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More than 50 years ago I became a “journalist” by the simple act of riding an elevator to the third floor of an office building in Halifax. I was shown to a desk in the far corner of a large newsroom and presented with the tools of my new trade — a rotary dial telephone, an ancient typewriter, a massive roll of carbon-separated copy paper, and the largest ashtray that I’d ever seen.
The atmosphere was unique — the reek of printers’ ink and fresh newsprint and cigar smoke (my desk was on the edge of the sports department where everybody seemed to smoke cigars and wear suspenders). And there was noise — typewriters, people shouting, the clatter of teletype machines, bells ringing, and the regular bang of pneumatic tubes that were the vehicles for delivering copy from the third floor news desk to the composing room upstairs where everything was set in type. By noon that day I was addicted to the atmosphere and I remember someone telling me to go home when I’d over-stayed my shift by a couple of hours.
I wasn’t entirely inexperienced. I had attended evening courses at King’s College where I learned the basics of journalism — how to write a lead; the importance of finding the tiny details that reveal the larger more important aspects of the news, the fundamentals of reporting news in radio, television and print. I suppose the most important lesson that I learned in those evening courses was that I definitely wasn’t cut out for television.
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