Throughout his long career, Ray, a life-long newspaperman, mentored hundreds of cub reporters, some of whom went on to achieve great things in their careers. They called it the “Ray Moscowitz School of Journalism.” I was lucky to be one of his grads.
I met Ray back in 2000, while I was a middle-aged undergrad chipping away at my bachelor’s degree at Indiana University-Kokomo. By then, I had aced every writing class available and felt I was just skating through. That particular semester, I signed up for the only writing class offered, Journalism 200, and added some challenge by taking it as an honors course, meaning I would do extra work and learn more. I hoped so, anyway, and boy did I.
The first class provided an introduction to the instructor — a 4-foot 10-inch ball of fire, who I initially perceived as a combination Danny De Vito and Lou Grant. (It must be noted, Danny and Lou should be so lucky.) Ray had started his newspaper career on his school paper in Los Angeles and ended it as editorial director for Nixon Newspapers, then one of Indiana’s leading newspaper chains. He was tough, he was fascinating, and he knew his stuff. After that, I knew I had met the gold standard for journalism instructors. I was excited!
About a month into the class, Ray called me aside and asked if I could meet him the following week just to chat. I had no idea what he wanted, but I eagerly agreed to meet him 45 minutes before the next class in the campus cafeteria. When the appointed time came, we sat down to a soft drink and he asked me what I did for a living. I told him I was the communications director for a church in Indianapolis, which I thought was a darn good job. It was, but Ray’s immediate response was, “Why do you want to work for a church? Don’t you want to work for a newspaper?”
“Yes, it’s always been my dream,” I told him, “but I’m a little old now to be starting a new career.”
Ray rolled his eyes and shook his head. “Too old?” he said with a flinch. “How old are you?”
I never tell my age … not even my son knows. However, not only did Ray wheedle it out of me, he convinced me it was the perfect age to get into newspapering.
“You have the one commodity that 21-year-old reporters fresh out of school take decades to acquire,” he said (or something like that). “You’ve got life experience.”
After that little chat, he set up an interview for me with the editor of the Frankfort Times, where he had cut his teeth as a grass-roots reporter and later served as managing editor. Long story short, I got the job, and life as I knew it was never the same.
During my years at the Frankfort Times, 2000-2008, I covered community events, art exhibits, theatrical productions, county fairs, festivals, city council and school board meetings, student activities, fundraisers, celebrations, crime scenes, fires, courtrooms, political rallies, wrecks and weather-related inconveniences. I ascended 2,000 feet via a powered parachute, faced a line of trotting race horses from the backseat of the pace car; walked the grounds of the federal prison the morning Timothy McVeigh was executed; “danced” onstage with legendary, Hoosier funnyman Harlow Hickenlooper; interviewed the famous and the infamous; and wrote scores of stories told to me by so-called “ordinary” people about their extraordinary lives.
My newspaper years taught me the writing skills I would use for everything that followed. I learned to snag readers in the first sentence, to reel them in and keep them by telling an engaging story in words they understood and in a way they could relate to. Everything I write today is a direct result of that J200 class fourteen years ago.
So, thank you again, Ray Moscowitz, for opening the door to the best Times of my life, affording me the chance to live the dream I thought was unattainable, and then spurring me beyond even that — to become a published author! I am and will be forever grateful to you.
Thus, it’s not surprising that my first novel — Dust Bunnies & Dead Bodies, a cozy mystery due out October 15 — is anchored in a small-town with a cast headed up by a plucky, Boomer-aged newspaper editor inspired, of course, by my mentor … only snarkier, svelter, blonder, prettier, more fashionable and, of course, a woman!
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I invite you to take a look at the first chapter of Dust Bunnies and Dead Bodies here. When the book is released in October, it will be available in print and ebooks on amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and kobobooks.com. Please leave me a note here if you would like me to email you when DBDB is released or to reserve your copy.
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Thank you so much for stopping by! Please come back often. — Janis