My first job in newspapers came my way because of the goodwill of a wonderful man. Ed Querzoli was city editor at the Quincy Patriot Ledger in 1966. I was a student at Stonehill College, majoring in English literature, and living in Milton at my family’s home.
My goal in life was to write books of fiction. I wanted the fiction to be excellent. Making a living was a concern. The idea of working for a newspaper seemed like a way to use my skill as a writer to earn money.
But I had no experience. Well, I had been co-editor of my high school newspaper. And I had lots of poetry that was dark in a teen-aged sort of way.
So one afternoon in 1965, I gathered up some of my poetry, a couple old high school newspapers and dropped by the Ledger newsroom and asked how to apply for a job. Ed took time to speak with me and explained I had no experience – no clips – and that my poems and high school essays proved that.
I told him they proved I could write and that writing for a newspaper would not be very different.
It’s just a different subject, I told him.
He told me to come back in a week or so.
And that began our relationship. At the time I didn’t know he was just too nice a man to tell me no chance, no way.
I came back a week later with an innocent smile. Each of our conversations ended with him saying, come back in a week or so. And so I kept coming back. After eight of these meetings, he finally said. OK I’ll give you a chance. He gave me a stack of what they called rewrites. Each had a mark at the top saying “1 graph” or maybe “3 graphs.”
I sat at an old Royal typewriter and put the information into the one or two paragraphs. Who, what, where, when and why. Simple sentences. About four hours later, having finished the pile, I asked Ed what to do next.
He said come back next week. He told me he thought he could find about eight hours a week for me.
I don’t think I’ve ever been happier with the promise of a job. I had no idea what I’d be paid.
People don’t go into newspapers for the money. And there are still good people, like the late Ed Querzoli, who will give a beginner a chance.