How I became a Stringer

... from banking to journalism

by Florence Shea

In December 2008, after forty and one half years in banking, my department of sixty people was laid off. Knowing I had said "no job searching for me", my co-workers were concerned about what I was going to do with my newfound free time... They asked "What are you going to do?" I replied "My friends are not the type to just sit around all day. Surely they'll find things to help occupy my time."

One day fellow Stringer Kay suggested I attend a Silver Stringer meeting. She said "Just try it. You don't have to come again if you don't like it." Knowing nothing about journalism I was a little leery about going, but figured there was nothing to lose. I went and just sat there listening to the group discuss articles written/ in progress; possible topics for future issues and happenings past/ present in their lives. Would I make any comments? Heavens no! I'd sound like an idiot. This was my learning phase - people and writing.

In the beginning as we were leaving meetings, the loveable late Tom Dillon would say to me "Quit your yapping. You make too much noise." Then he smiled and I knew he meant just the opposite. Heeding Tom's words I gradually started to find my voice. Tom took great photos and occasionally wrote articles.

Don is our ace photographer and has a vast knowledge of cameras. The proof lies with the number of cameras he owns of various sizes and costs. Many times he has come to a meeting with a 'show and tell' of his latest purchase. If you have a question about a picture you have taken or want to take, just ask Don. He'll have your solution. On rare occasions I will write an article. If there is a photo to go with the story it would be sent to Don to resize and insert into the article. He will critique my picture, telling me time and again "look for the art in the shot. don't just shoot." I must remind him that my pictures are for fun and I don't have the artistic talent he does.

Joe is our city bulldog. He attends many Park Commission meetings held at City Hall. At our meetings he informs us what the topic was and what happened. We discuss it - pros/ cons and in between. Then Joe proceeds to write another informative article for the Melrose Mirror.

Betty's favorite topic is her grandchildren. Another topic involves growing up as a child and all the good times she had. She loves to tease Don about his 'Joisey' accent. She adds much laughter, joy and life to our meetings.

Louise occasionally writes an article about places she has visited and is involved with local cable TV in Beverly. About a year ago she came up with the idea to do a local travel show for MMTV. The Stringers were asked if anyone would like to help. The show on MMTV is called "Have you been here?" We focus on day trips in the local Massachusetts area. So began my career in TV. Group members suggest places to visit. Before planning a trip, I will research the site on the internet finding out what is there. I print copies of what I found for the next meeting. Then we discuss the findings and vote 'yea' or 'nay' on a possible visit.

Kay is one of the original members of the Silver Stringers and wears many hats as secretary/ writer/ editor and publisher. It is through her that I have gained knowledge of my fellow Stringers and the process of putting the Melrose Mirror together every month. With her knowledge of the Mirror and the people, she'll straighten me out when I donít understand things. She's a great friend and mentor as well.

A few years ago I was assigned the job of trivia research. Apparently it was decided I needed something more concrete to contribute to the Mirror besides being group treasurer. Knowing how I enjoy poking around the web for different things, Kay knew that was right up my alley. A few people have told me how much they like it and it's the first thing they read.

Dr. Ed Boyd is another long time Stringer. Although not attending meetings on a regular basis he still contributes articles. Ed also will make minor corrections and critique articles that have been submitted.

John Averell is another longtime member of the Silver Stringers. Unfortunately he no longer attends meetings since he moved from Melrose. He still is available for technical assistance and will help if we have questions regarding whether or not a change we want to make will work and any problems that arise on publication day.

Jack Driscoll was the founder of the Melrose Mirror. Having worked for the Boston Globe for many years , he has a wealth of knowledge about newspapers and publishing. If a writer has a question about whether the story is too
controversial for publication, Jack will read it and give his opinion. The program we use is housed in a computer at MIT. If the program goes offline and cannot be accessed, we shout out "Jack Help." He will contact MIT and help get us up and running again.

We also have "foreign correspondents". They are Stringers who for the most part no longer live in Massachusetts but still occasionally submit articles for publication.

This past year we lost two Stringers dear to our heart. Witty photographer Tom Dillon and ever smiling writer Joan Alcala are still with us in spirit. As much as we miss them, we still carry on with The Melrose Mirror.

Am I glad my decision was to keep going to meetings? You Bet! The Silver Stringers may be a small group, but they're a great group of people.

   April 4, 2014

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