Joe Tennis, features writer and columnist for The Bristol Herald Courier and author, recently spent some time answering a few of our questions.
What exactly do you do for the paper? What does your job entail?I have written for the newspaper since October 18, 1993. I have had about 4,000 articles published and about 1,500 photos in that time. I take photos, come up with story ideas and write. My subjects range from travel and hobbies to music, books, theater, and personality profiles. I now write my Tennis Anyone? column on Thursdays and Sundays but also do the Empire page plus a Community section front once a month.
What is the most important thing you do in your job?Being diverse and creative.
What is the hardest part of your job?
Being diverse and creative. That is truly hard. You have to bounce from one subject to the next and that can be a real challenge.What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Seeing an idea in print. I really like when a big story comes together or you travel somewhere - be it 2 miles or 200, and you have wonderful photos to illustrate a story, then you have great quotes and a good story to tell.When did you first realise you wanted to do this kind of work? What inspired you to try it?
I tried to start writing books in fifth grade. Lots of kids probably do that, but I just kept going and going. That led me to be on the newspaper in college at age 19, then, in 1990, I was paid for my first story at the newspaper in Virginia Beach. I was inspired to see my words printed. I got ink in my blood in those years. I am still fascinated by seeing words in print.How did you get into this kind of work?
My mother suggested I go from trying to write novels to work for the newspaper at a community college in Virginia Beach. (Now, I have yet to publish or try to publish those early books from the 1980s, but my 'Finding Franklin' book that came out in 2011 had some resemblances to a few things I tried to write years ago. However, 99.5 percent of Franklin was completely new. I used only one sentence from an old book - in describing the scene of a shoreline in Tennessee, but which had been written to describe a scene in Virginia.) Other than that, I also was lucky to get internships with newspapers in Norfolk, Va., and Christiansburg (Roanoke), Va.How long did it take for you to break into the business?
I was a freelancer for newspapers for two-and-a-half years. But that was also while I was in college. I got my first full-time job in September 1992 at the Kingsport Times-News and then moved to Bristol about 13 months later - and, well, I'm still here!Do you have any advice for people wanting to do this for a living?
Do not give up. Take this seriously. Write anything they let you write. Be thankful if you are allowed to write something you really want to write. And do what the editor says when they ask you to write more. Do the best job you can on every article.