Friday, April 29, 2011

Aging Dog, Newish Tricks by Brenda Buchanan

Brenda Buchanan is delighted to be writing again.  The journalism bug bit hard at age 16 when she co-wrote an exposé about the enormous disparity in spending on boys and girls sports at her high school.  The powers that be were not amused, which meant it was a great lesson in the power of the press.  While studying journalism at Northeastern University in Boston she took a couple of creative writing courses taught by Robert B. Parker, who was an adjunct professor at NU while making his name.   For six years Brenda was a reporter at the York County Coast Star in Kennebunk, Maine. In 1987, she detoured to law school and for the next two decades pretty much confined herself to legal writing.  A few years ago she began carving out time to write fiction. These days she practices law in Portland by day and sits in front of the keyboard nights and weekends  Her novel-in-progress, tentatively titled The Quick Pivot, is about murder and well-kept secrets in a Maine mill town.

Aging Dog, Newish Tricks
by Brenda Buchanan

I have a habit I can’t break. 
My particular jones is terribly out of fashion.  It’s also growing more expensive all the time.  Despite cheaper alternatives I remain dependent on my traditional fix, even when it leaves my hands so dirty you can tell where I’ve been by the grubby fingerprints. 
            My name is Brenda, and I’m a newspaper addict.
            I know, I know.  In today’s 24/7 media environment the news in my morning rags is out of date by the time I buy them.  If I could discipline myself to walk past the ever-shrinking newspaper rack and read the online editions instead, I’d have more money and cleaner hands.  But I worked in the newspaper biz back when electric typewriters were considered innovative and still crave the sweet smell of printer’s ink and the cool, crisp feel of newsprint. 
My daily reads
Every day I feed my habit with the Boston Globe (the paper I read as a child and worked at as a college student), the Portland Press Herald (my hometown read for the past 30 years) and the New York Times (just because.)    Over the course of seven days I also pick up several local weekly newspapers.  It’s a good thing our blue recycle bin can be wheeled to the curb.
The Underwood my parents bought in the 1950s
A classic Royal
            A related compulsion is my collection of manual typewriters.  When I was a bright-eyed reporter trainee at the Globe in the late 70s some of the old timers still wrote on uprights like the ones pictured here.   They’d roll four-ply paper under the platen, throw the carriage and bang out stories with two fingers, often with a cigarette dangling from their lips. 
Following the lead of the younger staffers, we college interns parked ourselves at the desks with electric typewriters.  We had our sights on the future and it was fast.  When “Video Display Terminals” came to the newsroom we accelerated without a backward glance.
Now the news cycle moves at the speed of light. Reporters file stories from computerized telephones the size of a pack of cards.  Breaking news goes up on the web seconds after editors give the nod. 
Soon newsprint will go the way of the manual typewriter and I’ll be forced to kick the habit. There will be withdrawal. There will be whining. But I’ll bow to inevitability, just as the veteran reporters bid their manual typewriters goodbye years ago. 
            My WIP features a newspaper reporter at a fictional Maine daily.  As in real life, the paper is struggling to survive and stay relevant in the 21st century.  Though the tools of his trade are a laptop and a smart phone, he keeps the basic rules of local journalism in the front of his mind:   
Beware of kiss-ups. 
Don’t sleep with good sources. 
Know where the back door is.
            Should I be fortunate enough to find a publisher I’ll be sure to let you know.
My objet d’art typewriter, transformed by my very talented collage artist friend Nancy Gibson-Nash of Peaks Island, Maine

I’m honored to have been invited to post on M & M.  Many thanks, Kaye, for the opportunity.  So what about you?  Do you still buy newspapers or have you succumbed to the siren song of the online edition?  Do you have typewriter memories to share?



Mason Canyon said...

Brenda, from one newspaper person to another, you can never beat print newspapers no matter what. The feel and smell is...well you know. I would love to have a manual typewriter. I still have an electric one I used for a while, but it's not the same. Wishing you much success with your writing.

Kaye, hope all is well in your area after the storms. We made it through without any damage, while part of our county took a hard hit.

Thoughts in Progress

Vicki Lane said...

Alas, we haven't subscribed to a newspaper in almost forty years -- living in the country, a half a mile from the mailbox broke that habit for us. But I've been delighted to be able to read the NY Times on line everyday.

I still have (but don't use) the little Royal manual I got on graduating from junior high school in 1957. It saw me through high school, college and graduate school.

Brenda Buchanan said...

Hello Mason, so glad you share my appreciation for newsprint. You might be able to pick up a manual typewriter inexpensively at a yard sale or flea market. Antique shops mark 'em up, I've found.

Thanks for your good wishes.


Brenda Buchanan said...

Hello Vicki,

Having to walk a half mile for my daily newspaper fix might cure me, too. Or make me fitter. Hard to say.

Thank you for checking in. I'm reading your In A Dark Season right now. It's a terrific book.

Thank you,