Today I celebrate 22 years working for The Madera Tribune. The day already has a special meaning attached to it because it would have been my late mother’s 65th birthday. When I punched in on my first Tribune time card, I remember thinking “Look, Ma, what they are letting me do.” This may sound corny but I still feel being a member of the fourth estate is still feels the coolest job I am ever likely to do.
Immediately prior to working at the Tribune I spent five years in a minor clerical position at the law firm of the late Lester J. Gendron. We called my classification of employment “Dweeb Work,” unofficially of course. Answering the telephones, scheduling appointments, making copies, filing papers with the court, retrieving documents from the firm’s mail slot in the clerk’s office to name a few. The actual practice of law is less like my hero Perry Mason and is the most boring paper chase imaginable. I actually loved every minute of it. I even became a Notary Public to increase my on-the-job value.
As a lifelong Madera girl I already knew many of the members of our local legal community. I went to high school in the 1970s. So did some of the court personnel. I met many of the judges and attorneys as I had a ringside seat to some of the courthouse intrigue. I attended law firm-hosted affairs and community events held by the Chamber of Commerce. After five years I had a good working knowledge of the courthouse.
I started at the Tribune selling advertising. The newspaper had recently been bought by U.S. Media a conglomerate from St. Louis, Mo.
Madera doesn’t respond well to change and the sale changed its daily paper in many ways. Apple computers and digital technology replaced an antiqued analog system. Color photographs had yet to be introduced to its pages and spot color in ads was expensive to produce.
I enjoyed my work most when I was writing ad copy. I specialized in what is known as the advertorial. This is a paid ad that looks like a feature story elucidating the superior goods and service provided by the client.
During this period reduction in staff left holes in the area of proof reading as well as the closure of the printing presses. People in this small town were offended by the lost jobs and took it as a personal insult.
It is hard to sell ads in a publication with typos and botched stories. Plus I learned I hated sales. If you don’t love sales it is really hard to be successful at the job. I spent about five years at the Tribune as a floater, cross-trained in the different departments in the building. Knowing how to resolve internal problems and supplying customer service is an area I excelled. While I wrote crime and court reports, fire and other heavy drama pieces, I discovered I was happiest and most fulfilled when I could contribute a feature that makes Madera look good. This is my hometown and if I don’t tell the stories that shines a light on its innate goodness, who will?
Many of the kids fresh out of J school tend to want to write the substantial angst ridden stories. Many see every story as their path to a Pulitzer Prize. I learned interesting the readers in the latest activities of the Rotary or Knights of Columbus is possible. The assignments are rarely met with enthusiasm because they aren’t exciting.
In the early years with law enforcement escorts I tramped through marijuana plantations, meth labs, and saw countless illegal weapons seized during raids. I reported on murder trials and vehicular homicide trails. Court cases are mind-numbing and I don’t know how our judges hear these cases over and over without losing it.
I ate my share of smoke from structure fires and car wrecks.
I still enjoy covering the people and events that make Madera a better place to live. My hope is to continue to write for the paper for many years to come.