My name is Wilkin — I carry a badge.
Sorry, couldn’t resist. With apologies to Joe Friday and “Dragnet,” my full name is Jeff Wilkin. And I usually wear a press badge when I’m on assignment for The Daily Gazette.
Lately, those assignments have included the activities of planners, politicians and people in the Town of Niskayuna. I also have been attached to “Your Niskayuna,” the wildly popular weekly newspaper in that wildly popular town.
I have worked at The Gazette since February 1981, when I first walked up the long staircase to the second-floor newsroom inside the newspaper’s former stronghold on State Street. I was 25 years old.
My first beat was Rotterdam, where Supervisor John F. Kirvin and Police Chief Joseph Dominelli generated news. During the fall of 1981, I was promoted to police reporter and visited police departments daily for accidents and arrests. That gig lasted for eight years.
Most of my career has been spent in the Life and Arts department, as a feature writer. For 25 years, I met people and wrote about places in the Capital Region and Adirondacks.
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These have been my favorite days in journalism — talking to veterans about their experiences in uniform; writing about magicians, cosplayers, martial artists, heart surgeons, actors, parade fans, musicians and goblins (the latter at the “Haunted Hayrides” at the Double M Ranch in Malta); and working first-person angles on adventures that have included acting on stage, spending 24 hours straight at Saratoga Race Course, testing a flying machine, running against a high school track champion and visiting a nudist resort.
My feature work is limited these days, but I’m still part of the department on Mondays — although anonymously. I’m the sole member of the “history division” that finds and researches the photos we publish every Monday in “Capital Region Scrapbook.” I also find the “Back in Time” story — searching the infinite corridors of time for cool stories we have published in the past.
My byline has appeared in the newspaper for 38 years now. I have met newspaper people with whom I will remain friends until my personal last edition is on the stands.
At 64, I stick around because many people have stories to tell, and every story is important to someone.
I think every man and woman who signs with the Fourth Estate signs up for a little piece of immortality. Our work will always be around: The story I wrote on Oct. 4, 1983, when fire destroyed the clock tower at Schenectady City Hall, is in a scrapbook someplace. The photos taken during my 2007 tour of downtown as a “Blue Man” from “Blue Man Group” will probably remain online for years to come. There might even be a few photos of my masquerade as “Mother Ginger” for Northeast Ballet’s “Nutcracker” in 1998.
As long as people are reading newspapers — to borrow from Henry Fonda in “The Grapes of Wrath,” — I’ll be there. At least, for a little while longer.