“Triskaidekaphobia – fear of the number 13” – http://www.merriam-webster.com.
I don’t fear Friday the 13th as much as I’ve learned to respect it.
On Friday, May 13, 1988, a letter arrived in the mail that drastically changed my life.
The letter from the San Francisco Bay Area-based Institute for Journalism Education (IJE, now the Maynard Institute for JournalismEducation) informed me that I was invited to an interview at the UC Berkeley School of Journalism, where the institute was hosting a 13-week “journalism boot camp” for aspiring newspaper journalists. A career door finally opened after struggling in dead-end clerical positions five years after I graduated from the University of California, Davis.
That year, I was a secretary-typist for a consulting firm in north Sacramento. In my spare time, I was attending classes at Cosumnes River College in south Sacramento to qualify for internships I later earned at two local television stations – KCRA-TV 3, the NBC affiliate, and KTXL 40, the local affiliate for the new Fox network. I was also writing articles for the Sacramento Observer weekly newspaper, hoping to get some clips for my portfolio.
In the winter of 1988, I had applied to IJE’s Summer Program for Minority Journalists, which takes only 10 people annually out of hundreds of applicants. When I received the rejection letter in March, I figured I would apply to California State University, Sacramento, and work toward my master’s degree in journalism and see if I could get into the field that way. (I’m a big believer in having a Plan B, Plan C, Plan D … you get the idea.)
I arrived home to my South Natomas apartment at the end of a mind-numbing week of work with my bunch of mail from my mailbox. Then I saw the letter from IJE. “What could they possibly want?” I thought. “I was already rejected.”
When I opened the letter and read the contents, my jaw dropped and my eyes filled with tears.
The letter read that I was being invited to a writing test and interview with IJE at the UC Berkeley School of Journalism. I would interview with Jeff Rivers for one of the last few slots. Director Ira J. Hadnot signed the letter.
I was floored. Then I realized what entering the program would mean – 13 weeks in the Bay Area, followed by working for a year with a newspaper that, more likely than not, would be outside California, the home I had known since birth. A mix of excitement and fear prevented me from sleeping well that night.
Long story short, I not only got into the program, I completed it and went to work for The Bellingham Herald, a small newspaper in northwest Washington state then owned by Gannett. (McClatchy now owns the Herald.) I spent 11 months there before returning to California to work for the Daily Republic in Fairfield.
Some people have asked if I regret having been a newspaper reporter. I usually reply, “Never.”
Bad things do happy on Friday the 13th, but so do good things. I’ve learned that it’s not just any other day. Who knows what will happen today?