A Covert Family Tradition

Sharing space here on The Covert Letter™ should cause no sibling rivalry with elder brother Harry. I’ve committed to regular input for your edification and entertainment. We hope this adds to your information appetite.

 My efforts also should not interfere with my commentary each week for https://www.thetentacle.com/ , a news and opinion website originating in Frederick, Md., and published by my friend John Ashbury. I invite you to check it out. The archive of my articles dating to 2002 there reveals an interesting journey for me through the world of cyber-commentary. 

This can be a fun medium. Harry and I take “blue pencils,” the electronic version, to each other’s copy regularly and of course seek approval for what one former colleague dubbed, our “deathless prose.”  We come from at least two antecedents with writing credentials. Grandmother Fay Etta (Dey) Covert was a freelance writer for industrial publications out of Detroit and Dad Harry M. Covert Sr. worked for The Detroit News. No columnist he, but Dad worked both advertising and circulation gigs there before entering the U. S. Army in 1933. 

Harry talks about writing on Dad’s Underwood typewriter, which survived a tumble down the steps from our “loft.” I took turns on the keyboard, but I did the regular touch-type method. I did hunt and peck when I produced my fledgling newsletters on it, figuring out how to justify copy, while typing on a mimeograph transfer sheet Dad provided without instructions. I love this “WYSIWYG” (pronounced wis-ee-wig) desktop publishing stuff, having done a variety of print and cyber publications from books to fact sheets and newspapers. I never conquered the war surplus mimeo’s penchant for getting ink all over me including the paper – but I still love ink, the smell of the news room and I miss the teletypes, the Linotypes™, the lead chases and all that newspaper production used to be.

 Working beside Harry in the practice of journalism dates to 1964 when he and I were seated “pilot/bombardier” fashion in the sports department wing of the Newport News (Va.) Daily Press. My  single-pedestal typing desk put my back to him and we often did over-the-shoulder “read this” action. He was a senior sports writer, having matriculated from the afternoon The Times Herald to the “morning side.” These days we are neighbors in Frederick, in the same parlance as above described, we are live “pilot/co-pilot.”

 I was the new guy that year on Sports Editor Charles Karmosky’s first-rate stable of sports writers. Hank Maloney, who often worked the budget/layout, was a South Pacific Marine veteran, charged with keeping me on track to deadline. I had come from the Williamsburg (Va.) Bureau, where General Manager Robert B. Smith assigned me as a cub reporter, taking a chance on a former copy boy’s ability — at Harry’s urging. Hank, Charlie, Bill Hockstedler and Mr. Smith are long deceased, but their attention and tolerance made me a “newspaperman.”

 Charlie assigned me nearly all the so-called minor sports, high school, college and professional level, fewer column inches in those days, leaving space for the big four – baseball, football, basketball and golf. The bonus was when I became the powerboat and yacht racing reporter — by default, one of the best assignments I could have had excepting the Washington Redskins’ beat. I was often adopted by a yacht captain as a crew member, the best seat in the house for a reporter. I had to survive the competition, the Bloody Mary’s, the sun and wind to get back to the office before deadline to write my copy and transcribe the results. The fun ended in August 1967 when I was drafted into the U. S. Army.

 Sports writing opened up the world of free composition for me, and the rules laid down by Charlie on strict adherence to tight writing, elimination of unnecessary words and the old inverted pyramid style of newspaper writing have guided even my major writing projects. Later on, City Editor Bill Hockstedler, another former Marine, converted me to a journeyman news reporter assigned to cover critical military operations in the Hampton Roads area.

 Elsewhere is a real bio that will tell you how my reputation as a biological warfare historian evolved and landed me here at the point of a triangle, fifty miles from Washington, D. C. or Baltimore.

 Thanks for checking me out once in a while and remember to let me know what you think. In this business one hears the good and the bad. It’s all part of the game. See you on line.

Norman M. Covert