Halcyon Days

Columns and reflections by Terry Britt

A Short List About A Long Career

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In looking back over the 29 years I’ve spent in newspapers, I realize just how many highs and lows I’ve experienced in getting where I am now.  So, for your general interest or need for a good laugh, I’ve compiled a short list of “bests” and “worsts” from my time in the print wars.

Best thing that ever happened to me: Getting hired as a summer “sports correspondent” at age 14 for the now-defunct Tri-County Observer in Madisonville, Tenn.  As noted in a previous post on this blog, the unexpected opportunity probably saved my life at that time.

Worst thing that ever happened to me:  Actually, it’s a tie between the phone calls I got on Dec. 8, 1999, and March 15, 2005 – informing me that my father and mother, respectively, had died.

Best once-in-a-lifetime journalism assignment:  Covering the Canton (TX) High School Band in Ireland during the week of St. Patrick’s Day in March 1999.  Anyone who was on that trip still remembers it fondly and why not?  Even better, I managed to get a live story back to Canton for that week’s issue of the Canton Herald, thanks to the assistance of the Irish Times online division office.  The fact that I was forced by my employer to use personal vacation time to take the trip was the one thing that kept it from being perfect.

Best workplace:  The University of Texas at Tyler Patriot Talon.  That’s right, a college newspaper takes the prize for best place I’ve ever worked.  That’s a reflection of the top-notch young journalists I got to know there and a newsroom equipped like one should be, or it’s a damn sad comment on the professional publications for which I’ve worked.  Or both.

Worst workplace:  Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal in Tupelo, MIss.  Only 15 months after being hired as sports department copy desk editor, I was shown the door via the lawsuit-dodging, vague statement of “We feel you don’t fit into our future plans.”  My biggest regret is ever thinking this publication and its hapless management fit into mine.

Most life-changing experience:  Being on the staff of the Desoto Times in Hernando, Miss., chiefly because of two people there who helped me turn things around – professionally and personally – after four years of feeling like Merle Haggard’s verse about a snowball headed for hell.  I worked there just six months because my position was cut unexpectedly, but I cannot think of six months that meant more in getting me back on the right track.

Worst thing I’ve ever been subjected to as a journalist:  Being forced to wear this at a public event….newsstaff








Most surreal moments:  Interviewing bluegrass music legends Bill Monroe and Jimmy Davis, walking down the hallway of Martins Mill High School with Laura Bush, being in the same (albeit large) room with Walter Cronkite, and standing on a walkway looking out over the Cliffs of Moher on the west coast of Ireland.

Best time I ever had keeping an insane work schedule:  In the fall and winter of 2000-2001, I had a moonlighting gig as Dallas-Fort Worth correspondent for a national high school sports website.  I was still putting in about 45 hours per week at my regular newspaper, but trotting off to the Metroplex on Thursday evenings and Saturday afternoons to cover Class 4A and Class 5A football games, along with other sports like volleyball, cross country, soccer, and basketball.  It marked the first time any of my work started to appear online.  It also gave me personal experience in the infamous dot-com bust about that time, as the company operating the website failed to find venture capitalist funding to keep me and other journalists on its payroll after January 2001.  But was it ever fun while it lasted.

Worst realization at the end of the day:  Thinking about how many fry cooks and grocery store shelf stockers were making a higher hourly wage.

Best realization at the end of the day:  How many family scrapbooks would include “By Terry Britt” in their pages.

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Written by terrybritt

September 17, 2013 at 12:29 am

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