The first time I was ever paid cash money for something I wrote was when I was a stringer for the North Adams Transcript.
It was one of my summer jobs during my early college years. I covered various summer sports events, including soccer, softball, summer league basketball and once, a bocce tournament.
My editor was a very affable guy named Dave Metcalf, a name I’m sure people in Northern Berkshire County remember well.
Since I didn’t have a car (or, in fact, a license), I would bicycle to the event, then bicycle to the Transcript office to write it.
Metcalf would look over the story, ask a few questions, and let me go. I remember that once he changed my lead (probably for the bocce tournament, of which I knew little to nothing), and I was horrified. I was sure he would never assign me to another story again. But he did. I realize now that he was, at that point, a one-man show. Knowing what I know now about freelancers, I would have had to screw up mightily to get the sack.
I remember getting that first check in the mail. The envelope had the familiar logo of the paper, and so did the check. I almost didn’t cash it. (It couldn’t have been more than $15.)
It wasn’t the money, obviously. It was the firm realization that organizations would pay cash to me for writing stories. Of course, I knew it was possible; newspapers had been paying people to write for decades and decades before I stumbled onto the scene.
But now, I was in this (to me) exotic, interesting crowd.
After the summer ended, I went back to college and, as I was in the co-op program at Northeastern, I began working at The Boston Globe, a step up certainly.
But the Transcript was my hometown paper. My picture was in the paper fairly often, as a participant in a class play, as an athlete in several different sports and when I graduated from high school and college. My grandmother used to keep a scrapbook of my adolescent triumphs, and every entry in the book was from the Transcript.
So it was with more than a little nostalgia when I learned that the paper was closing. It was, to be sure, a long time coming. The era of small town papers is coming to a rapid end and the Transcript held it off for as long as possible.
A lot of friends and family complained about the Transcript, because complaining, as opposed to appreciating, is what a lot of people do.
And I know that some of the older folks who were very loyal to the Transcript have a hard time switching over to The Berkshire Eagle.
I respect that sentiment, but I would tell those people that the old-time competition between the two papers vanished when we bought it years ago.
There were a lot of very good reporters and writers that came out of that newspaper, and one would be a fool not to respect them.
I was more of an unofficial graduate, because I wasn’t full time, but Lew Cuyler, Grier Horner, Diane Cutillo, Glenn Drohan, photographer Nick Noyes, the late Danny Pearl and a whole passel of pros came from that paper. (I realize I’ve missed a lot of people. But I only have 20 inches here, so feel free to bust me on people I forgot.)
Kevin Moran, who is now the head honcho of The Eagle, was a Transcript guy. I first met him at, of all places, the Lollapalooza concert at the former Green Mountain Racetrack.
Kevin and I, and a lot of people who began up there, understand how special that experience was and we treasure the memories.
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