Q: How did you become in charge of a newspaper?
A: I graduated from college ten years ago. It was the summer after graduation and I moved back with my parents and was waitressing. It was the recession and a hard time to find a job, so when I got an offer, I thought, “Yeah, I’m going to take anything that utilizes my degree.”
I had interned at the local newspaper during college. And they bought the newspaper I ended up working for. I was basically moving from one small town newspaper to another.
They brought me in and during the interview I was talking to the guys who ran the old newspaper. They said, “You’ll do some sports writing, some proofreading…” and I said, “Great!”
The first day on the job, I walked in and they said, “This is Molly; she’s our new Editor-in-Chief!”
I was so confused. I wish I could go back and see the look on my face. It was so bizarre.
Q: Did you say anything?
A: No. I kept thinking, “What would be the appropriate thing to say, ‘I’d like a demotion?’”
Everyone had their own offices, so I went into my office and I saw that they had business cards already printed up. The cards had my name on them and the title EDITOR-IN-CHIEF.
I remember calling a good friend at lunch and saying, “You’re never going to believe this!”
Q: You must’ve been one of the younger people in the office.
A: I had just turned 22 and the next person closest in age to me was probably 40. There were only seven or eight employees. There was a publisher, designer, reporter, two account people… It was a weekly paper. There was only one other reporter and me — we did all the stories.
It definitely turned into a thing where I could see they resented me. I was probably a bit of a know-it-all. Sometimes I’d love to talk to the guys who hired me and find out what they were thinking back then.
Q: What was your first story?
A: It was the local football team. It felt very Friday Night Lights. I knew right away it was going to be a hard job with sports because people took it so seriously.
I went to every varsity home game, and I ended up going to most of the away football games, too.
There was a whiteboard in my office and I would try to get everybody on the team in the paper at some point during the season. Oh, I forgot to mention — I was the photographer, too. Parents would call and say, “My kid’s never been in the newspaper before!” People would love me for it.
It’s such a weird thing that they put someone in charge of sports like me… Soccer and basketball I understood, but I didn’t know as much about football. My dad would come with me to the football games, keep a separate notebook, and then after the game we would go for a milkshake and compare our notes. It was a really sweet time, you know? It was after college and I knew it wouldn’t last forever….
Q: How did you know what to write about?
A: People would call, often, and let me know what they thought we should cover. We would get flyers from the business association, things like that. People would tip me off; the town had a lot of busybodies.
Q: Did you break any scandals?
A: There was a story I did about a guy who was swindling an older man out of money slowly… I wrote about it, but I didn’t break that story. Things were pretty slow.
Q: What kind of things did you like about the job?
A: I covered a lot of school activities and I got out of the office a lot.
The sports coverage was fun, and I started to learn graphic design while I was there. The designer taught me InDesign so I could lay out the sports pages, and that’s been part of my freelance business now.
Q: Anything you didn’t like?
A: I didn’t like the idea that I had authority, the final say — it was hard for me. To tell another reporter that their story wasn’t good enough for publishing — it was really difficult.
Let’s see… I also had to cover the first day of deer season — had to wake up at 4 AM to take a picture of the person who brought in the first buck.
And I covered “Take your tractor to school” day. So many kids would ride their tractor into school. Eventually the whole parking lot was full of tractors.
Q: So eventually you left?
A: I barely stuck through it a year. Everyone tells you to stay in a job for at least a year.
One day I came back from lunch and they were having a baby shower without me. They said, “Oh my gosh, we thought you were at lunch!” And I thought, “Oh boy, nobody likes me here.”
Q: Do you remember the day you quit?
A: Yes. I cried. It was at the end of August. That summer I had my gallbladder out and I got some flak for that because I had to take some sick time and get short-term disability. I had just started dating my now-husband and I got a job offer in Chicago. I went in to tell the publisher and I burst into tears. He was unfazed. He said, “We figured you wouldn’t stay that long.”
There was a nice woman who left a card on my desk on the last day. But that was basically it.
For my next job, I think I partially got it because they liked seeing “Editor-in-Chief” on a résumé.