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Jewish World Review May 5, 2000 / 30 Nissan, 5760

Bob Greene

Bob Greene
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Consumer Reports


When your first dream turns out to be your best dream -- HAD A NICE TALK with the city editor of the Monroe, Mich., Evening News the other night. It made my week.

Now, when you think of city editors, you may envision gruff, jaded, seen-everything-heard-everything old guys, world-weary and tired and worn out by life's bad side.

But the city editor of the Monroe Evening News is Doug Donnelly, 29, and. . . .

Well, we go back a ways.

I first spoke to Doug when he was 16. He told me then:

"I probably cannot fit into your `average 16-year-old' group. Most 16-year-olds have their minds on girls, basketball, football and rock music. I admit, those do rate 2-3-4-5 on my list. However, there is one thing that is more important to me than anything else in my life, and that is newspapers."

At 16, Doug had fallen in love with the idea of newspapering. "I don't know why, exactly," he told me back then. "It all began when I was about 7 or 8 years old. I'd glance through newspapers and I would get ideas -- like where I would put stories in different places in the papers, and where I'd add more color. It was like I was an editor, designing the pages."

He subscribed to two newspapers, but that's not where he did most of his newspaper reading. His father and his brother were both long-haul truck drivers; their routes would take them from New York to California on almost a weekly basis, and Doug would ask them to pick up local papers for him along the way. His dad and brother would stack newspapers in the cabs of their trucks, and when they would return home to Michigan Doug would greet those papers like they were the riches of the universe.

"My main goal in life is to be a newspaper writer," he told me then. "Newspapers are special in a way I can't even describe. I want to be a part of them."

I wished him all the luck in the world -- mainly because he reminded me of a kid I used to know.

He said that his dream was to write for a newspaper in New York. He went to college, he got married, he took a job at a Kmart store in Toledo, Ohio. One day he saw a classified ad in the Toledo Blade -- it said that the daily newspaper in Upper Sandusky, Ohio, the Daily Chief-Union, was looking for a reporter to hire. He didn't call the editor -- he drove the 90 minutes to the town and showed up in person. When the editor was busy, Doug stuck around. The editor was impressed. Doug got the job.

He liked it a lot. He worked at that paper for a while, and then he and his wife decided they wanted to move back closer to their families. So he got a job at the Monroe Evening News as a reporter -- "covering the County Board of Commissioners, the road commission, and other government beats." A year ago he moved to the sports department. And then, last November, the job of city editor opened up. He got it.

So Doug, at 29, is running the news department at the paper in the same county where he grew up -- the hometown paper he used to read when he fell in love with newspapers in the first place.

"We have a staff of 10 reporters full-time, and two full-time photographers," he said. "We're an afternoon paper -- which is more and more unusual these days -- so I'm at work by 6:30 every morning. Our paper starts coming off the presses at 1 or 1:30, and the papers start hitting our subscribers' front doors by 2:30 or 3. By the time I drive home from work at night, people are reading the paper we've put out that day."

He still reads papers from around the country, although he doesn't have to depend on his father and brother bringing them to him in their trucks anymore. "The Internet has made it so much easier," he said. "I read a dozen or so papers every day just by looking around the Internet."

He's not certain if he will ever get to New York to write for papers there -- or even if he still wants to. He and his wife have three young children, and he loves raising his family in the same community where he grew up. His 3-year-old daughter recently started Sunday school, and she didn't like the idea of singing in church with all those other people around. Doug -- the city editor off-duty -- began playing Beatles CDs for her at home, and she started joyfully singing along with "Eight Days a Week," and it got her accustomed to the sound of her voice in song. She does fine in Sunday school choir now.

"That's part of the feeling of being where you belong," Doug said.

He belongs in his home county -- and he belongs in a newspaper office.

"I wasn't wrong when I was 16," he said. "I knew what I loved."

JWR contributor Bob Greene is a novelist and columnist. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


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