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Down the Road

Tools of the trade - Cameras and Computers
By Milton M. Gross
Nov 15, 2015 - 2:25:31 AM

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What does a well-equipped news reporter carry?

Since I wasn't trained in college to be a news reporter, I began with the tools I had on hand. One was an old camera my first wife had somehow obtained from a well-off uncle. All I remember about it was that it was old. It did use 35 millimeter film, which allowed me to use the film the publisher provided.

It took fairly good photos too, despite the fact that it was probably older than I was at the time.

I used that camera until I forget what happened to it. Then I went to a photo shop in Lewiston and walked out with a several-hundred-dollar Minolta. I kept that one despite its being dropped on a rock on the Appalachian Trail until finally I gave it away last year to a friend, who was current in his ambitions but behind in his equipment. (By that time I was using our present Kodak little 'beastie' that captures 70 or so photos at a time and sends them nicely to our iMac. I can't get over this camera, as you don't need to focus on something close to get a good shot. Just kind of aim it and it takes great shots.)

My Minolta lasted all the years I was a news reporter and even into my retirement job, driving a tourist bus through Acadia National Park, which position was kind of forced onto me because by that time I knew a lot about the park -- most of the trails. An example of how much I knew occurred a year or so ago, when I spied a cow moose crossing the Park Loop Road in front of my bus, which at the moment was empty. Later that day, I was carrying a woman from New Jersey, and while we drove past that same spot on the Park Loop Road where Miss or Mrs. Moose had crossed. I mentioned to the passenger that I had seen a "cow" there earlier that day.

The passenger didn't say much until awhile later, when she said she was wondering what a cow was doing in Acadia National Park. Being from Jersey, she naturally assumed that a cow was a cow -- a bovine -- and not a moose. Why would a dumb bus driver mistake a moose for a cow.

I don't know either.

Another tool was my nifty electric typewriter on which I typed the news tales of western Maine. Then the page went from the typewriter to a room that housed a computer. The whole room housed that computer. It sent copy out the exit, and that copy was shaped like a newspaper article should be shaped. Imagine that! An electric typewriter that could do so much, much more than could the good old manual Underwood my father had given me when I had entered college.

Oh yes, the car. Make sure it runs okay and doesn't get stuck in the town dump at a fire, which once messed up my day. But entertained the firefighters'.

Bye and bye, which means at another paper where I was later employed, I used a portable laptop computer, typing the tales of so-called news into it, and calling the paper to send the stories directly from that laptop into the paper's apparatus.

Now I have graduated to a table-top iMac, which can print tales of some repute through our home printer or can send them directly to the publisher. I don't do news now that I'm retired. I send my Down the Road a Piece column to an editor in China. Yup, China. He then sends them to an online paper in Millinocket. Millinocket is about as far as I need to go. The editor can be in China, if he wants, or in Australia from whence he hails, or even in Millinocket. (He's a nice guy, who does write English...or Maineiac or whatever it is that we in the Pine Tree State speak or write.)

I also send my column and its questionable tales to another publisher here in Maine, who prints them in four -- I think four -- weekly papers from Belfast to Rockland to Augusta. These columns I type onto an online form provided by that publisher.

Another tool was my trusty reporter's notebook, which I lugged around in a pocket during my journalism days. The rule was never get rid of that notebook, which advice came in handy when a guy in western Maine took me to visit his attorney in Portland, ME, to explain to the attorney how I had written something wrong about him. The attorney decided I written it all right and suggested the contractor treat me to breakfast. A happy ending to a nervous morning.

Good breakfast too and a new friend.

Now I don't use a notebook at all, because I write most tales of questionable repute at home here in my study, with the iMac sitting a little sideways on the desk so I can see past it to the ocean, which is just Down the Road a Piece.

My current most valuable tool is this tabletop iMac, which has room for millions or zillions of "things." Notice Kat in the lower left corner behind the computer. Whenever she thinks I'm going to make an error, she trots across the keyboard as I holler, "Hey, you dumb cat, cut it out." She ignores that, because she knows I'm about to type an erroneous letter or word. Thanks to her, by the time this copy ends up in front of your eyes, it contains very few misteaks. Milt Gross photo.

When I started carrying the laptop, Radio Shack had to keep replacing it every time I spilled coffee or Italian sandwich juice onto it and disabled it. Now I no longer own a laptop, although one would be handy should I decide to write a tale or some type while parked at a picnic table at Lincolnville Beach. I could bring the tale home and download it onto my iMac.

Happily I don't think about writing stories in Lincolnville or at picnic tables, because I'm either napping or taking photos of all those boats or trees or wildlife or mountains...with my little Kodak camera.

I have to say I used to write stories at picnic areas and even in one restaurant over in South Paris on a laptop. One restaurant owner thought I had misused his table enough and told me I could no longer write there. Luckily another restaurant was nearby.

One rule I learned from George Pulkkinen, who was my first newspaper manager, was to keep on writing. Mostly my writing now is freelance. If you don't keep pumping the stuff out, you're no longer a freelance writer.

The final tools I used to use a lot were my legs. When I grew tired, I could go for a walk. Or I could walk as part of my reporter's job, which I did a lot, often backwards at parades. Of course, recently having a hip replaced and moving about on a pair of walking poles, limits walking a lot. But I'll be out there on those most useful tools, legs, pretty soon.

So now that I'm tired of writing.

I'll go take a nap.


Milt Gross can be reached for corrections, harassment, or other purposes at lesstraveledway@roadrunner.com.

Milton M. Gross Copyright 2015


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