What I learned in my many years of community newspapering is how to meet and deal with people in all circumstances, how to take good notes, ask the right questions, sit through boring meetings, read reports, budgets, police blotters and much more. It was a fast-paced world of weekly journalism, putting out a tabloid paper every Wednesday, meant we worked round the clock on Monday and Tuesday to turn over the edition late on Tuesday night. This was an age before computers. We had basic electronic typewriters from which the copy had to be retyped into linotype machines (I think that’s what they were called). My new editors barely altered my copy any more and I didn’t really learn much from them. I learned by writing, every day, all the time. I learned on the street, talking to people, taking notes, figuring out how to tell a story, much of the time at my own pace and direction (within the crazy rules of journalism and the soul-sucking schedule that usually included holidays, weekends, being on call for any community event or emergency).
Over the following years I worked for several community newspapers in western Wayne and Oakland counties (of Michigan). I also returned to school (I had stopped going for a variety of reasons) and got my first of two degrees. True it was just an associate’s degree in arts from a community college, but in doing so I decided to step back and become the editor of a college paper for a year while I finished the degree, which was helped by a local journalism teacher who was able to get me a bunch of basic j-school credits without having to attend any classes – thanks, of course, to my many years by now of on-the-job training at the community newspaper level.
Once done at the school I took a couple more newspaper jobs before becoming the managing editor and then the editor of a well-respected community paper in Plymouth, Michigan. The work was hard but there was never a sameness about any day. I also went after my full-on bachelor’s degree in journalism from Wayne State, working full-time, going to school part-time, getting ready to tie the knot with my fiancé Sue. We married in 1989 and I continued working intense hours at the newspaper.
Then 1992 occurred. Well, it didn’t occur. It came around. You know, following our obsession with chronological time, it followed 1991. So, what was special about this year ? Wow, where to begin?
First, in February that year I was baptized into Jesus Christ at a Livonia church. This is a whole separate story, I will share in depth later. Let’s just say for now that I grew up an atheist, despising the idea of God. I considered myself a thinker, a philosopher, a student of literature and life, and I was all these things, but I was also lost deep inside still, never being fully satisfied with the knowledge I gained and worlds I discovered in books. My path took me to the realization, first, that God indeed exists, that we live in a created world by a hand we cannot explain, but must admit, even more so with all of our scientific discoveries pointing to the notion that this amazing universe is just that amazing – not an amazing accident, an amazing place of beauty, truth, horror and scale through space and time that is simply impossible to understand at its deepest core, despite how hard we try. More on this later, just remember this – I came to understand that God sent himself into the world to show the world the truth. Why wouldn’t a creator want to share a connection to his creation? Why wouldn’t God appear as man, the ultimate form of his creation? So, I came to believe. Again, we’ll come back to this later.
Second, in May of 1992 I got my bachelor’s degree from Wayne, the completion of 15 years of on-off study. I was officially the holder of a journalism degree, the real degree of which I had earned through the past 15 years of daily newspaper work at half a dozen community papers all around metro Detroit.
Third, in June we made of our first trip to Europe, visiting Brussels, Paris and London. It was fantastic in every way.
Fourth, when we came back from Europe Sue and I learned we were going to have our first child. More on Elena Marlee Voyles later.
Finally, at the end of the year I left the newspaper business and began working for a local township government as a communications specialist, attached directly to the township supervisor’s staff (he’s like a mayor). I liked to say I went from uncovering government secrets in the newspaper to helping hide things for the government. Over the next seven years I expanded my skills dramatically…