DeWayne's World - The best job in the world

DeWayne Bartels

Although it was years ago when the publisher called me into his office, I remember it like it was yesterday.

It was a Monday.

I had been employed by what is now TimesNewspapers for a couple of years as a reporter and columnist in Morton.

Back then, I wrote a good deal about my family in my column.

For some reason, which remains a mystery to me, my wife and children did not want me to use their real names in my column. So, I referred to my wife as “The Little Woman.” She is short, after all.

Well, the publisher had a stern look on his face that Monday morning.

He told me the preceding Saturday he was in the grocery store.

A woman asked him if he was the publisher of the paper I worked for. He told her he was.

She said she did not appreciate my use of the derogatory term, “The Little Woman.”

The publisher told her he enjoyed my columns and did not plan to tell me to stop.

She slapped his face.

I sat there wondering what was coming next.

He leaned across the table coming closer to me.

“When I see that kind of response to a columnist, I know he’s doing something right,” he said.

“Keep it up.”

And, so I have.

As a result, I have made a lot of other visits to the publisher’s office over the years about a story, editorial or column I penned.

But, I’m still here.

I passed the 20-year mark writing for TimesNewspapers, and hit the 30-year mark in the newspaper business on Friday.

I have worked in various capacities for various newspapers in various jobs, from microfilm camera operator to general manger.

But, it was with these newspapers I found my home. 

The late newspaper columnist Lewis Grizzard said, “Being a newspaper columnist is like marrying a nymphomaniac — It’s great for the first two weeks.”

All I know is, after 20 years, I still look forward to filling the empty white space on a Peoria Times-Observer page.

A newspaper, I’ve found, is like a child.

It is a source of pride, anguish, disappointment, frustration and joy.

But, it is not dull.

This work has brought me notoriety, threats, happiness, saddness and incredible memories.

This work resulted in me being called a son of a b**** in a board meeting by a former Central Illinois mayor.

I’ve been threatened by Illinois Nazis.

I was arrested for delivering papers in Creve Coeur, charged with littering and conspiracy to commit littering. 

I was pummelled by an old woman while she was being investigated for a DUI.

I was left laying on the pavement of a bowling alley parking lot with a huge gash in my head from a not-so-pleased interview subject.

My wife, who warned me not to go interview gang members at midnight, was also not pleased.

This work led me to pursuits that resulted in saving two lives — an old woman who wandered away from a nursing home and was lying in a creek, the other a convicted serial killer on death row in Texas.

I helped convince the governor he was not guilty. Try to tell me it isn’t cool to get Christmas cards from a convicted serial killer at your office, and you will be fighting a losing battle. 

By the way, when I saved the old woman’s life, her older brother tried to hit me with his cane when I identified myself as a reporter and asked for a quote.

How can one have an experience like that and not say, “I have the best job in the world.” 

This work also led me to Statesville Penitentiary to witness an execution.

In short, this work has left an indelible mark on me.

And, judging by the reaction over the years, my work has left an impression on some others — like the woman who slapped my publisher, Nazis and the mayor who called me a son of a b****.

That is what any writer wants — more than money or recognition. 

Jonathan Miller said, “The only satisfaction comes from survival.”

I can relate.