I know the precise moment when the love affair began.
I was all of 15 years old, a gawky office boy at my city’s morning daily, sitting in a cramped, dusty room on a stack of brittle, yellowing newspapers. The place smelled of newspaper ink and mould. It was the back issue room, a place that I often surrendered to fulfill some odd order for a newspaper containing a wanted wedding announcement or obituary. But when I stepped into that space, it was as if I had entered a time capsule. I pulled off the wooden shelves the massive black-bound books and stepped into a different world. I scanned the 48-point headlines and consumed the accounts of Charles Lindbergh’s non-stop flight from New York to Paris in 1927, Adolf Hitler’s invasion of Poland in 1939, the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. And suddenly, I fell in love with journalism, just sitting in that room, reading the first draft of history by some unknown AP reporter.
It was long before my first byline in the campus weekly, or the first time I had to fetch a roast beef on a roll for a city editor, certainly long before my first dispatch as a foreign correspondent in London, or the first cover story I reported and wrote for a major magazine. Or the first time I walked into a bookstore to see one of my books on the shelf. Just sitting alone in that back issue room of The Morning Call in Paterson, N.J., my mind buried in old newsprint on my lap, I fell in love with journalism. It has been a passionate affair that has lasted some 50 years--from newspapers to magazines, from print to online.