A long time ago in a galaxy… Oops, I didn’t mean to start with a plug about my current employer!
It’s just that my time at The Temple News was a long time ago, and eventually, if a bit circuitously, it led me to Lucasfilm Ltd. and my own little bit of Star Wars heaven. It all began in Mitten Hall on the first day of registration for the Fall 1962 semester. It was mobbed and confusing, but as I sorted out classes, I noticed a sign soliciting freshmen to try out for the campus newspaper. Since I was a journalism major, I figured that was a no-brainer and signed up that first day.
My classes were fine, and I had some wonderful teachers, but The Temple News was where I truly learned journalism — and a lot about life, too. It was the best way and the very best place to get an education. Back then, TTN was published four days a week, and it was run totally by fellow students under the light supervision of a staff adviser.
There, in the cramped confines of a very old four-story row house that served as the Student Center, TTN operated in a warren of cubbyholes. It was quite a modern paper — it had eschewed metal type a few years before and was printed offset with an on-site composing room where the headlines, copy and ads were pasted down; if a story ran too long, an editor could literally snip out a paragraph.
I started as a sports reporter, then added general news and features. I remember the sports editor nicknaming me “Triple Threat” because I also took photos (not well) and drew cartoons (quite poorly) for the paper. The following year’s big event, sadly, was the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. After hearing the impossible-to-believe bulletins and rushing back to the newsroom, I realized how, in just over a year, I had become part of this warm, giving and very capable family of young journalists.
Over the next few years, as I picked up both professional and people skills, I moved up the editorial ranks. First came city editor, then managing editor and finally editor-in-chief for two semesters. I took great pride in TTN and my fellow staffers, who managed to turn out a quality and award-winning product four days a week, week in and week out.
There are so many memories, like the evening after the paste-ups had gone to the printer and we learned for sure that then-President Lyndon B. Johnson would be making a stop on campus the next day. Holding the press wasn’t a problem, but printing a new headline and lead were impossible. So I instructed our composing-room foreman to do the next best thing: print it by hand! It looked a little funky, but the turnout for the motorcade the next morning proved it had worked.
There were plenty of controversies along the way, and we seemed to keep butting heads with the Dean of [Students]. He wasn’t happy when The Temple News started regular coverage of campus crime and other safety issues. He had mixed feelings about a months-long, multi-part news and editorial crusade to get Temple to build a real student center.
The best moment, though, was when TTN got to break one of the biggest Temple stories of the time. Then-Gov. William Scranton decided to give a story exclusively to the editors at Penn State and Temple that he’d be submitting legislation that would, among other things, make Temple part of the state system of higher education — cutting tuition in half, bankrolling new campus construction and, for a while at least, providing more financial stability. Both of our newspapers had stopped printing for the semester, so the Penn State editor wrote the story for the local daily. But, with limited staff, The Temple News published a one-sheet extra with giant red headlines. It was a journalism fantasy come true.
After that, it was the Philadelphia Inquirer, then 26 great years at the Wall Street Journal, the last nine as Los Angeles Bureau Chief. And then, I followed my bliss, took a one-year job at Lucasfilm traveling the country to talk to fellow fans about the Star Wars Special Edition films. And here I remain, 13 years and 13 Star Wars books later. Much of my life still revolves around writing and editing, and I have my experience at The Temple News to thank for laying the foundation.