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A Journalism Mentor Tribute

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Paul Tokarz, Aug 15, 2008.

  1. Paul Tokarz

    Paul Tokarz New Member

    I have read the sportsjournalists.com website on and off for about four years ever since graduating from Bradley University with a degree in Journalism, and this is the first and probably only time I will ever post on this site. But I just feel compelled.

    You see, I read numerous stories about journalists being laid off, retiring, dying, etc. on this board and the man who introduced me to journalism seems to have run his last leg in the profession—at least as someone who is in the daily grind of producing news.

    Walter Tokarz, a Chicago journalist for the last 30-plus years, was handed an involuntary buyout at the Chicago Tribune today. Now before you go yelling foul, in all honesty, it was probably his time being over 60 years old and he was only a part-timer on the Sports Copy Desk.

    I am sure that I am going to butcher some of his background, but I know that in the 30 years of his journalism background, he worked as an night editor or sports reporter or copy editor at the Chicago Today, the Associated Press, the City New Bureau, and the Chicago Tribune. I know he also freelanced for American Medical Association and USTA Tennis Magazine as well as other publications.

    It was this man who got me my start at the Tribune in the preps department as a part-timer almost five years ago, and trust me when I say that is only one small reason I thank this guy EVERYDAY!

    I remember when this mentor of mine use to take me to the press box of old Chicago Stadium to watch the beauty of Number 23 paint pictures on the basketball court in the 1990’s or Glory Years of Chicago.

    I remember this man taking me to Northwestern to watch probably the worst college football EVER when he was covering a game, but somehow I became the biggest Northwestern sports fan. This journalist even let me learn directly in the press box and interview Gary Barnett in 1995 during the historic Rose Bowl run of the Wildcats (this was because he was interviewing someone in the visitors’ locker room so he needed an assist).

    It was these experiences as well as going to Cubs games and White Sox games and Bears games and Blackhawks games and watching him run all over the place grabbing quotes and writing his story as fast as possible in the press box that gave me an itch for journalism.

    I used to love hearing the stories of sports journalism before the Internet, and how printers would physically have to change hot type, etc. I think he just came from an era that was different than today.

    I remember when I started looking for jobs using online sites, he looked at me like I was crazy as he would hand me newspaper classifieds with his fingers all black from the print.

    This man would even share his glory days of playing 16” softball in Chicago with Bill Jauss and would tell me war stories of his team being playing Mike Royko’s and how Jauss would always be close to punches when the two squared off. I guess they both had short fuses.

    Eventually, when I started playing softball for the Tribune, this man even made it to some of my games…

    I can go on and on about this mentor of mine because I have just so many stories.

    My journalism dreams/aspirations died a few years ago when I left Washington, DC to come back home and work in education, and to be honest I feel good about that decision.

    However, in the future, whenever I freelance or if I ever write again at a full-time capacity, I will always remember the man who introduced to me journalism.

    I know this man would undoubtedly be PISSED at me for writing about him on this site, but I don't care. I really don't think he even knows this site exists (he is EXREMELY old school). This is a man who taught me what sports journalism was all about. And I thought I'd share with you just a tad about a sports journalist who seems to have completed his last deadline.

    Thanks DAD for all the experiences and the memories and the guidance!

    I will have a beer for you tonight at the Billy Goat!

    Paul Tokarz
  2. Bullwinkle

    Bullwinkle Member

    Congrats to your dad.
  3. Angola!

    Angola! Guest

    Not sure if a congrats is in order, but great storytelling Paul.
  4. Bullwinkle

    Bullwinkle Member

    After 30+ years in the business? Why not. Hopefully he has a lot to look forward to.
  5. Joe Williams

    Joe Williams Well-Known Member

    Congrats to Walter for his years of service and fine work.

    Congrats to Paul for getting the hell out of this business while he was young enough to do something else.

    This ain't your father's Oldsmobile anymore.
  6. Scouter

    Scouter Member

    Congrats to your dad for his years of work.

    And go Braves! [/bradleyfanboi]
  7. Paul Tokarz

    Paul Tokarz New Member

    How bout that....Another Bradley guy!

    It really is amazing how much things have changed. Again, I am clearly no expert on the history of journalism but just talking to some old timers and even some current journalists, it is amazing how fast things are changing.

    It's hard to tell current journalism students to stay in the game and to have hope that there will be jobs when they graduate.
    I guess it's bittersweet. And there is ALWAYS something to look forward to!
  8. Clerk Typist

    Clerk Typist Guest

    Wally is a great guy. Used to work a shift at City News, then string a game for UPI or AP. Absolutely rock-solid, helpful to the new kids, and enjoyed the atmosphere, too.
    Paul, buy him a beer too!
  9. Paul Tokarz

    Paul Tokarz New Member

    Did you know him through City News or UPI or AP? Either way, I will pass along the kind words!
  10. I didn't know Walter, but I dig the sentiment.

    Many of my mentors are dead or otherwise out of the business, most not by their (true) choosing. Two of my best J-school profs are now dead, and I'm sure it would sadden them to see the state of the business today.

    All the best to Paul and Walter.
  11. forever_town

    forever_town Well-Known Member

    It's great to show appreciation for your mentors. I'm glad you had such a great one in your father.

    I don't know where journalism is headed, but all I can do is the best job possible every time I write, edit, design a page or take a photo. And hopefully, I can learn and pass on what I've learned along the way.

    You do yourself and your father credit with this great tribute.
  12. Joe Williams

    Joe Williams Well-Known Member

    One thing I wish I had paid better attention to, when I was in college and choosing this profession, is how few role models it offered. Then and especially now. Even then, the best a reporter or line editor could hope for was maybe a good 25 years in this business before you started getting viewed as and treated like yesterday's laundry by those on the management ladder. If you were among the 5-10 percent who made it to columnist or SE, maybe you milked a few more years. But many veteran reporters I know say that, yeah, their first 20-25 years in this biz were fine, even fun. After that? Not so much. They weren't changing jobs as much, so they weren't the latest boss' hire. And they got moved around beats and assignments like old furniture.

    At least magazines would convey "senior writer" or "senior editor" status on veterans. But newspapers generally haven't.

    That's why -- beyond the breakneck rate at which technology, audiences, advertising and everything else is changing for this profession -- I have serious doubts that even the newly minted college grads will find much satisfaction in this beyond their early-to-mid 40s. At which point they'll be looking for a door out but with all the obligations (mortgage, college bills, retirement savings) of middle age.

    Only the suits and their six-figure salaries are allowed to age, or even exit, gracefully in this business.
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