Reflections of my time at The Melrose Mirror

looking back and moving forward.

by Debbi Collar

 Early printing press                   photo of typewriter - Elaine Foley

Distinctly holding the "Silver Stringers" title of "the newbie" at
The Melrose Mirror, it's impossible for me to reflect on a double
decade of memories from its inception.

Yet memories abound in my nearly 2 year term with this online newspaper

Happy memories, sad memories, frustrating memories.

Happy, due to the many new friendships made. Laughter is often heard in
The Milano Center Senior Center as we sit at the conference room table
discussing ideas for upcoming publications.

Sad, due to hearing of the passing of colleague's loved ones or of former
Silver Stringers, who, at one time, sat at the same table.

Frustrating, as any "newbie" deals with the trials and tribulations of new
learning experiences.

Upon my arrival at The Melrose Mirror I thought I would be writing
an occasional article for print in this online newspaper. Then I was
introduced to "Pluto." No, not the Disney character, but the technical
computer program and its server, which is housed at MIT Media Lab.

It really is a well written program, especially, as without it, there would not
be a " Melrose Mirror. However,it can also be a source of frustration
as its writers, known as the" Silver Stringers, are led down a path of
"How Tos," written by John Averell.  Those detailed explanations range from
how to put photographs into their stories, resizing them and placing them in
articles to learning which carat mark, slash or period tells the"Pluto"
program how to set up the newspaper.

Considering myself fairly computer literate with a working knowledge of
putting together PowerPoint presentations understanding "cells" in Excel,
putting together brochures in Microsoft Word, taking photos and putting
them in movies, working with emails,learning the "Pluto"program
would be just another program I could add to my list of writing credentials.

"Pluto " had other ideas.  

it seemed as if it had a mind of its own many times. At first it wasn't easy
getting the photographs re-sized.  I was new, I kept trying. Once the
photograph was re-sized, there was the issue of actually managing to get it
into the story. Later I sought out the advice of colleague, Don Norris, who
held several training sessions of both working with photographs and how
they  were to be placed in stories as well as a few sessions in which I learned
my new "coding" language.  

Although I had the technical experience, my earlier era of journalistic
endeavors began with a typewriter of yesteryear.  Often, my fingers would
fall through the open keys in my haste to meet an impending deadline at
previous newspapers where I had worked.

The invention of the electric typewriter was wonderful for reporters, with the
exception of  the occasional winter power outage, timed perfectly, just as
reporters were racing to meet those deadlines.  Word processors, the next
learning experience and finally, computers designed to make the life of a
journalist easier.

and then there was "Pluto."

Memories of my time at "The Melrose Mirror have also forced me
to take a look back into my past as a print journalist.  The timeline of growth
I have seen in the industry is remarkable. Starting with my days, especially at
"The Lynn Sunday Post," I sat at a typewriter, with one of the older
models with carriages. Remember those? As a reporter, my job was to gather
the news and write the story or stories. My next step would be to pass them
to the editor who "marked them up" with his famous red
pen. Re-written so ties would later be handed over to those who
would "lay out" the design of the newspaper, including your photos,
they would also put a "headline" on your article. The article and
headline would be restricted to space limitations.  Finally, in this production
line, the paper would "go to print"on a rolling printing press.

and then there was "Pluto."

Little did I know that in my initiation of becoming a "Silver Stringer,"
how much I would learn, despite my early frustrations.  Eventually, the
experience would take me to  learning more about the computer program,
"Pluto"  again and where its server was housed. It even led to my
taking a crack at publishing some issues.  Kay McCarte  and Flo Shea are
deserving of much credit for bearing with me and being with me as we both
watched our stories and those of our colleagues appear online in the latest
issue on publishing days.  Many thanks to John Averell as well, who stood by
us in times of technical difficulties and to Jack Driscoll, who was always
looking in "The Mirror supporting us from the outside.

In two (2) years, I have learned so much from my colleagues and advisers.  
Yes, even "Pluto" the computer program.

and I thought when I joined I would just write an occasional story for

Many thanks to my colleagues, friends and advisers for a memorable two
year run.  I can't imagine what I might have learned in a 20 year period.

Happy Anniversary to all of you and to THE MELROSE


December 4, 2015

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