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Mesa Musings: My thanks to editors for three years of columns

April 09, 2012|By Jim Carnett

Three years ago this week I became a weekly columnist for my hometown newspaper, the Daily Pilot.

It was a dream come true.

I'd recently retired after 37 years as director of community relations at Orange Coast College. I'd been an avid Pilot reader since the early 1950s and, as a media relations professional, had worked closely with its staffers for decades.

I felt an abiding loyalty to the publication.

But when the Pilot approached me about penning a weekly column, I was torn. Am I worthy? Do I have anything to say? (Some still ask that!)

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My goal, after signing on, was to last six months — 26 columns. After that, what? My limited cache of column ideas was certain to be exhausted. I'd have to gracefully bow out. I warned Pilot editors that I might have to shut things down after a few months.

Surprise, surprise. I'm still here! And I've come to love this gig.

I've been a newspaper junkie since I was a kid. I wrote a sports column for the Hitching Post, Costa Mesa High School's newspaper, during my sophomore and junior years. My career aspiration at the time was to become a sports columnist for a large metropolitan daily.

In high school I also worked as a prep reporter for the Daily Pilot (Globe-Herald) sports page. I earned a whopping 15 cents per column-inch of copy published (not including the headline), meaning that a sprawling 20-inch story — that probably took me two days to write — garnered a cool $3.

My future couldn't have been brighter!

I worked first for sports editor Rich Martin in 1960, and then for the legendary Bill Doner the following year.

Doner was the best sportswriter I've ever met. I was 16 (he was in his early 20s) and I idolized him. He was charismatic and cocky — a journalistic wunderkind who could crank out crackling news copy like nobody's business. He was a machine.

The Newport Harbor High School and OCC product left the Globe-Herald in the mid-1960s to launch a sterling 40-year career as an "uber-promoter." He became a drag-strip entrepreneur and promoted thousands of events up and down the West Coast.

Doner, who now resides in quasi-retirement in a local desert community, also promoted many major Las Vegas sporting events, and was offered a World Football League franchise in 1974.

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