CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- I have had only one full-time job in my life.
It ends on Monday with my retirement after more than 43 years.
I never dreamed I would be employed at The Charleston Gazette, just two months after graduating from WVU. I had no newspaper experience except for growing up in the business -- my father was the owner and editor of The Weston Democrat.
I was 21 and had been at the Gazette less than a month when I had to make one of the most difficult decisions of my career: I was approached by my colleagues and asked to join their efforts to form a union for the newsroom employees.
On my next visit home, I discussed the situation with my parents. My father said, "That's a hard decision. I don't know what I would do in your shoes."
I realized I was an adult and had to make my own choices.
I chose to trust my co-workers and signed the card to call for an election on the union question. But before an election could be held, the already unionized production employees went on strike -- on a Friday night. I worked Saturdays.
I reluctantly crossed the picket line, the first reporter to do. Most did the same on the following Monday. A few stayed out for a couple of days.
I crossed because I believed then, as I do still, that newspapers are vitally important. I believe people make good decisions when they have complete and accurate information. And that's what good newspapers do -- inform citizens of the actions of their governments and courts, report on wrongdoing by those who are supposed to serve the citizens, and discuss issues that affect lives. I didn't want our readers to go without a daily paper, perhaps because I was concerned that they would learn to do without us.
In my first 10 years at the Gazette, I reported on mundane government meetings ranging from the school board to the municipal planning commission, even the sanitary board.
I covered the trials of politicians charged with corruption, the infamous Pot Plane crash, grisly murders and pornography cases. "Why did you have to watch those movies?" my distressed mother asked. "Couldn't they just tell the jury what was in them?"