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“There can be no higher law in journalism than to tell the truth and to shame the devil: Remain detached from the great.” – Walter Lippmann.

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I was just playing around with some new watercolors when I painted this. It looks a bit befuddled, just as I was as a fledgling reporter.

            “As anchorman of the CBS Evening News, I signed off my nightly broadcasts for nearly two decades with a simple statement: ‘And that’s the way it is.’ To me, that encapsulates the newsman’s highest ideal: to report the facts as he sees them, without regard for the consequences or controversy that may ensue.” — Walter Cronkite

When Nixon Ran for President

            I was a daily newspaper journalist for 37 years, and proud of it. I slipped in the back door of a small Texas Gulf Coast newspaper in 1967 and spent the next four years going from a darkroom flunky to the paper’s top reporter. That experience, in both my eyes and that of future employers, was worthy of any college degree.

 

I finally got the hang of reporting, but not sure about my watercoloring.

I subscribed to the ethics of truth and fair presentation of both sides of an issue to the degree that some of my colleagues labeled me the conscience of the newsroom. I believed it was my duty to report the goings on of the world, not to change it.

But before I gained this lofty attitude, I was a naïve, green-behind-the-ears woman who had spent the previous 11 years of her life-changing diapers and seeing the world through Pollyanna’s rose-colored classes, which led to me doing something that in some eyes today might be called Fake News.

It was a writing prompt – Write about something that most people don’t know about yourself – for the Writer2Writer online forum that I moderate, which revived the memory. And remembering horrified me, but also made me almost pee myself laughing.

Richard Nixon was running for president back then, and a rally for him was held in my home town of Lake Jackson, Texas. People turned out with tall vertical banners with Nixon’s name spelled from top to bottom. There were a lot of these look-alike signs, which I’m sure some supporter had made and handed out.

I was both reporter and photographer for the event, and would both write up the story and develop and print the picture to run with it when I got back to the office. Lo and behold, I was crushed when I saw the photograph I had taken. The prominent banner in the picture had been put together upside down. Instead of NIXON, it read NOXIN.

A few years later in my career, I would have been delighted to have caught such a boo-boo, and have it published, too. But back then, I felt as if it was my personal mistake for not taking a better photograph. So, I printed the picture, cut the sign out, turned it right side up, and pasted it back on. And that’s the version that ran in the newspaper. I never told anyone this story until now.

Some years later, in the late 1970s, when I was a reporter at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and after Nixon had resigned, the former president made a public appearance at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. I covered that story, and the piece I wrote ran above the fold in the newspaper. Thankfully, the paper sent a photographer along with me for the story.

Bean Pat: The promise of fall https://maccandace.wordpress.com/2018/08/26/the-promise-of-fall/?wref=pil

Now available on Amazon

 

Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  Currently, she is writing a book, tentatively titled Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her at patbean@msn.com

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From the time the sun came up in the morning until it set in the evening,, my thoughts were never far from thinking about potential newspaper stories. I often dreamed about being a reporter at night. — still do. — Photo by Pat Bean

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.” — Helen Keller

Memories of a Journalist

In 2001, when I was city editor at the Standard-Examiner, then a 65,000-circulation daily newspaper, I began a weekly column called Heart Beat. This morning I came across a copy of the first piece I wrote for it.

Because I am proud of my journalism career, a field whose reputation is being seriously pummeled – both justified and unjustified – these days, reading it brought tears to my eyes. I thought it was worth sharing.

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            Editor shares heart beat with Top of Utah Community

I was city editor when the Standard-Examiner moved into its new home in Ogden, Utah. The newspaper crew occupied the entire building. Today the staff  barely occupies one large room. Since I retired in 2004, I’ve watched reporters and others go out the door one by one as the paper began dying, as are newspapers all over the country. Two of the newspapers I once worked for no longer exist. — Photo by Pat Bean.

“In 34 years as a working journalist, I have interviewed three presidents and covered a huge Texas chemical explosion in which I came across scattered body parts.

I have waded through floods, chased fire trucks, and even tried to catch up to a raging tornado.

I have petted pythons, ridden a horse down Ogden Canyon and held on tightly as one wild horse called Rainy carried me on the last cattle drive through Hagerman, Idaho – all for the sake of a story.

Rainy was supposed to be this very gentle horse ridden by very young children. Only later did I learn that this big and beautiful black stallion had thrown almost every cowboy who sat him. The joke was on the reporter.

“Once I was almost chomped by an alligator that had wandered into a residential backyard. I had been photographing the wayward reptile, using a long-range lens, when I suddenly couldn’t get the camera in focus. I looked up in time to see the alligator, a hungry grin on its face, dashing toward me.

But I’d face that alligator again rather than listen once more as a heartbroken mom reads me the last letter from her son, who had just been killed in Vietnam.

Or to once again type notes through tears as a daughter begs me to write something good about her mother, who had been killed in a car accident on her way to teach Vacation Bible School.

A snowy egret at the Bear River Migratory Refuge, whose restoration from Great Salt Lake flooding I covered for 20 years. — Photo by Pat Bean

That story, as did one I wrote on a fatal airplane crash up Ogden Canyon, won spot news awards. It’s the ironic nature of this crazy business.

In pursuit of stories, I have flown in a Blackhawk helicopter over the Great Salt Lake to the West Desert, watched in awe through a glass bay in a huge tanker as it fueled an F-16 high over the Grand Canyon, and walked the halls of the Pentagon during base closure negotiations.

I have been brow-beaten by politicians, and have pinched myself to stay awake through numerous governmental meetings – and an editor’s meeting or two.

I have been accused of being too liberal, too conservative, too uncaring and too prejudiced.

But then I’ve also seen the better and higher side of human nature shine through in times of adversity.

Matt “The Cat” Maw, the Weber State University mascot who injured his spine immediately comes to mind. The reporter who wrote his story shared Maw’s upbeat attitude that cheers others in adverse situations.

I’ve also watched time and again as people pulled together in disasters, such as the overwhelming community support I saw recently from my editor’s seat during the aftermath of a flooded Riverdale neighborhood. Or the outpouring of neighborly aid I saw during a Texas Gulf Coast hurricane back in my still-wet-behind-the-ears reporting days.

In thousands of ways, I’ve seen and heard the heart beat of daily news events for over a third of a century. The experiences have affected me, changed me – and both speeded up and slowed down my heart.

Now in this column, my hope is to share the heart beat with readers. It’s the heart beat of this Top of Utah community – and the heart beat of this writer.”

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This writer’s heart still beats – and the blood that flows through it still belongs to a journalist. And I’m proud of it.

Now available on Amazon

Bean Pat: Galveston Beach https://sfkfsfcfef.wordpress.com/2018/06/26/on-the-beach-in-galveston/  I couldn’t help myself in choosing this blog. In another couple of weeks, I will be walking on a Texas Gulf Coast beach about 25 miles south of this one. Simple things like this make my heart beat with pleasure.

            Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  Currently, she is writing a book, tentatively titled Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her patbean@msn.com

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            “Time is free, but it’s priceless. You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it, you can never get it back.” —  Harvey MacKay

I dawdled to watch squirrels at a campground. == Photo by Pat Bean

I dawdled to watch squirrels at a campground. == Photo by Pat Bean

Time Always Runs Out

            A few years back I planned a trip to Maine. I left in early May with the goal of reaching the state’s Atlantic Coastline before the puffins, the sandpipers, the plovers and other shore birds migrated south. Too much dawdling along the way made me arrive two weeks too late.

 

I dawdled to see all the sights along oute 66. -- Photo by Pat Bean

I dawdled to see all the sights along oute 66. — Photo by Pat Bean

           It was a missed opportunity that most likely will never come again. At the same time, my dawdling along the way visiting places like Queen Wilhelmina State Park in Arkansas, the Budwieser Brewery in Missouri, Wolf Park in Indiana, the Henry Ford Museum in Michigan Niagara Falls in New York and many, many other places along the way were memories made that I wouldn’t have wanted to miss either.

            I’ve reached the point in my life when I know that there is more time behind me than ahead of me. Accepting this reality has not made me sad, but it has certainly made me more aware of how fleeting time has become.

            I remember when it seemed an eternity for each Christmas to arrive, and now it seems like I’ve barely put away the Christmas decorations before it’s time to get them out again.

I dawdled to watch sunrises. -- Photo by Pat Bean

I dawdled to watch sunrises. — Photo by Pat Bean

            What got me thinking of time was Tom Brokaw’s book “The Time of our Lives: A conversation about America.” He and I are less than a year apart in age, and we both had journalism careers, although his took him on the big stage in front of a camera and mine took me to a smaller stage on the pages of newspapers.

            I once got to interview Tom Brokaw when he visited my smaller stage setting, the memories of which came to the forefront this week when I picked up his book and read the things he pointed out in his preface of having lived through –  the moon landing, Vietnam, women stepping out of the kitchen and into the working world, civil unrest as black and white cultures integrated, the riots, the prosperity, the stock market fluctuations, the technology takeover, the continuation of war, and the big bang of the internet.

            These were the same things I had lived through and wrote about.

            Looked at in this way, I guess I know where time has flown. I wonder what is still ahead for me to experience – as I continue my dawdling ways.

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