   They did offer a great platform and they did give me some scope and I am eternally in their debt.  But when I left journalism at the age of 28, I figured I had plateaued out, would never have a chance to learn or do anything more sophisticated than what i had done already.  This was perhaps a common attitude for the time but in retrospect, it was an utter failure of imagination.  I don't regret the careerI did  undertake thereafter--not at all-but I marvel at the opportunities I so blithely set aside in doing so.

Of course, all this is absurdly hypothetical.  Norm is dead, the Times is dead; most of the people I worked with (and they were an amazingly talented bunch) are long gone.   And I am feeling a bit woozy myself.  But in retrospect, it chills me to recall--when he asked me "why do you want this job?" I probably answered with something along the lines of "duh."

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