Richard says, ‘Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen’ to journalism

Waving goodbye

Richard says to journalism: “Goodbye, farewell, and amen.”

If Don Meredith were still alive and working on television, he’d probably have this to say about my career in journalism: “Turn out the lights, the party’s over.”

All good things must end, and that includes what I like to jokingly call “my so-called career in journalism.” My final day with the Highlander was Friday, Dec. 28. I am “retiring” from newsrooms to work in broadcasting and to pursue freelance writing, blogging, and my dream job: fiction writing.

I began working as a journalist, a mix of full-time, part-time and freelancing, in 2000, after I left the U.S. Army. It was a huge risk as it meant taking a major pay cut from my military job.

My career has taken me to San Antonio, South Dallas County, Canyon Lake, up to Michigan in Lapeer County and then north Genesee County and south Saginaw County, then back down to Texas at the Fredericksburg Standard and then here at the Highlander.

It’s been an interesting ride filled with many crazy stories:

…I emailed Kinky Friedman through his website, back when he was considering running for governor of Texas. I was so surprised by his phone call a few days later that my initial reply was an astonished, “THE Kinky Friedman?!”

…A friend whose father posthumously received the Medal of Honor in Vietnam by throwing himself onto a live grenade. The friend described the Army’s highest honor as “just a piece of medal and ribbon” and said he’d rather have his father alive.

…A Vietnamese friend who made it out of Saigon as it fell in 1975 and was rescued on a boat near the Philippines. (To this day, he still refuses to call it Ho Chi Minh City).

…Doing sports gathering part-time for the San Antonio Express-News and grimacing when we’d get calls from Kenedy, Karnes City, or Poth. All Polish towns. Try correctly spelling Dworaczyk, Włodarski, or Pieprzyca.

…David Newell, who played Postman Mr. McFeely on Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, told me that Fred Rogers off camera was exactly the same as the loving, compassionate Mr. Rogers on camera. Newell also told me this tidbit: Rogers was color blind and could only see things in black, white and gray. His favorite sweater was the red cardigan: not because of the color, but because it was most comfortable.

…Then there was that township meeting outside Clio, Michigan, where a man hooked up to oxygen became angry about something said by the township supervisor and challenged the supervisor to a fight.

…A few union guys complained I was too conservative. Never mind that liberal columnists in Michigan—which barely went to Pres. Donald Trump in 2016—are a dime a dozen.

…While covering a wrestling tournament in a certain rural Michigan town, a parent took me aside and whispered, “You should write about our school sometime. If the state knew how awful the academics were here, they’d take away our accreditation.”

I’ve long suspected she wasn’t joking.

…Then there was the time I took pictures at one football game and a player was injured. His previous injury in his other knee hadn’t completely healed. One mother angrily told me the coach had a reputation for “encouraging” kids to play when they shouldn’t.

Back here in Texas, there were plenty of memorable assignments:

…Ray Martinez, the retired Texas Ranger who helped take down Charles Whitman in 1966. Martinez, who spoke to me on the 50th anniversary of the event. Before going in, he said a prayer of absolution. When he returned, he came out without a scratch.

…One of the most ominous stories I’ve covered was a feature on a movie regarding a famous grave in Fredericksburg. The young girl, found dead and then buried in September 1927, remains unknown. To this day, nobody knows who killed her or why. Her name is known only to God.

…Shortly after I started at the Highlander, I interviewed Chase Parker, grandson of three-time Oscar nominee Eleanor Parker and nephew of actor Paul Clemens, as he was in Burnet shooting parts of a Civil War era film titled American Fishtrap.

That’s all, folks!

Despite all the excitement in sports coverage and the people I’ve met as a news and features writer, in the past two years I’ve thought a lot about what I really want to do in life.

At the top of that list is fiction writing.

I have two published short stories and have many unpublished short stories in various phases of development. Then there are two novels I’m working on. I also have four blogs and write about writing, current events, Christian issues, and, sometimes, satire.

Someone once said, “You don’t want to spend the rest of your life thinking of chances you never took.”

Starting at the first of the year, I’ll work full-time in broadcasting and then work a second job to make ends meet. When not working, I plan to focus on fiction and blogging in hopes that perhaps someday, I can be successful at it. It’s my dream. I’ll turn 46 in February and even if I don’t achieve it, I don’t want to look back 30 years from now and lament not trying.

Goodbye, my fellow journalists and to those who have enjoyed what I’ve written for the Highlander and Burnet Bulletin. The journalism train has stopped, and this is where I get off.

Post comments here or email them to: richardzowie@gmail.com. 

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Writing sports preview stories…

…reminds me of how terrible an interviewer I am.

Questions we ask each pre-season include who’s graduated, who’s new, who’s returned, strengths and weaknesses.

Gosh, talking to the coaches makes me feel like Larry King, who may have asked one of the worst questions ever the time he had Jerry Seinfeld on his program.

I hope to get my own car soon, one with AM on the radio dial. If you want to hear a great interviewer, look no further than The Jim Rome Show. Outstanding. His questions show he puts lots of prep work into each show. 

Post comments here or e-mail them to richardzowie@gmail.com.

Deciding whether to terminate a ‘free’ client

I recently blogged about this topic, so I’ll try to keep this “revisit” brief.

My wife and executive editor, Jennifer, is a firm believer in my writing career. One thing, however, she has very strongly encouraged me to do is limit the number of “free” clients I have.

In my career, I’ve written for free for several publications. My column, From A to Zowie (originally titled My Two Cents and then Richard’s Ramblings), has appeared for free in the Beeville Bee-Picayune since 2001. My Christian issues column, Richard’s Two Shekels (originally My Two Shekels) has appeared for free in the San Antonio Christian Beacon, Saworship.com and the Olive Branch Press. I’ve also blogged for free or for next to nothing at several locations.

There is one client, whom I will not name, that I am about to end my relationship with. It’s been one where my name and my blog–when I do blog–get posted on the website of one of a daily metro newspaper. The publisher of the blog talks frequently about, sure, he can’t pay bloggers any money, but bloggers who write without charge will get offered paying writing assignments from interested clients who read their postings.

In the year I’ve written postings for this client, you know how many paid assignments I’ve been offered?

Zero.

I’m not the best writer out there, but I think I’m a darned good one. On many occasions my writing has resulted in freelance checks that have paid for rent, electric bills, propane, auto repairs and groceries.

What also disgusts me about the website is that it’s supposed to be geared toward a certain genre of writing, but more often than not the blog postings that generate the most attention are the ones that focus on sex: the prettiest women in this region, the nicest breasts in this region, and so on.

Sigh.

It’s as annoying as the auto magazines that show on their covers near-nude double-D-cup women with erection-inducing bikinis and five-inch high heels.

So, I am starting to believe it is no longer in my best interest to keep blogging for this client.

Richard Zowie tries to stay busy in his writing life and believes it’s far better to be busy than unemployed. Post comments here or e-mail him at richardzowie@gmail.com.

A day in the life of Richard Zowie, writer or: One Day in the Life of Richard Richardovich

I couldn’t resist paying homage to the late Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn by naming this blog posting the way he did his book One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (Russian: Odin Dyen’ Ivana Denisovicha). No, I’m not in a Russian gulag, although in the winter here in Michigan it might seem that way.

My middle name is actually Paul, but in Russian the middle name is actually the patronymic, meaning a name that identifies your lineage. Richardovich simply means “Son of Richard” since my Dad’s name is Richard. Dad, whose own father went by Paul, would be Richard Pavlovich (the Russians transliterate Paul as Pavel).

The one or two readers of this blog might wonder a writer like me does on a daily basis. Since Monday’s the day I complete my assignments for the week, I thought I’d take you through a typical Monday:

7:30 a.m. — I wake up and thank the person who designed cell phones to have alarm clocks in them. I try to avoid hitting the snooze button. Shower, something to eat, quick check of e-mail and reminding myself of what I have to do this day.

8:15 a.m. — I drive to work and try to keep observant of what’s said on the radio and what I see as I drive into the coverage area of the paper where I work, the Mt. Morris/Clio Birch Run/Bridgeport Herald.

9 a.m. — I arrive at work, pick up any messages left for me, drop off my time card and my mileage sheet to my publisher’s wife (Lisa) and, again, check my e-mail.

9:15 a.m. — Time to get together with my editor (Craig) and co-worker (Mandi) for a meeting to discuss what we have for the paper that week. This includes what is finished and what we’re still working on.

9:25 a.m. – 5 p.m. — My tasks include but are not limited to: finishing writing stories, proofreading them, making changes as necessary and then e-mailing them to my editor; taking photos and editing out the bad ones. I gather up my photos for the week onto a jump drive and deliver them to my editor. I write cutlines for all the photos. If I submit a set of photos from an event, I make sure it’s accompanied by a short story. Sometimes I may have to go out and take more pictures or gather information for another story. I try to make sure the photos I submit are whittled down to the absolute best of the best. If I take 50 pictures of an event, my job is to submit no more than 10 photos (preferably five) to my editor since it takes time to sift through the photos.

The stories and cutlines and word documents are e-mailed to my editor while, again, the photos go on the jump drive.

Any further unfinished stories, cutlines or other items go home as “homework.” During the busy traffic of the high school sports season (especially during basketball/baseball/track in the spring), I usually don’t get to bed until past midnight.

6 p.m. — I get home, eat dinner, find out how everyone’s day went and–yep, you guessed it–check e-mail.

7 p.m. — I start brainstorming for next week’s issue and then update my blogs. I also piddle around on Facebook (a great way to promote my blogs). Other writing projects (journals, fiction, essays) also get done, along with answering e-mails and looking for off-duty freelance work (writing work I do at home on my own time).

9 p.m. — I watch something on television or watch a movie I rented from Netflix. Favorite shows currently are Hell’s Kitchen, Kitchen Nightmares, The Middle.

11 p.m. — Bed. (Earlier, if possible, if I have to go to work at the gas station the next morning and have a 5 a.m. wake up).

Richard Zowie tries to stay busy in his writing life and believes it’s far better to be busy than unemployed. Post comments here or e-mail him at richardzowie@gmail.com.