My first front page story for Youngtown Edition was published in my freshman year of college, in October of 1971.
My First Front Page Story
By Richard Mabey Jr.
My father often told me that I should be proud of being a worker writer. My father’s encouragement played such a big role in my determination to be able to make a living as a writer. I don’t know what I would have ever done without my beloved father’s strong belief in me. It was in my freshman year of college that my Dad’s deep belief in me, helped to give me the courage to tackle a very big writing assignment.
In the middle of October of 1971, a golden opportunity came to me. For me, it was a dream come true. The editor of my college newspaper, Barbara, asked me to cover the big state senators’ candidates debate. Barbara told me that she expected me to put my best foot forward, because she had slated the candidates debate article for the front page, above the fold. It was to be the banner headline for that issue. I promised my editor that I would do my absolute best.
The famous “stone wall” of County College of Morris. I am proud to have gone to school there and to have been on the staff of Youngtown Edition.
The truth of the matter is that after I left the Youngtown Edition office, which was located just off of the student center, I inwardly shook like a leaf. I had a big job. My editor trusted me to come through for her. I was determined not to let her down.
Youngtown Edition is still published by the students of County College of Morris. I am so very honored to have played a small role in pioneering this wonderful college newspaper.
Professor Keeler was my English composition teacher. As fate would have it, as if the odds were a million to one, Professor Keeler was also the one assigned to be the Master of Ceremonies for the big state senators’ candidates debate. So, one afternoon, after class, I asked Professor Keeler for his advice in regards to my big writing assignment. I remember Professor Keeler suggested that I do as much research as possible about the two candidates. He also suggested to me that I write down all of my questions that I would have for the two candidates, in advance before the big debate.
I think that Professor Keeler sensed my inward insecurity about the big writing assignment that was only a week or so away. I remember this moment very well. Professor Keeler was sitting behind his desk, in his classroom, talking to me. He took off his glasses, thought for a moment, then stood up and looked me square in the eye. Then simply said to me, “Richard, you’re a good writer. You’re one of my best students. You’ll do well.” I remember that I thanked Professor Keeler for his kind words. They meant the world to me.
The big desk in the upstairs “spare room” of the old Mabey Homestead, was one of my favorite places to study and to write articles for Youngtown Edition and the Lincoln Park Herald.
Well, that very night I began the task of researching the two state senate candidates. I remember this moment so very well. It is burnt in the core of my mind. Dad came upstairs, after watching the evening news. I had been doing my research at the big desk in the spare bedroom, which was just off of the top of the staircase, on the right hand side of the landing.
Dad came into the spare room and asked me what I was working on. I explained to my father about my big writing assignment. Standing beside the big desk, Dad looked at my notes.
“This is a big responsibility, son,” my Dad said to me, as he looked at my research notes.
“I know Dad,” I quietly replied.
“Son, these are important men you’re writing about. Make sure you’ve got all facts straight,” Dad said to me in a stern but compassionate voice tone.
“I don’t know, Dad. The whole thing has me so nervous. My editor’s telling me the importance of this article. She’s going to have it placed on the front page. I just don’t know….. well, I just don’t know…. if …. if …. I’m a good enough writer,” I confided in my father.
Dad looked at me with fire in his eyes. It was as if he wanted to shake me and scream at me that I was good enough.
“Richie, you’re a Mabey. We’re a tough breed. We don’t back down….. we don’t back down from nothing,” my Dad sternly said to me.
“I know, Dad… but….. I just don’t know if I’ll do a good job….” I sheepishly confessed to my father.
“Son, I’ve read a lot of your articles. Mr. Marino down at the Lincoln Park Herald, he wouldn’t have you write for his paper, if you weren’t a good writer,” Dad said to me, in a most serious tone.
“I know Dad, it’s just that…” I replied.
“Just that nothing…. I know Nick Marino. Believe me, he wouldn’t have you write for his paper, if he didn’t think that you were a good writer,” Dad said to me.
“Thanks Dad. I know Mr. Marino takes the Herald serious,” I said.
“You’ll do good son. I don’t want to hear no more of this talk about doubting yourself, you hear me,” Dad sternly told me.
I then promised my Dad that I would do my absolute best in writing the state senators’ article. Dad told me that he knew I would do nothing but my best.
The byline that meant the world to me. My first byline of a Youngtown Edition front page story.
The day of the big state senators’ debate came. I took careful notes during the debate. After the debate, Professor Keeler introduced me to the two state senator candidates. I did my best to keep my cool, but inwardly I shook like a leaf. All the while that I interviewed the two state senator candidates, I thought to myself, “here I am, this boy from a little Mayberry, given the chance to interview the two state senator candidates.”
The autumn leaves of lemon yellow, burnt orange and earthen red, always made fall a special time to be at County College of Morris.
Long story short, my editor was very pleased with my article. Professor Keeler complimented me on the article. And, my Dad brought a copy of the paper to the next scout meeting and showed it off to all the scout leaders of Boy Scout Troop 170. That front page story played a monumental role in helping me to see myself as a real writer.