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When I was a kid, one of my favorite TV shows was Lou Grant--the Mary Tyler Moore Show spinoff about the staff of a daily newspaper in California. Each week the reporters got involved in dramatic situations that looked like a lot of fun.
I was also a big comic book reader, and my favorite character was Superman's girlfriend, Lois Lane. She juggled romance with the man of steel and a career as a crime-fighting, time-traveling, adventurous newspaper reporter--and looked fabulous while doing it. I understood that real-life journalists didn't have quite the same experiences these fictional characters did, but pretty early on, I decided I wanted to follow in their footsteps. Fortunately, journalism was also the "family business," so it wasn't difficult to get started.
When I was 15, my parents owned a weekly local newspaper in Coffeyville, Kansas, called The Village Vanguard. It was a mom-and-pop-and-son operation. We all performed various tasks, and besides being the main paperboy (tossing papers onto lawns from my dad's Chevy Citation), I was also the man-in-the-street reporter. I'd approach people in the parking lot of the local Wal-Mart, and ask a burning question like "What makes Christmas special for you this year?" I took their photos, wrote up their answers, and just like that, I was a professional journalist.
During my senior year in high school, I was editor of the school newspaper, the Tornado Times, and the yearbook, the Twister. (Our mascot was also a big storm--a "golden tornado.")
I went on to study journalism in college -- first at Coffeyville Community College, where I was editor of the Coffeyville Collegian; then in Manhattan, Kansas, at Kansas State University, as the features editor for the Kansas State Collegian.
After college, for a while I stayed in Kansas, where there weren't many media-related jobs. I was managing editor of a couple of livestock publications -- The Arabian Horse Express and International Exotic Livestock & Wildlife -- but by 1994, I realized if I ever wanted to write about something besides horses and llamas, I'd better get out of the Midwest, so I moved to New York City.
I worked steadily as a freelance editor and desktop publishing specialist, and eventually I took a full-time job at BBDO Advertising, working on one of the biggest ad accounts in the business: Pepsi-Cola.
I enjoyed my work at BBDO, but I missed the magazine-office atmosphere, so after a year I left the agency and went to Ziff-Davis Publishing as Assistant Managing Editor of Computer Shopper magazine -- which was weighing in at 1,200 pages a month while I was there.
I moved within the company to work at FamilyPC magazine, as Copy Chief, then like a lot of New York journalists, I got caught up in the dot-com frenzy and went to work for a website. I left there in less than a year, returning as a freelancer to a branch of Ziff-Davis that had been purchased by CNET Networks.
For a few years, I divided my time between managing special issues for CNET (including two issues of The Fortune/CNET Tech Review in association with Time Inc.), and working in my photo studio in Tribeca.
My health took a downturn in October 2002, necessitating a "semi-retirement." I've been battling colon cancer, and the effects of chemotherapy have made it impossible for me to handle "nine-to-five" office work, so I now concentrate my creative energies on writing and editing. Click here to read about the books I've written and to read a few of my essays.
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Images © 2004 Craig Hamrick