Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

What better way to make a living?

by John Halverson

May 30, 2013

Reasons I love this job:

I just got a call from someone wanting to know the exact time of the next full moon.

“Are you into astrology?” he asked.

“No,” I replied.

“Well, the moon is my ruling planet.”

He was 79, he said, and obviously unfamiliar with the Internet. There was soft, New Age music in the background.

I tried to help him out. My calendar gave me the day, but he wanted an exact time for where he lived.

“11:27 p.m.,” I said, reading from a website.

“Thanks for your perseverance,” he said.

Thoughts running through my mind:

I’m only 13 years younger than he is. Will I be making calls like that?

Why was the exact time important? Is he going to do a dance or light a candle?

It’s amazing how people think we’re the fount of all knowledge, but I’m flattered when they still believe newspapers are places to call.


Last weekend, I felt the yin and the yang of my calling.

I shot pictures at an incredible event at a church where they gave away — yes, gave away — everything you could need in your house or on your person.

Clothes, furniture, appliances, books. Yes, gave away. And there was no limit on what you could take. People filled up trucks and put couches on top of their cars. Amazing.

When I got there, the biggest crowds had already gone through and the line waiting was still hundreds long. It was amazingly organized. I know civic events that could learn a lesson or two.

The receivers were amazed. Children liked going around picking out their own clothes without approval from their parents. I heard someone ask: “Can we really take this?” Yes, of course, was the answer.

The one after that was at a convention of vintage sports cars that can be worth as much as a house.

And that night I attended a hospital event where I felt underdressed in a sport coat, nice pants, white shirt and tie. Almost every other guy was wearing a tux.

How many other jobs cover so much socio-economic ground in one day?


I have to admit I enjoy meeting celebrities.

A few weeks ago I had a chance to interview Rep. Paul Ryan.

I was feeling good about myself when the former vice presidential candidate recognized me.

But then he asked why he hadn’t seen me at Mass lately and I told him, for at least the third time, I hadn’t gone to that church or lived in that city for nearly a decade. Talk about feeling put back in your place. Guess I can’t drop his name anymore.

When I was just out of school on my first newspaper job, I was publically chastised by a senator for wearing my hair too long. I’ve been telling that story for years.

Once I interviewed one of my favorite authors.

He asked me if I could send him a copy of the story I wrote and gave me his home address, which I still have filed away somewhere.

I never sent him the story though because I never wrote it. I was just too intimated, knowing I could never make it good enough for someone I admired so much.

But at least I had the chance to meet him face-to-face.


Everyone thinks the newspaper business is so romantic.

Many of my co-workers will disagree, but I still buy into it.

For starters, I met my ex-wife and my current girlfriend while working at newspapers.

Beyond that, I still think it’s got a “Front Page,” “Lou Grant” type romance to it.

There’s a lot of truth to those depictions.

I remember the days when we used typewriters and everyone swore and smoked at their desks, when guys beat the dress code by wearing their ties at half-mast and everyone went out for a stiff drink when the day was done. I secretly miss the chatter of the AP wire machine and the bells that would go off when something important came over.

I even love the deadlines. The best things I’ve ever written were when I had to jam something out in as much time as it took someone to read it — and people wonder how newspapers make mistakes.

I still love the challenges, the deadlines, our in-house debates and hearing someone buy a paper at our front desk.

I hate it when I make a mistake — and I still make too many. I love it when we “scoop” somebody and hate it when we get beat. I wish we could get to every story. But even those negatives are part of the bigger picture my job draws just about every day.

What other profession gets the chance to peek into someone else’s life without having to live it full time?

I’ve covered fancy galas and taken a thousand and one pictures of parades, ribbon cuttings and trophy presentations.

I’ve ridden around with a taxi driver and policemen. I’ve jumped out of airplanes and walked the debris of an airplane crash. I’ve spent days with tailors, artists, politicians and athletes. I’ve had the subjects of my stories threaten me and bring me cake.

What other profession has such variety?


I love knowing people and being able to drop in unannounced.

One of my favorite pastimes is taking a walk around Lake Geneva’s wonderful downtown, dropping into shops and chatting with the owners.

I love that I can write about the things I love about this city — the lake, the busyness, and the amazing variety of people.

I love it when some of my “old-timers” walk in for a chat. The front office tries to screen for me sometimes; I don’t think they believe that I enjoy those times to connect with people I wouldn’t normally know.

I even love talking to “contrarians” who can find dissatisfaction with so much — I appreciate their feistiness even if it gets wearing on the public. I try to listen and we usually find something we can agree on. I view it as a sport instead of a war game; just part of a wonderful job.

And I especially like it when we can shed light on an issue, paint a word portrait of someone, tell about what we see, what we hear and, as in this case of this column, what we think and feel.

I like it when I can solve someone’s problem — even if it’s as simple as telling them about the next full moon.

Call it work — and some days it is — but, even after 40-some years in the business, I can’t imagine enjoying any job as much.

Halverson is editor and general manager of the Regional News.