Oh, how the numbers add up

The reporter as a young man
The reporter as a young man

Got an email recently from an area student who said she wanted to meet and talk about a media studies project she had pitched to her teacher.

So we met at Hollywood’s Deli near Roanoke and she asked: “Do you mind if I use you as the subject of a term paper?”

Almost choked on my sub but managed to stammer something like “are you kidding me?”

“No,” she said. “I’ve done a lot of research on new media and I’ve found that you’re one of the more prolific writers and visual journalists on the web and through other mediums.”

“Are you serious?  I’m sure there are others who have written and produced far more.”

She handed over a spreadsheet going back 52 years, a project she began last year when I spoke to her media class.

Starting with the first photo and story I sold to The Herald in Farmville, VA, in 1959 — when I was 12 — the spreadsheet listed number of articles written, number of photos published and estimates of words written over more than five decades.

The numbers surprised me: 371 articles and columns at the Roanoke Times from 1965-69, 119 photos published.  Twenty-nine appearances on WROV Radio from 1968-69 as the panel moderator on “Teen Talk.”

During nearly 12 years in Alton, Illinois, 1822 news articles, features and columns, 493 photos, 122 cover photos on the paper’s weekend magazine.

“How did you find all this?”

“Nexus on-line research for some and a lot of time going through microfilm at public libraries.”

She found articles I forgot I had written for publications I didn’t remember:  A feature on life in Washington for St. Louis Magazine, a profile of Phyllis Schafly for Viva, a photo essay in Look, an op-ed for The New York Times while working for The National Association of Realtors.

She found that I wrote all stories on the front page of The Alton Telegraph nine times during my tenure there and five times over the last six years on the The Floyd Press.

Even more surprising was her research on the Internet.

“You’ve written 13,358 articles that have appeared on the web from October 1, 1994 through Dec. 15, 2011,” she said. “That’s an average of more than two a day and, if you use an average of 500 words, more than 3.1 million words over the last 17-plus years.”

More than half of those articles were written for print publications and published online.

Wow. No wonder my fingers ache nowadays.

According to her spreadsheet, I’ve written 23,051 articles for newspapers, magazines and online, published 21,312 photos, filmed and edited nine documentaries and 584 videos. Using the 500 word per article baseline, that adds up to 11.5 million words, at least two photos a week in a career that goes back to 52 plus years.

“You, as an individual, write at least two articles a day on the Internet and have done so for more than 17 years, plus all the photos and videos,” she said.

I had no idea.

Maybe I do need to retire. I probably need the rest.

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