|"Looking Down" ©Mary Montague Sikes|
When she sat down, the Daily Press reporter welcomed her with a smile like he always did, and the Times-Dispatcher scowled as usual. Both men pulled out their packs of cigarettes and soon added to the haze in the room.
That's the way it was back then. The young woman wrote for the afternoon city newspaper. The two men were reporters for morning papers in two different cities. All three of them were competitors, seeking to beat out the others in some unexpected way.
By the time she drove home at the end of the meeting, the young woman, her clothing saturated in smoke, would be past the paper's evening deadline. She would write her story that night and call it in from her wall telephone the next morning. Someone on the city staff, a stranger to her, would take the dictation. If she took photos, she would drop her film by the home of a friend who worked in the city, then she would head to her day job in the next county. It was a brutal schedule for the mother of three young children.
She wrote lots of feature stories and took the photographs, but that was at a more leisurely pace. Those stories were typed, and they, along with the undeveloped film, were mailed to the paper. The pay was not much, but the experience was priceless for the young woman.
Along came computers, digital cameras, cell phones and everything changed. Afternoon newspapers closed down. People were a little different, not so much relating to one another at the meetings. Reporters died. The smoke was gone.
The young woman grew old, but, because of the newspapers, she had learned to write and to photograph many subjects. Those were the times.