Many generous Adirondack guides helped start newspaper career
This is a time of year when we pause to give thanks for our blessings. This is also a significant time of year for me because today — the Monday before Thanksgiving — marks my first day as a full-time reporter. It is what I consider the official start of my professional career as a newsman.
It was 30 years ago today that a 22-year-old newcomer from the Bronx walked through the doors of the Adirondack Daily Enterprise in Saranac Lake. I have many cherished memories from my two years there.
When I started, I had no concept of the Adirondacks, small-town politics or municipal government.
I did not know a village board from an ironing board. I benefited from a number of people who were generous guides. So in the spirit of Thanksgiving, let me offer my gratitude to:
¯ The circulation manager, Jimmy Bishop, who broke my chops for showing up on my first day wearing a tie.
¯ Pressman Rick Burman, aka Moose, for having the patience and fortitude to teach me how to drive a stick shift — in the middle of an Adirondack winter.
¯ The librarian and assistant to the publisher and mom to us all, Bea Drutz, may she rest in peace, for being a force for calm in the chaos and for ALWAYS being able to find a clip file when I needed it.
¯ The Carols: Carol Bruce, my city editor, who helped break me in, dusted me off when I fell and gave me the encouragement to keep going when I felt like I was failing; Carol Baker, one of the design paste-up technicians who always had a good word for me (and choice news tips!); and photographer Carol Sawyer, may she rest in peace, who had a tough exterior and scared me at times (!) but who showed great patience in showing me how to work a camera and improve my photos.
¯ Dave Munn, who walked every morning from his house near North Country Community College and would be the first one at the newsroom in the morning. He’d say he always checked the obituaries first to make sure he was not listed.
¯ Editor and Publisher Bill Doolittle, a delightfully incurable gossip and veteran newsman to whom I owe a deep debt of thanks for teaching me so much about reporting. Working at the ADE was like a journalistic boot camp minus the calisthenics.
¯ To the folks in advertising, such as Sharon Branch, Cathy Moore and Debbie McDonnell, who cheerfully took calls for me and kept me clued in about what was happening in the community I was learning to cover.
¯ Saranac Lake Village Manager Dick DePuy, who, despite his gruff exterior and military buzz cut that telegraphed he did not suffer fools gladly, found endless hours to teach me about infrastructure, politics and how things worked.
¯ Village Clerk Marilyn Clement, who put up with my pestering questions about budgets, resolutions, meetings, etc., with cheer and took the time to help me make sense of it all.
¯ David MacDowell, the community development director; Ernest Hohmeyer, the head of the Adirondack Economic Development Corp.; Tom Tobin, the head of the Adirondack North Country Association; and Jim McKenna, the director of the Lake Placid Convention and Visitors Bureau, for being good sports, keeping me flush with stories and helping me adjust to my newly adopted home.
¯ My fellow reporters, especially Nancy DeLong, with whom I covered the fire at the Mirror Lake Inn; Liza Frenette, a former ADE reporter who worked at the Press-Republican and who kept me on my toes; and WCAX-TV reporter Jack LaDuke, with whom I shared many uproarious jokes, news tips and time at news scenes waiting for something to happen.
Today I am a reporter at The New York Times, a job unthinkable to me 30 years ago. While that is a crowning achievement, I have never lost sight of my formative experiences at the Enterprise — and all the people who helped make them.
Chris Mele lives in Lords Valley, Pennsylvania.