Mentors — An Appreciation

BECAUSE OF DARRYL CURTIS, I still say “deh-TAILS” instead of “DEE-tails.”

Darryl was my boss at Santa Rosa news-talk radio station KSRO more than 20 years ago. To say I learned from him everything I know about radio reporting would be an understatement, just as it would be to name Bill Hoban as being responsible for everything I learned about newspapering during my 1998-2003 tenure at the Sonoma Index-Tribune. I owe both of these guys a lot; not only for teaching me about the craft, but also about the ethics involved — and the sheer joy of doing the job.

That last part is key. Nobody goes into radio or print journalism to get rich. It’s a calling, and my mentors (as well as my colleagues) treated it that way. It’s nice to get a behind-the-scenes look at history in the making, especially when you have someone leading you who knows the way.

Socrates put it best when he asked an old man for his perspective on life, saying “You have traveled farther down the road by which we all must go. What have you seen?” There’s stuff you can’t learn from even the best guide- or stylebooks, which must needs address only generalities rather than specific applications to your own personal situation. Stuff like “I’ve just been subpoenaed by an attorney for the subject of my investigative piece.” Or “I’ve just locked all the live-remote equipment, as well as the keys, inside the company car.” Or even “I just recorded over (or lost to a crash) the long, complex feature I was working on.” Stuff that leads to the inevitable question, “What do I do now?”

Mentors have their own way of making an lifelong impression. I can’t listen to another radio station’s “dead air” without hearing Darryl bellow “I DON’T HEAR ANYTHING!” Or fight a losing battle against the clock without imagining Bill perched behind me like a vulture, saying softly, “You are now ONE minute over deadline.” “You are now TWO minutes over deadline.” “You are now THREE …”

But the best thing about mentors is that they make you want to excel. They give you a high standard to emulate, one that both sets and proves an example that will inevitably spill over into your non-work life. Their points of honor become your own, or at least the basis of your own.

Make them proud. It’s just that simple.

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