Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

January 5, 2014

An ordinary guy in the middle

--
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Newspaper people are good people, dedicated, smart and honest. Over 46 years, I’ve wondered what I’m doing here and how I qualified.

What’s a kid born on 80 Wescott St. in Buffalo, at the outer edge of the Depression and 16 days after Pearl Harbor — in the middle of eight children— doing in the middle of the news?

I’ve been free to Interview the last man on the moon and ask O.J. Simpson if he’s ever been in a snowball fight. Been kissed by Morganna the Kissing Bandit. Covered two girls’ soccer playoff games in the cold rain while catching hypothermia. Edited bowling scores at 6 a.m. Waited for the west coast games to finish at 1:45 a.m.

I’ve been mistaken for NHL linesman John D’Amico by coaching legend Scott Bowman and sat at floor level of Madison Square Garden for the finals of the National Invitation Tournament. How about covering the NBA playoffs with my feet on the parquet at Boston Gardens?

I’ve also rushed out to Cambria in response to a fatal motorcycle accident and watched a skydiver plummet to his death in the middle of Hyde Park in Niagara Falls.

There are thousands of stories squished in my brain. Some may have seemed mundane, but they are most important to the people they touch. 

One of my favorite stories featured an inner-city family of five competing in a recreation “Superstars” program. That story made the dad cry. It may have been the first time in his life he was recognized for being a good man. The newspaper made it official.

A wag at work found a story on the Internet listing the top 10 worst careers. Journalism was rated No. 1 — that is, the worst. Maybe those who were polled were just counting money, which reporters don’t make, and the uneven hours that reporters do work. Newspaper people, however, don’t make those very important things a priority. 

They do it because ... well, you’ll have to ask them. Everyone has a story. 

Newspapers give an ordinary guy an opportunity to meet extraordinary people. Better yet, a reporter meets the other 99 percent. A reporter is given credentials to introduce himself, learn and be interested. A reporter can ask and write about garbage totes, tattoos, telephone poles, fish, fights, faith, farming and anything fiduciary. He is not asking for himself, but for the thousands of people who read the paper.

Nowadays, many of those stories go out on the Internet, but they went through a reporter first.

Ask a congressman about the shutdown of the government, then ask a mom at McDonald’s. The last shutdown affected the mom more than the man in the suit, who has lifetime benefits.

For fun, I once asked the Treasurer of the United States to be a guest of the Pigskin Prophets and got an autographed dollar bill. That stuff doesn’t happen to an ordinary guy, but it happened to me — a very ordinary guy.

My philosophy from Day 1 in 1967 was to be fair and have fun. I hope to retain that kind of thinking even if I retire tomorrow — which I am.

Veteran sports and news writer Bill Wolcott worked for the Niagara Gazette and the Union-Sun & Journal for 46 years. On the occasion of his retirement, email your good wishes to him at niagarafallsbill@yahoo.com.

Veteran sports and news writer Bill Wolcott worked for the Niagara Gazette and the Union-Sun & Journal for 46 years. On the occasion of his retirement, email your good wishes to him at niagarafallsbill@yahoo.com.