How cruel and flashlight-shining-in-your-face is the world.
I mean the world of writing, specifically, journalism.
There we were, seven of us, from the top universities on the continent, all of us summer reporters--not internes, not gofers, real reporters for four months.
I was in special awe of the guy from Princeton, scared to death of the U of T guy, who had been editor of the Varsity, greatly impressed by the UBC man, certainlly scared of Marci McDonald, also U of T. Then there was the guy from CUNY, New York; there was a sister of Jeannie Beker, CITY TV superstar.
Holy cow. I was just a simple shepherd who somehow got some poetry published at Ryerson Polytech's literary magazine. My entrance papers to the Toronto Star consisted of my poor poetry that a top editor had read. He had liked it.
The work was hard and gruelling. You were basically doing all the journalistic chores, from rewriting stories, to headline writing, to business news. Most days and nights you sat at the City Desk like a fireman waiting for a fire in the form of happenings. Things did happen. You had to think on your feet, get to the point of the story, the heart of it and put it out in so many minutes and in the proscribed nuimber of lines and words; you'd think there was a paper shortage, you had to write so tightly, not a word wasted.
I could handle the work, but found some of the university kids were beginning to flag.
The UBC guy was having a nervous breakdown.
"I am overwhemed by my own incompetence."
The Princeton fellow could hardly keep up. Had been in Einstein's department once, and he couldn't keep up.
This was the big leagues. The Darwin principle was operating.
The media family girl gave it all up and she and I started prancing around the newsroom, trying to elist as many reporters as we could in doing a Madrigal. It kind of worked. We got them singing. Anything to take the pressure off.
Basically, it was the need for speed and accuracy, to take a complicated, libel-mined legal story, for example, to
get to the heart of it and produce it in fifteen minutes, because you were always on top of deadline for the four editions of the paper every day. You also had to "match" (rewrite- and- add- to) Globe & Mail stories; the competing paper came out earlier than The Star, so we copied like crazy.
"Journalism is a young man's game," columnist Gary Lautens would warn us.
He would look over at the Varsity girl. "What's a nice broad like you doing in a crummy trade like this?" Oh yes, these were the "Man's world" Sixties!
Popular that year was Alan Silletoe's "Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner".
I would watch my field of summer reporters, sensed their tongues hanging out.
Some began to drop. Marilyn Beker wanted out.
But here and there one of them would get a by-line, their name in the paper.
I saw many of my stories by-lined, but my name seemed to vanish by the time it got through seven editors.
I could handle the work, but I was not getting the by-lines.
Marci McDonald was from U. of T. Marcie McDonald was gorgeous.
Marci McDonald got the top stories, the sexiest stories.
And all the while we were told, "There will be no stars at The Star".
All the while, Marci McDonald was becoming a star.
Oh the loneliness of the long distance runner.
My own tongue was beginning to hang out. I was getting no bylines.
I stopped being careful. I began to "invent" happenings. Anything to get that by-line. It was only a month before I'd be getting back to Ryerson.
Lots of money, high pay, but still no story with my name on it.
Only Marci and the guy from Simon Frazer.
The four months soon ended. We had been so highly paid. They gave us an extra week's paycheck for being good
boys and girls.
All this effort and nothing in The Star with my name on it.
O Lord won't you buy me a Mercedes-Benz!
I graduated from Ryerson, went on to a Master's degree, but still smarted over not being a star at the Star.
I went underground for a while, approached The Star from a freelancing angle, and Wham. Big by-line!
They were going to pull all the streetcars out of Toronto and sell them to Abu Dhabi.
I got wind of the story and made the front page of Starweek Magazine, carried by The Star. Very quickly, I was promoted to weekend editor of Starweek.
And then the knives came out.
"No stars at The Star."
Darn, what a heavily edited newspaper.
How heavily edited we all were.
This was really American Idol, but at a more commonplace level.
Quite a welcome to the real world.
My obsession with The Star never quite ebbed.
More recently, I was a heavy contributor to Antonia Zerbisias' blog in The Star.
And then they started going after Antonia.
What a heavily-edited paper is The Star.
But hell, shucks, it was my alma mater, my entry ticket into the real world.
I moved to academia, where they carry knives this long.