Archive for the ‘nostalgia’ Category

Letter to a Newbie

Posted: August 23, 2012 by Lincoln Brunner in doubt, nostalgia, writing

My wife found the letter — hand-typed, with the correction-tape scars to prove it — in a box in the basement.

The letter was written on March 30, 1993, by a Chicago Tribune columnist to a young journalist dreaming of the big time. Back then, before the Internet swallowed our newspapers like a whale gobbling krill, the “big time” meant papers like the Trib. That still is the big time, I think, but not like the days of the monoliths, when giants mediated truth. Back then, even two short paragraphs on real Chicago Tribune letterhead meant something.

But what a punch those two grafs packed for me, a greenhorn working on a college weekly for minimum wage. I read every word, over and over, like a kid savoring a note from Santa Claus himself:

Dear Lincoln Brunner–

Thank you for your letter and the enclosed editorial. I’m flattered that you would want to some day be a journalist–it’s great to know that talented people want to enter a field that can often be more difficult than it is glamorous. I realize that the competition for journalists is keen, and so breaking into the field will prove to be a challenge, but perseverance will pay off. Judging by your writing, I would say that you are most certainly on the right path.

There are many great stories to be found, and I wish you the best in finding those that help you on your path to success.


 Bob Greene

Almost 20 years on, reading those words again this morning refreshes my soul. For a major league columnist like Greene to take the time to write to a complete unknown (heck, I’m still a complete unknown, just with experience) … wow. I remember now how much that letter boosted my confidence, and how that bit of confidence helped keep me going through what would be a critical time in my life and career.

I landed my first reporting gig a little more than a year after the letter arrived, a general assignment job that taught me almost everything I know about reporting.

So thanks, Bob Greene, wherever you are. Your two paragraphs helped launch a journalism career two decades old now — and by God’s grace, they have been a success.

And you were right — perseverance does pay off.