Anne Lepore was a longtime director of creative and special sections at the Baltimore Sun and is a former Retriever staff member.
It’s difficult to describe what it was like going to college in the 1980s to anyone who wasn’t there. We were buoyant, so expectant, so optimistic. We wore bowler hats and pegged trousers with no sense of irony whatsoever. We danced at Marshall’s, Schaefer’s and The Depot to hook-heavy music and saw movies like, “My Life as a Dog” at The Charles.
Most of this was semi-relevant to my position as features editor at The Retriever in 1986-1987. It was an official internship that provided me with course credits as well as $40 a week, which I desperately needed to supplement the grubby cash I earned working up to 30 hours a week as a cocktail waitress, as we were called then.
It’s been nearly 30 years and my memories are more like glimpses. There was one computer that we all shared, it had its own room. Tasks were largely manual; “hard copy” was a real thing.
I remember reviewing “Especially for You” by The Smithereens (liked it) and “Louder Than Bombs” by The Smiths, 1987 (loved it). I really enjoyed an untraditional campus performance of “The Importance of Being Oscar.” An acerbic review of a Neil Simon play got me uninvited to a friend’s soccer match for fear I would judge him as harshly.
In retrospect, I realize that I didn’t have sufficient mind-share for the job I held. I was fiercely concentrated on my studies, my living expenses and my boyfriend, in roughly that order. My inattention to The Retriever even got me suspended for a week, deservedly.
During my senior year, 1986-1987, I even blew what could have been a really impactful story. A friend got a job at the local Holiday Spa and told me that their membership practices were racially discriminatory and she had proof – the pre-printed enrollment forms had a code employees could circle to indicate that an applicant was African-American. Those applicants were then either charged higher rates or rejected for membership altogether.
But I wasn’t hard-nosed enough to take on the challenge of investigating. In 1988, a class action lawsuit was filed against Holiday Spas contending that the chain discouraged African-Americans from buying memberships at a majority of its clubs. Who knows whether or not I could have broken the story and if it would have had any impact if I had.
It took me a few more years to realize for certain I wasn’t cut out to be a reporter. In my first job out of college, I spent a year at The Daily Record as a copy editor and then reporter, surrounded by true professionals who lived for the scoop and relished tackling controversial topics. On my last assignment, I interviewed a man whose business had just gone bankrupt; I knew I would never be a journalist.
After I switched to marketing, I spent 23 years at The Baltimore Sun. I finally found a way to be a part of the news business I loved.