I had just been hired as a cub reporter with the Watchman-Warden when publisher Stan Pitts beckoned me into his office.
"Jack, I want to give you a few hints about writing articles and to pass on a little information about the world of journalism," he said. (Little did I think that this meeting would help lead me to a position at the Post and to become an accredited correspondent for the Trenton Courier-Advocate, The Globe and Mail and Toronto Evening Telegram).
Pitts made reference to something we had learned early in our school days about writing a composition, namely answering the five Ws â€“ who, what, where, why, when and/or how.
"Do you know what really sells newspapers in a small town?" he asked.
"Readers love nothing more than to see their name in print so long as it is not in a derogatory manner," we were informed.
"One of the most important columns we have in this paper of ours is the 'personal' column. That is one of the first columns readers will turn to when they open the paper. Visit train stations, the bus terminal, talk to people and lend an ear to what they say. Doing these things will almost always lead to a story," he said.
I made daily visits to the police and fire stations, several of the barber shops, the bus terminal and the train stations and did, in fact, pick up leads to numerous stories I have written.
Although I thought it almost degrading to ask a person about to board or meet a train or bus where they were going, or who they were meeting, I did in time find not only was it enjoyable, but interesting and folks were extremely cooperative. Of course more than often than not I was cautioned, "don't let anyone know where you got your information from." I would always assure them that the number one rule in the life of a newspaper man is that we never reveal the source of our information.
Stan was indeed a great tutor and a most clever newspaper man. I have to wonder if he would appreciate using a computer, or if he would still prefer his trusty old Underwood typewriter if he were still with us.