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Two female former newspaper "copyboys" have joined forces to conduct a class in Washington College's Continuing Education Program. It's called "How the News Is Made: Like Sausages and Laws, You May Not Want to Know."

One of them, Connie Godwin (now a young 76), has told us about it, after reading our story Copy Boys: An Extinct Species posted in this e-book nearly two years ago. In it, we reported:

Last October, it was announced that Connie Godwin, long time press aide to Senator Ted Stevens, would retire by the end of the year. Noting that she had been on his Washington, DC, staff for almost two decades, Stevens praised Godwin during a surprise lunch in her honor, attended by print and broadcast reporters from the Senate press galleries.

At 74, Godwin was the oldest active press secretary in the U.S. Senate. "She's interesting to work with," Stevens said. "Connie pursues things in her own way. She's a master at trivia concerning the State of Alaska and always produces the right fact at the right time."

Godwin, a former editor of The Anchorage Times, grew up in the newspaper business, where her father was a Hearst managing editor. She began her own journalism career as a copyboy on the Washington Post more than 50 years ago. "In that less politically correct era, you were a copyboy to the editors, regardless of your sex," she noted.

A few days ago, we were pleased to receive this email from Connie:

Hey, Eric, thanks for making me famous in your part of the world. Loved your column on the joys of being a copyboy. And, though it notes that I retired from the Senate, I'm kinda, sorta not retired.

I still do a bunch of stuff for Senator Stevens via computer, as I sit in my terrific home office on Maryland's Eastern Shore, glass on three sides, looking out on a river and woods and birds and even a deer or two, plus smaller critters from foxes to possums and raccoons. Not a bad gig.

Additional copyboy trivia, for your amusement: My husband Stu, a retired FBI agent, is the son and grandson of legendary DC newsmen, and he started out as a copyboy on the old Washington Times-Herald (after Cissy Patterson bought it). He says he saw the error of his ways, and joined the FBI after graduation from college, (which he finished on the GI bill in the early '50s) ....But the real reason, which he won't admit, was that the FBI paid better.

And our middle kid, Chris, now 41 - (a kid? well, yes, to us) - is a copy editor on the Delaware State News in Dover. He began as a copyboy for the AP bureau in Anchorage in the '70s.

When Tad Bartimus became Chief of Bureau (the first woman to be an AP CoB) in Anchorage, she had some discretionary funds, and needed a copyboy. She hired Chris, a 14 -year-old high school sophomore, to come in after school. I think he was paid under the table, since the AP would probably not have countenanced the child labor. Tad continues as a good friend today. I must remember to ask her.

Re rich-kid copyboys, Vivien Elmslie, Joseph Pulitzer's granddaughter, was on the copyboy bench with me. She had, as I remember, just graduated from either Vassar or Wellesley.

Noting Harris Sussman's description of his duties in your column, they were exactly the same as mine, even though they were almost 20 years later. Thanks for a good read, Connie Godwin.


We told Connie her email was so interesting that we'd like permission to post it as feedback in this e-book. She replied:

Of course. You may include anything you think would be interesting in your March edition. I'll also ask a friend, who recently taught a class with me at Washington College's Continuing Education Program if she'd like to share her story. (The class was called How the News Is Made: Like Sausages and Laws, You May Not Want to Know.)

She, too, started as a copyboy, on the old Washington Daily News, a now-defunct Scripps-Howard tabloid. She went on to other papers, then into television news editing and producing, and now runs her own media training program. She's quite a gal.

Washington College, by the way, is the tenth oldest college in our nation, in this small town, across the Chesapeake Bay from the rest of Maryland, on the peninsula known as the Del-Mar-Va Peninsula. When you check your map,. you'll note that a portion of Maryland, all of Delaware, and a tiny portion of Virginia make up the peninsula. The Bay is the largest estuary of its kind in the world!!

Australia's the one place we'd still like to visit....We've already been to interesting European places, and I've been to China. Years ago, in the '60s and '70s, my sister and her husband lived in Sydney. He was an editor of World Book Encyclopedia (owned I believe by Field Enterprises...i.e. Marshall Field of Mid-Century publishing fame), and went to Sydney to launch the Australian/Asian edition of the encyclopedia.

In those days, with kids to educate and buy teeth braces for and send to summer camps, etc., we couldn't afford to travel to Australia. So, we've thought about it ever since. We may yet do it one of these days. If so, we'll alert you. An old neighbor of ours, who lived across the street when we were in Anchorage, is from Melbourne, and has said if we go, she'll go, too, and meet us there.

We're getting one of the biggest snowstorms of the decade today....should be about two feet when it finishes tomorrow (Monday evening, our time)., and I was supposed to have brunch with my copyboy friend mentioned above. She only lives a mile away, but I may not make it.

Best, Connie.

P.S. Our snowstorm was a record. Drifts up to three or more feet in our yard. We couldn't get down our driveway to our street (which had been cleared by the city) until Thursday, when we finally were able to get someone with a huge front-end loader, who cleared enough of a path to escape. It all looked very beautiful, but now that the melting has begun, it's not quite so pretty.

Thank you for your very interesting contribution, Connie. We sure hope you and your husband get around to visiting Sydney one of these days. We look forward to meeting you two former copyboys.

FOOTNOTE. Another former copyboy who once worked in the White House, Herbert G. Klein, who will be 85 this month, has just announced his retirement as edtor-in-chief of Copley Newspapers. but says he'll continue as a consultant to David C. Copley, publisher of the San Diego Union-Tribune and Copley Newspapers' CEO.

The former Nixon White House communications director says: "Journalism has been my profession and politics have been an avocation. ...I hope I've provided ... a role model of climbing from copy boy to editor in chief."

Copyright 2003

Eric Shackle

Story first posted March 2003

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