Pages From The Past


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I came across an old-ish newspaper in a pile of papers recently.

Old-ish being relative. I have stacks of newspapers that date back decades; this one was only from August.

It took me a second to realize why I’d kept it; none of the big stories meant anything. Was it just one I forgot to read? (Or, perhaps, forgot to throw away?)

And then I saw it, a small bit about a German exchange student coming back to visit Indianola. The piece was in the “Pages From The Past” section — it was a story originally published in The Enterprise-Tocsin ten years earlier.

It was a story I had written. Saskia Kriester had come to Indianola as an exchange student a few years earlier, and had been placed with a family that stole from her. So that she wouldn’t have to be sent back, the city court clerk and her husband took her in for the rest of the year. A few years later, she came back to the U.S. on a visit and spent some time with her hosts. I covered the entire saga for The Enterprise-Tocsin, all those years ago.

I saved the issue with the 10-year recap because it was the last time I would appear there for a very long time. The story about the return visit was one of the last things I wrote for The E-T before leaving newspapers to come work at Marshall.

My career with The Enterprise-Tocsin spanned six years. When I left, it was only four years before my first stories started appearing in Pages From The Past. They popped up intermittently over the next six years, and disappeared again in August. Theoretically, I’ll start showing up again in nine more years, when my first stories start appearing in the 25-years-ago section. If they still publish Pages From The Past then. If, to be honest, they still publish then.

It’s strange to me that part of my life is now more than a decade ago. It seemed like such a long time, like such a defining thing when I was there. Now it’s a footnote. It shows up on my resumé and LinkedIn, and every once and a while I have to write a bio for something long enough to include “a former newspaper editor.” But it seems like a different life now.

There are a few remnants. I still use reporter’s pads as my notebooks. I love getting to put on my Mississippi journalist hat for “Mud & Magnolias” magazine.

But it’s been a long time since I left a newsprint stain on something I’ve touched. And, as silly as it is, on some days, I find that fact a little sad.

One More Byline


I’d not spoken the words in almost a decade.

“I’m David Hitt, and I’m a reporter…”

But they flowed just as nicely as they ever had.

Just to be safe, I’ll not tell the whole story yet. It’s always better not to announce what story you’re working on until it’s in print, so for the moment I’ll hang on to what exactly I was writing and who I was writing it for.

I will say it involved spending a day in Mississippi, which just made the whole thing that much better.

For those that don’t know, many many moons ago, I was a newspaperman. I was a Mississippi weekly newspaper editor at one point, and in those days thought I would go to my grave as a Mississippi newspaper publisher. NASA intervened, and the ink gradually left my veins. Or, at least, my fingerprints stopped being permanently smudged with newsprint ink.

As best as I recall, I’ve only written for one (non-book) print publication in the last decade, and I didn’t do any original reporting for it. And while my writing for NASA and the books involved at times extensive research and interviews, they weren’t quite journalism in the way I’d had been used to.

But over a month ago, I was talking to a friend while visiting Mississippi, and my friend mentioned knowing someone who might be looking for a freelance writer for an upcoming project. My information was passed along, and jumped at the opportunity when it was offered.

Earlier this week, I submitted my first news feature for a print publication in almost 10 years.

Making it even better, while some of the work was done remotely, I spent a day in Mississippi last week doing research. I explored a town. I interviewed people. I introduced myself as a reporter.

I carried my reporter’s notebook and pen.

I was happy. It felt right.

Really, it was amazing how easy and right it felt. A decade is a pretty good chunk of time, and yet it was natural. If there was any rust there, I wasn’t aware of it. To be honest, I don’t know that I wasn’t better at it last week than I was 10 years ago — the old skills were still there, enhanced by a decade’s worth of greater confidence and better narrative awareness. And working again in Mississippi, even for a day — I felt like a Mississippian again, even just for a day. I’m pretty sure my accent changed while I was there. It still fit.

The article was a one-off thing, and I’m not sure if there will be more opportunities from the same group. I really hope there will be.

There may be a little more ink left in the veins after all.