Random thought: I've been a journalist since 1980. For context, that's the year the Rubik's Cube was invented.

And Post-It notes.

My gosh, Post-it notes! My journalism career is older than paper and glue.

Let's see, I must have learned something in these 40 years worth passing down to my kids.

OK, here's a thought experiment. I'm going to quickly write down 20 things that I've learned by being a journalist.

Deep breath.

Ready. Set. Go.

1. I was writer/reporter for 12 years before I was allowed to express an opinion in public. That was a good thing.

2. The eraser on a pencil is just as important as the lead.

3. If you keep quiet and nod your head, people will tell you interesting stuff.

4. It's a myth that most Americans don't like to talk about themselves. If you don't believe me, ask them.

5. Writer's block is not a thing in journalism. An empty notebook is a thing.

6. It's hard to balance a telephone on our shoulder, type and ask questions all the same time. Somehow, it was easier years ago with a cigarette in my mouth.

7. Some people would rather spot a typographical error in a newspaper story than find a $100 bill on the sidewalk. Well, me, too.

8. Deadlines are not scary. Realizing you don't have a pen or paper at a news scene is scary.

9. A newspaper should cost the same as a really good muffin.

10. I call tell you in 1.5 seconds if a telephone caller is crazy.

11. Strong coffee is to writing as motor oil is to the internal combustion engine.

12. Little-known secret: Most famous people with an entourage are no smarter than you are.

13. There's a difference between objectivity and balance. Objectivity is elusive, but if you don't constantly strive for balance, you'll eventually stagger and fall down.

14. Black Friday is overrated. I worked 30 Black Fridays in a row, yet I still have still managed to acquire a memory foam pillow.

15. The best reporters have crumbs under their desks.

16. Years ago, I'd spent hours in a library looking for the answer to "What happened in 1980?" The internet is a good thing.

17. Most reporters who leave the business at some point wish they hadn't.

18. The key to surviving in journalism — or any job — is to find out what your boss needs and do more of it.

19. There used to be more reporters and fewer public relations professionals. Some day there will just one reporter, and everybody else will be in PR. Then, finally, the sides will be even.

20. News used to end at the bottom of the page. Now it just scrolls forever on your phone. This is not right.

Contact Mark Kennedy at or 423-757-6645.

some text
Mark Kennedy / Staff file photo