My final column with the Tampa Bay Times. October 2014
When I started at the Miami News in 1966, I remember that reporters typed their stories with two fingers on cheap paper. If they needed to move paragraphs around, they did so with scissors and glue. They impaled finished stories on metal spikes for a psychopathic editor who forbade talking until sunrise.The few female reporters wrote for the “women’s section.” I remember only one reporter of color. Everybody seemed destined for lung cancer; occasionally a wastepaper basket burst into flame from hot ash.
I remember reporters who kept whisky bottles in desk drawers and editors who punched writers who whined one too many times about changes to their precious copy. All-night poker games erupted Fridays at midnight in the news library.
Sometimes, late at night, the paper’s star reporter ambled majestically through the newsroom, on his arm a buxom dame said to be a stripper who went by the name Helen Bed. Or was it Elza Poppin? He drove an XKE convertible and was probably the most foul-mouthed reporter I’ve ever known.
I was barely 17. I wanted to be him. There could be no more romantic business than this.