Thursday, April 16, 2015
You need a friend on the inside
You don't get a job without someone on the inside.
In most cases, that is. You need someone both rooting for you, encouraging you, and also boosting you among the harried, hostile mucky-mucks you are trying to impress.
At the Sun-Times, for me, that someone was Wilma Wall. A tall, calm, editorial assistant in the features department, she took my phone calls, helped me strategize, soothed my disappointments. Not that, in my early 20s, I was anything special. But Wilma was nice to everyone, and I fell into that broad category. The features editors at the time—Carol Stoner, Susan Axelrod, and Scott Powers—were a fortress of shrugging indifference, and I can't say I remember them with a half teaspoon of affection, collectively. Wilma Wall, however, was my ladder over the rampart.
She made me think I could actually get a job at the paper, and after two years of freelancing and constant, gerbil-on-a-wheel effort, along with a helpful union complaint filed against me claiming that I wrote so much I constituted a non-union scab, they did grudgingly hire me, 28 years ago.
When my mother first visited my new place of employment, to be proudly shown around the bustling newsroom on the fourth floor of 401 North Wabash, I of course introduced her to my champion, Wilma Wall.
"We did it!" she cried, leaping up and hugging my mother, who never forgot the moment. Nor did I, which made me sad Thursday to see Maureen O'Donnell's fine obit of Wilma, and sadder still to see that she was living right in Northbrook all this time. I wish I had known. I'd have visited her, and thanked her, yet again, for all her kindness to me.