Last week I celebrated by 19th anniversary here at the Troy Daily News.
Let’s see … the day I started we had a staff of 15, all of our pictures were taken with film and developed in-house in the TDN darkroom, nobody had an email address and we had one computer in the building with an Internet connection … and it was dial-up.
Getting ahold of a reporter wasn’t always easy. If you wanted to reach someone here, you could stop in and visit or call them on the phone. If they weren’t here, you had to hope someone else answered their phone and was willing to take a message. If an editor needed to talk to a reporter who was out on assignment — or, in the case of at least one reporter, catching a matinee at the Mayflower — he or she had to wait until the reporter returned to the office.
When we all got pagers in the summer of 1997, we thought we were on the cutting edge of technology. We also spent inordinate amounts of time using them to make prank calls to one another.
Of the 14 other people who were there when I started, none are there now … and all of them have been gone for more than (not over — never “over” in the newspaper industry) a decade. Only a handful of them remain in the newspaper business. I think about all of them from time to time and many of them on a daily basis. I’ve been blessed to work with some of the finest professionals in this industry.
All of them were even better people than they were journalists, which is saying quite a bit. I am fortunate to still work with an amazing group of people — even if our numbers are a little thinner than they were when I first started.
We were an afternoon paper when I started and our deadline during the week was noon for that day’s paper. On the weekends, our deadline was 3 a.m. I miss sitting in the office on those late nights working with Bill and Megan and Henry — but I sure don’t miss waking up the next morning at 8 a.m. for an early Saturday sporting event.
When I started working here, I was paid the princely sum of $300 per week — and that was salary. That comes out to just a little more than $15,000 per year. At the time, I thought I was the richest man in the world. Looking back, the fact I had to live with my parents until I was 28 tells me maybe I wasn’t as rich as I thought — at least in terms of money.
The thing is, I wouldn’t trade the experiences I had, the stories I wrote or the fun times I had back then for all the money in the world. I was hungry (literally and figuratively) in my new job and wrote with the passion and energy of a very young man. Some days I wish I could still be that young, nearly destitute kid once again.
Steve Nolan had only been coaching at Troy for 12 years when I started. Ryan Brewer and Kris Dielman were sophomores in high school. None of the high school kids I currently write about were born yet. I am actually older than at least half of the coaches I cover. Many of the kids I wrote about when I first started now have children of their own … some of whom I’ve already written about in the paper.
I’ve worked for six companies, five editors and five publishers. I’ve managed to learn something from each and every one of them.
When I started here I wasn’t married, obviously had no kids and was about 18 months removed from my first kiss. I would meet my wife while working here. We would break all the rules of professionalism and common sense by dating one another despite being coworkers. Seventeen years later, we are still together and have two wonderful children. I guess we beat the odds.
My hairline is thinner than when I started, but my waistline … well, it isn’t. The funny thing is, I take better care of myself now than I ever have at any point in my life. I eat better and the water I drink doesn’t contain nearly as much fermented barley and hops. I’ve been here for two decades and hope to keep working here at least another three.
When I started here, I had hoped to stay here for a short time before moving on to bigger and better things. I have since come to realize this is “bigger” and this is “better.” I hope I never leave. I hope to hang around until I have written every story I want to write and, hopefully, have touched a few thousand more lives.
Aside from that, however … not much has changed.
Troy’s very own David Fong appears on Thursdays in the Troy Daily News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong