Bill DeSelms II
The Newspaper Reporter Prologue: The Business
by Mark Kodama
My first job was the police beat.
That’s where you either sink or swim.
I remember I once covered
A search and rescue launched
for a missing woman and child.
A few days later they found their bodies.
I was so angry
I didn’t want my story to end like that.
Dick White said “Kid, don’t take things so personally.”
Last week, a woman had a fight here with her husband.
She took her two small children with her into the desert.
They found her five-year-old boy about five miles from here.
He was dead.
They found her body with the infant a mile away.
Twenty years later, the same story, the same ending.
My next job was at UPI,
Covering Governor Romney in Lansing.
We were always smaller than AP.
After press conferences, we would race to get our stories out.
AP had a reporter.
He drank heavily, but boy could he write.
I dropped him at his house once.
It was in a nice neighborhood.
And his was the only yard unkept.
In his house, he had closets and closets
Full of shoes.
He ran over a kid.
After that he would never
Let his wife out of his house.
Once we were covering a Michigan state football game,
After the game, he stood over me as I was finishing my story.
“C’mon, c’mon, c’mon,” he said.
His eyes were wide and saliva dripped from his mouth.
His hands began to shake.
After I sent my story, we rushed to the bar.
When we were served our beers, he gulped down his.
Such a look of relief came over his face.
He grabbed the waitress and said “Wow, look at those tits.”
I thought “Boy.” Ten year later there I was.
Once I interviewed Richard Nixon at the airport.
It was after he lost to John Kennedy.
One of Johnson’s men had been caught
In a public bathroom with another man.
When I asked him about it,
He hunched over and began to hunker down.
My biggest scoop was about a scandal
At the National Guard.
After a year, I went to work as a flack.
When I went to see my former friends at UPI,
I learned right away I was no longer one of them.
Wow. I was no longer part of the business.
My life in public relations was a bore
But it paid me better than the business.
I got married and we had a daughter.
But it was the sixties.
You know freedom riders, civil rights
Vietnam and assassinations.
And of course free love.
One time my little daughter Marguerite
Saw me on the television.
She asked me how I got so small.
At that time, the revolution was coming.
Well, it came and went.
Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.
I started drinking and fooling around.
One time, Marguerite caught me
In the bedroom with another woman.
I kept telling her “I was not that kind of guy!”
When I was married, my wife would always nag me.
The funny thing is when you are alone its worse:
I drank and I drank and then lost my job.
And then I lived on the streets.
Finally I had a heart attack.
As they wheeled me in to surgery,
I prayed to God for another chance.
Well, I gave up drinking and women.
I joined alcoholics anonymous.
I started a garden.
Have you ever planted seeds
And then watch them grow?
If you don’t believe in God,
Raise a garden then decide.
My wife bought me a car and new clothes.
And then I returned to do what I loved best:
Working in the business.
I got a job at the Columbus Dispatch.
And afterwards, came out west.
And now here I am.
I once met a lawyer.
After I wrote a story,
He said I misquoted him.
He then said I made grammatical errors.
So I asked whether he was a literary critic too.
That’s what I like about the business,
We always get the last word.
My poem is about the business,
Freedom of the press,
And the First Amendment,
About the very best
In a great tradition.
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