Shift Happens to the Best of Us

They threw a big party for one of my former teachers down in North Carolina in July.

“Big Jer” is what those of us who are part of the cult of journalism that connects those who set foot upon the campus of the little college in Morrisville, N.Y., with the pursuit of the that honored estate in mind call Jerry Leone. Well, Big Jer’s been ill, so teachers and students alike from the mid-1960s to now decided to get together in his hometown to honor what he’s meant to us all. I couldn’t go.

But my good friend, professor emeritus Neal Bandlow, convinced my former classmate Dave Snyder, to send me this column he published in his upstate New York newspaper, the Alfred Sun, to re-run here on my blog. Dave, a year ahead of me in class and so much more in smarts when I turned up as a freshman in August 1975 and asked to write sports on his staff for the weekly Chimes newspaper it seemed to , emailed me his copy and the photograph yesterday. Enjoy, all.

(From the Alfred Sun)

(From the Alfred Sun)

I was resting in a hotel room in Raleigh, NC Friday when I received a phone call from my father, the farmer.

Either he’s arranging a family gathering or he’s reading the newspaper and has discovered the janitor’s latest blunder. He’d make good money as a proof reader.

“David, this is your father,” he said.

I knew that.

“I didn’t know that the Murrays moved back to Alfred,” he started, “And what’s this about LeBron James going to the Miami Heat?”

“Dad, I sent the wrong page to the printer. These things happen. That darn janitor screwed up again!”

He knew that.

We laughed.

Dad was the first to call me back in 1997 when I left the “f” out of shift in a report of the 75 volunteers laying brick pavers in three three-hour shifts as part of the streetscape project in downtown Alfred.

That blooper took first place “honors” in the 1997 New York Press Association Better Newspaper Contest.

Now it’s Saturday evening and I’m sitting at Winston’s Grille in Raleigh, N.C., having dinner at a fete in honor of the “Sultan of Saddle Shoes,” Jerry Leone, 1967 founder of the two-year journalism technology program at Morrisville State College.

(From the Alfred Sun)

(From the Alfred Sun)

Seated at my table, one of about six throughout the large dining room, are Dan Reeder and wife Janet of Lawrence, Kansas.

Reeder taught copyediting among other courses and was advisor of the CHIMES student newspaper for which I served as sports editor. He was at Morrisville for three years before returning to Kansas University to edit its alumni publication. His presence confirmed that those three years meant a lot to him.

Seated next to me is Neal Bandlow and his wife Carol of Oneida. Neal taught in the program for 23 years and for many of those years advised the CHIMES staff. A Michigan State grad, he adores the Spartans and is a diehard Detroit Tigers fan.

Among other things, he taught newswriting, specialized sportswriting and a course I took on “The Weekly.”

At the next table is seated the guest of honor, a Rochester native who did his undergrad studies at the University of Buffalo and who had a short stint with the Tonawanda News. Jerry, who is presently in remission from a battle against pancreatic cancer, is surrounded by his loving family.

Big Jer, an outstanding photojournalist back in the day when cameras required film, had the vision and wisdom to start a journalism program at Morrisville. Purpose was to train reporters and photographers for small daily and weekly newspapers.

Morrisville was the perfect fit for me. I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a sports editor of a small daily newspaper just like Johnny Nelson.

But, as I have told many folks, when I graduated from Morrisville in 1976, the Alfred Sun needed a managing editor. I thought perhaps I could do that “until a real job came along.”

I’m still waiting for that “real job.”

The dinner party was most enjoyable as I heard stories of my professors’ sophomoric behavior that reminded me they in 1974 were only a few years out of college themselves.

I confessed to last week’s error and told of the 1997 “Blooper of the Year.”

Reeder, the tough copyediting professor, told of one of his.

He was editing a recruitment pamphlet for one of KU’s highly esteemed engineering programs. Inside the back cover was information about the Lawrence community, including a piece about the Lawrence Public Library.

“I bet you left the ‘l’ out of Public, didn’t you?”

“You got that right!”

We laughed.

It was refreshing to hear that even my meticulous demanding copyediting prof makes mistakes.

We agreed that “shift happens to the best of us.”

Here’s the link to a story I wrote about the May retirement of Morrisville journalism professor Brian McDowell.

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23 thoughts on “Shift Happens to the Best of Us

  1. We all aspire to perfection but, to my mind, the mark of a true professional is the ability to laugh at your weakest moments and learn from them. I’ve seen professional truck drivers literally drive on the wrong side of the road by accident (once when a four lane reduced to a two lane with little traffic and the driver was driving into oncoming traffic in the left lane thinking he was still on a four lane). In another case, there are huge solid steel pins as thick as your wrist that are used to secure the trailer wheels to the body of the trailer on units that have slideable tandems. I once saw a driver forget to reinstall those pins after re-positioning the trailer wheels. He had to brake on the highway (Ha!) and when he did, the trailer wheels stopped while the rest of the trailer kept going and the wheels shot out from under the trailer at a high rate of speed. No one was injured in any of these stories and the drivers were scared so bad that they never repeated the error. And still professionals will sometimes make rookie mistakes and you can tell their most sensitive subjects by how hard they harp on them when teaching others.

    It was great that a get together was held for your friend. Sad that you couldn’t go yet it sounds like a good time was had by all. Memories.

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    • The best thing about journalism, Paul, is that when you make a mistake via typo, everybody lives. 🙂 Though you shrivel a bit inside via shame and self-flagellation. I’m glad that nobody got hurt in your trucking tales! That’s scary.

      Yes, I was sorry to miss the party for Big Jer. He was the first to teach my how to properly take photographs. I was pretty good on composition even back then, but terrible on winding the film on the cannister in the dark. 😦

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  2. It seems like the people involved in journalism (I have gathered from your posts) are a very tight bunch and keep in touch, which is really cool. I sometimes wish I had gone into something like that, and not into the medical field. I am kind of envious of that feeling of community you seem to have with your peers, and you seem to recognize each other’s achievements (that doesn’t happen much in nursing). And of course, a little mistake in my line of work can have monumentally awful outcomes. A word that keeps popping into my mind when I read this post and the one about Professor McDowell is propinquity ( love that word, but never get to use it).

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  3. HA! 😀 Well, bloopers make life a lot more fun! Especially spelling oops-es! 😮 And now we can make them in all sorts of places and ways…including texts! 😉 I have had many of them myself. Most recently I typed to a co-worker, “I’m taking my lynch break now.” To which he replied, “I hope I’m not in the line up!” 😀
    HUGS!!! 🙂

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  4. I am admiring the foresight of a photojournalist of getting a course started and teaching others his knowledge and skills. Jerry Leone or Big Jer sounds like an amazing man.
    I liked the part of this post about accidental typing and leaving the “f” or “l” out. Made me read this to my Mom today. She says a strict rule of thumb is: “Proofread, proofread. . . “

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