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  • Writer's pictureDavis Young

DY: In Just a Few Words (#109)

My college years. Part 2.

There was a legendary journalism professor at the University of North Carolina who was known far and wide as the most stringent grader on the entire campus. His specialty was community journalism, and rumor had it that he had never graded any assignment with an A. That would certainly have ruined his day.

In addition to his academic responsibilities, he was the editor of the local weekly paper. Unlike today, when parents parachute into the grading process to ask why their wonderful, brilliant child didn’t get an A, no one would dare face off against this man. That would have been a very short conversation. So you - and your parents - accepted your grade. Whatever it was.

Now he was a terrific journalist, but nothing - and I mean nothing - was ever good enough for this crusty old guy. I actually worked for him one summer. I wrote news and feature stories, even an occasional editorial. I ran the photo engraving machine and did some page layout. I was a proofreader who carefully checked every syllable. I delivered quantities of papers to our local drugstores and grocery outlets for sale to their customers.

We put a darn good community newspaper on the newsstands every week. Readers knew that, bought it and read it.

As a journalism major and editor of the student paper, it was just a matter of time before I would encounter him in a classroom. And, so I did.

Our class of perhaps 20 students got a writing assignment one day. I was hoping for a B. Again, NO ONE thought about the possibility of an A from this guy. Now, professors have many different styles when it comes to returning fully graded papers. In this case, the grade was on page one in the upper right-hand corner, with comments below.

I couldn’t believe my eyes. There it was. Grade: A.

Then came the comment: This paper is not entirely rotten.

This was an excuse to pump some quarters into my dormitory pay phone for a celebratory call home to my parents.

Hello, I just got an A on a writing assignment from the prof who never gives anyone an A.

That’s great, they responded. Nice going.

Then came a question I found very awkward. Did he say anything or just give you a grade?

Well, the truth is that he did write a comment.

And, what was that?, my proud parents asked.

This paper is not entirely rotten.


I guess there’s always room for some improvement. I’m still working on that.


DY: In Just a Few Words is a blog that comes out when something needs to be said or every Tuesday - whichever comes first. Davis Young is a communications professional who adds 50+ years of experience and perspective to issues of the day. His emphasis in DY: In Just a Few Words will be humor (a touch of sarcasm here, a pinch of facetiousness there...). Once in a while, he will touch on something a bit more serious - but hopefully not too deep or depressing.

This blog is a product of DY Author & Speaker LLC. Feel free to quote content with attribution. Respond. Agree. Disagree. Share the content with your friends. Heck - even invite him as a speaker for your group! Enjoy!

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Nov 26, 2022

Your columns make me smile, they make me think and often make me a better writer myself. Your blog is not entirely rotten! 😉


Nov 15, 2022

Who was the professor? What was the name of the community newspaper?

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