No one sane ever went into journalism for the money, and neither did I -- which was a good thing. I've made my first million as a professional newspaper writer/editor but it took nearly 36 years.
Like many in my financially and technologically battered business, I went into journalism because I wanted to be a writer. But I also felt a duty to try to right the left-liberal imbalance of the news media, which were even more lopsided in the early 1970s without talk radio, cable TV, Fox News and the Internet.
I've not won fame or big prizes. But I've had a lucky and rewarding career as a feature writer, reporter, columnist, letters editor and book/ TV reviewer. With time out for bartending and a brief stint at CBS in Hollywood, I've worked, in order, at a suburban weekly in Cincinnati (1973-1977), the Los Angeles Times (1979-1989), the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (1989-2000) and the Pittsburght Tribune-Review.
By my rough count, I've written at least 1,000 words a week -- nearly 2 million career words. That includes more than 1,000 newspaper opinion pieces. Only my mother has read and liked them all.
As a reporter, I've tried my best to be accurate, fair and truthful. I've always been aware of the difference between news and opinion, between balance and bias, and between being a government watchdog and a government lapdog. And I have always known that every journalist and every editor I have ever worked with was helplessly subjective in their politics and in their definition of what news and bias were and were not.
Trust me, big-city daily newspapers don't go out of their way to achieve ideological diversity. About 90 percent of my work mates over the years were either avowed liberal Democrats or didn't know it. Reagan Republicans were virtually nonexistent. Until I got to the Trib, I was always the staff's lonely libertarian.
I've had a long pleasure cruise on the now-listing ship of newspaper journalism. I've had adventures only journalists can have: A trip to Peru to ride a freight train into the Andes. Chasing tornados for a week at a time in Kansas -- twice. Flying through Hurricane Bonnie in 1998 at 10,000 feet and then waking up in her eye when she came ashore in North Carolina.
Weather didn't provide my scariest moments, by the way. Nor did interviewing Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis face-to-face. Nor did spending an hour alone with actor James Woods. It was meeting Michael Jackson's father.