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Updated: April 29, 2024 30th Anniversary

Inside the Notebook: Mainebiz staffers recall where they were in 1994

With the 30th anniversary of Mainebiz, staffers got to reminiscing about where they were in 1994. Seems like a long time ago — especially when you think back to the days before iPhones, Google and hybrid workplaces. We’ve gathered some of our stories.

Adventures in Hungary

Daily life was an adventure in post-Communist Hungary, where I broke news from insider trading to an ambulance shortage as a reporter for the Budapest Business Journal, an English-language startup weekly newspaper. The internet was in its infancy and phones were unreliable, so the only way you got stories was out on the beat.

Once, while I was en route to interview a diplomat in the Buda hills, a driver in a mysterious vehicle pulled up to me, rolled down the window and said, “Are you Renee Cordes? … Get in the car!” I did, and got the story.

— Renee Cordes, senior writer

‘One day you’ll just read stories on your computer’

In 1994, I was living in Philadelphia, was married, had one young child at that point and a mortgage. Life was moving fast. I was excited to be promoted from business reporter to business editor at the Courier-Post, a Gannett daily newspaper that covered southern New Jersey.

I had been trained by a drill-sergeant of a mentor, Jim Walsh, who taught me how to write short, write “tight” and pack a lot of information into a small space — and get it done on deadline. Now, as business editor, I reported directly to the executive editor, Ev Landers, who was a big scary guy with a shaved head and impeccable suits. The promotion was great but meant longer hours. Landers coached me that instead of longer hours I needed to “work smarter.”

A constant challenge was the fickle newsroom computer system, which would routinely go dark, resulting in hours of lost work. Yet around us, the world was changing. Later that year, a reporter friend of mine, Steve Keating, got a job at the Denver Post, a big step up. He stopped by my house, and I still remember him telling me about the internet — which was, in 1994, as foreign to most people as nuclear physics.

“One day,” he said, “there won’t even be newspapers or magazines. You’ll just read stories on your computer.” I thought of our dodgy newsroom computer system and shook my head. “You’re crazy, man.” Keating went on to write a book called, “Cutthroat: High Stakes & Killer Moves on the Electronic Frontier.”

— Peter Van Allen, editor

Interactions with the national media

I was living in Boston, editing a magazine and other publications for a Harvard teaching hospital. I also helped the hospital manage press inquiries, since I had previously worked for several years as a business reporter and felt I knew a thing or two about the news world. However, the experience of routinely interacting with national media was an education in itself.

I ended up learning a lot about journalism by simply having to deal with CNN, the Wall Street Journal and “60 Minutes.”

— William Hall, managing editor / digital operations

High school and a job making $3.75 an hour

I was a freshman at Gorham High School, participating in cross country, indoor track and outdoor track. I was sneaking rides in cars with upperclassmen and figuring out the hierarchy of high school life. I worked at the laundromat in Gorham folding laundry and was paid $3.75 an hour under the table.

Little did I know within 12 months my family would be moving to West Virginia, where I ended up living for 15 years before returning to Maine.

— Andrea Tetzlaff, publisher

Diploma in hand — and wedding plans

I had just graduated from the University of Maine with a degree in communications and was looking for my first “real job,” which, looking back, seemed a lot more challenging without the help of the internet. After an up and down search, I was thrilled to land a position at the Portland Press Herald in the advertising department.

I was also planning my wedding which was to be the following year and, if you’re doing the math, we are still together and will be celebrating our 29th anniversary this year.

— Allison Spies, operations coordinator

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