Celebrating my mother, the ink-stained wretch | READER COMMENTARY
For The Baltimore Sun|
May 04, 2021 at 12:49 PM
Along with the May reminders to think about Mom on Mother’s Day, I get a daily reminder on my doorstep in the form of three newspapers. I still read physical newspapers, and I always will. That is my mom’s influence. Before retiring to Lakeland, Florida, she spent her working life creating newspapers.
My mom long called herself an “ink-stained wretch.” While some apply the term only to newspaper writers, Mom was literally ink-stained from working at newspapers. She never ran the presses, but she did everything else from ad sales to prepress to managing editor. Ink was in her blood — and on her clothes and in her hair. Ink was on her children because the newspapers she brought home every night bypassed a delivery truck, moving straight from press to employee paper bins to her car and into our waiting hands. Mom didn’t need to read it. She already knew every column inch.
We learned from Mom’s side of phone conversations — terms like “double truck” and the dynamics of ad and news budgets. We knew every edition’s bed time by osmosis. We learned the critical importance of correctly spelling the names of local student-athletes. We learned to trust but verify wire service stories that would run under “our” banner. We learned the cruelty — and the beauty — of word limits.
Now when I read a newspaper, I evaluate headlines and ad placement the way Mom did. Three generations of my family can fold newspaper hats.
I don’t think there was ever a happier newspaper professional. Mom was ink-stained, for sure, but she was anything but a wretch when she was on the job, on deadline. She is equally happy with other pursuits now, especially her involvement with her bridge club (she’s a director, naturally), but, like all of her children, she still insists on reading a physical newspaper, ink stains and all.