On February 8, 1980, I walked into the offices of The Cincinnati Enquirer on Vine Street and took a seat at the copy desk.
In January I had had a lunch interview at the Cincinnati Club with Jim Schottelkotte, the managing editor, and Denny Dressman, the assistant managing editor for news. My journalistic credentials were sketchy—a master’s degree in English from Syracuse and six youthful summers writing and editing for The Flemingsburg Gazette—but they needed a copy editor, and they offered me a three-week tryout on the desk.
The tryout went well, and a week afterward a job offer came. On March 7 I took my place on the rim as a full-time copy editor.
It took time to identify that my intention of completing a Ph.D. in eighteenth-century literature was a fantasy, but the discovery of my gift, what I was meant to do, was immediate. Editing—cleaning up copy, tightening it, making it clearer and more precise—was deeply satisfying, the more so that I got to work among smart and funny colleagues.
Over the succeeding four decades I’ve continued to learn about this obscure craft (while unlearning a load of rubbish about the language). And the colleagues, on the desk, followed online, encountered at professional conferences, have continued to be smart and funny, good company.
So this is the date I choose to mark as the beginning of forty years as a working editor, and tonight I will lift a glass to the great good fortune by which I discovered a vocation.
Today, though, there is still the work to do.