Editor’s note: It’s Thanksgiving, that singular and, for many, favorite American holiday. We welcome you to hunt around for stories of the true origins of the day, rather than the many mythical versions framed over the years. Here, we just wanted to spend a moment doing what the day’s name suggests. We asked several journalists — freelancers, newspaper reporters, editors, teachers, playwrights, poets, podcasters — to tell us, briefly, what they were grateful for in their professional lives. The answers are reminders that despite the pressures of deadline, low pay and industry chaos all is not bleak. We offer a smattering of those reminders here. We’ll dish up more during the coming holiday season.
I’m grateful for my grandmother, who kept her family together through wars and strife in China in the 1930s and 1940s. They eventually fled to Taiwan, and ultimately settled in the U.S. I keep this photo on hand to remind me that the life I enjoy — and the privilege I have to work as a journalist in a democratic society — was made possible only by the sacrifices of my loved ones.
The photo (above) shows my grandmother in her late 20s, circa 1939, with four children (my mother is second from the left), in a passport photo taken at the China-Vietnam border.
Tom Huang ~ senior editor, The Dallas Morning News
I am grateful for colleagues who are challenging facile definitions of objectivity; for the mentors who patiently helped deepen my views on covering race; for everyone who is finding new ways to tell stories (especially podcasters); for editors who still pay $1.50 or more a word; for fellow writers who fight against draconian indemnification clauses; and for friends who remind me to take weekends off.
Barry Yeoman ~ freelance writer, teacher
John Cherwa, formerly the deputy sports editor of the Los Angeles Times and executive sports editor of the Chicago Tribune.
Although he was but 24 years old when joining the Los Angeles Times Orange County edition, John pushed the creative boundaries of his staff. But this is a Thanksgiving story. John wanted to make sure the whole staff got to have the day off, well, except for me. Together, we would edit and produce a section with columns and columns of space while Twilight Zone re-runs continuously played on the TV on the sports copy desk. Rumor has it a beer or two was sneaked into the newsroom as we dedicated the day and night to getting the Friday edition to bed without typos or other errors.
Elliott Almond ~ sports reporter, The San Jose Mercury News
I‘m thankful for the journalists who have mentored me, from A.J. Hostetler in my first internship, to Pam Weintraub in my first editing job, to Jacqui Banaszynski, for many years now. (Oh, is that awkward to be mentioned in your own post, Jacqui? Too bad!) I’m also thankful for the several little professional communities I’m part of; for the financial stability and health insurance provided by mypatron husband, Joe; for my feline co-workers; and for Darn Tough socks.
Siri Carpenter ~ co-founder and editor, The Open Notebook
I’m grateful for writing colleagues who remind me of what is possible. I’m grateful for distinctly American voices. I’m grateful to my hand, which remembers, little by little, how to relax its death grip on a pen so that I can feel my thoughts, and enjoy the physical act of writing.
Scott Plate ~ actor and director, teacher
I’m thankful for the editor – I’ve had so many, now, I can’t remember which one it was – who told me to read my copy out loud before I turned it in. It is a surefire way to identify bumps, bad words, slow spots in stories. The perfect smoother.
And is there anything better than a freshly-sharpened pencil? I think not.
Nicole Brodeur ~ reporter, The Seattle Times
I am grateful for the professors who supported my writing when, at age 54 and after a 30-year career in technology, I returned to school for a master’s degree. They invited me to write part of the department’s history, contributing to a chapter of a book honoring the centennial of the college, the same school where I had earned a bachelor’s degree 32 years earlier.
Mary Lou Logsdon ~ columnist, The Phoenix Spirit
E.B. White, whose essays showed me that clarity and concreteness make a powerful duo.
And Larry Fortner, may he rest in peace, for being such a wise editor and who gave an uneducated news assistant a chance to show what she could do.
Laurie Hertzel ~ author, book editor at the Minneapolis Star Tribune
I am thankful for Bernie Asbell, the Penn State professor who saw my potential and took an immense amount of time to rip up every story I wrote during four years of his classes, and for my University of Oregon students, whose questions make sure I am always learning.
Also extra bergamot Earl Grey tea and Youssou N’Dour’s album “Egypt.” I could not write a word without either of them.
Lori Shontz ~ journalism instructor, former newspaper reporter and editor
When I was 22 and a young reporter, a new editor came to the paper. His name was Walt Harrington. I was assigned to him. In our first meeting, he asked me if I’d ever heard of Tom Wolfe, Hunter Thompson, or the “new journalists.” I had not.
Years later, I remain most thankful for “The New Journalism,” a book that changed my life, and to Walt Harrington, who loaned it to me, and who has informed and enriched the lives of so many young writers.
Mike Sager ~ author and journalist, editor and publisher of The Sager Group
I’m thankful to Eduardo Martinez, the country’s first prison poet laureate. He has inspired me to be a better writer and a better person by showing what heart means, and living the difference between hope and reality. His work forces me to be more honest with my words. And my actions. Despite his situation, he keeps showing up, inking brilliance. That courage keeps me motivated to be my best, knowing my limitations are incomparable to his daily trials.
Kathie Klarreich ~ author, freelance writer, founder of Exchange for Change
I’m grateful to Ronald L., who told me to make it sing; and to Ruth, who told me (politely) to cut out all that flowery crap and get to the news.
Tom Warhover ~ newspaper editor and journalism teacher
I am thankful for editors who send back copy filled with questions and comments. It can be initially daunting until I realize it’s a symbol of their confidence in me and my potential. And the copy is always better because of them.
I am grateful for readers who maintain a curiosity and loyalty to good storytelling and writing amid this wacky world where well-done journalism can be lost among the bots and memes.
Other writers (whether I know them or am just reading them) provide inspiration and motivation and hope when self doubts linger. They help me through the fallow times, the quiet times, between assignments and projects. Thank goodness they put their words to publication.
I am thankful for true correspondences — the friendly e-mails, the holiday letters — that restore my faith that words still connect us and can make the world better if only in a smile or that human connection that we are thinking of each other in that moment.
For fun I am attaching a thank-you note that Jack brought home from school yesterday. Kudos to his teacher for having the class do so. Thought you might appreciate the humor at the bottom.
Traci Angel ~ writer, editor, author and teacher
Journalists in movies and TV are often terrible role models — murderous opportunists at worst, hectoring annoyances at best. (For a fun list, check out this recent piece from The Ringer.) Still, I get secretly thrilled when a character produces a familiar reporter’s notebook onscreen, and am thankful for the entertainment that gets journalism right.
I love, for example, the roiling banter between Rosalind Russell and Cary Grant in “His Girl Friday;” in it, journalists will recognize the love of language — and one-upmanship — found in any newsroom. I love the tenacity of Woodward and Bernstein in “All the President’s Men,” in the way it portrays reporting as an inch-by-inch advance. And I love the decency found in the reporting team in “Spotlight,” and their unshowy dedication to getting it right.
With shuttering newspapers and lost jobs and attacks by politicians, journalism can seem like a profession loaded with barbed wire. This Thanksgiving I’m grateful for the rare and entertaining portrayal that reflects who we are, and who we can be.
Trevor Pyle ~ reporter, the Skagit Valley Herald