"Almost seven years now," I'll say.
Recently, someone responded to that with: "Seven years, huh? You must've been just a baby when you started."
I don't take offense to that. First of all, who takes comments about youthfulness as offensive? Certainly not me.
Secondly, the observation isn't so far from the truth.
I was 19 — in fact, it was the day before my 19th birthday — that I was hired.
I was not, however, hired as a journalist.
Call it a clerk, secretary, typist, etc. Here at The Oakland Press, the official job title is "Editorial Assistant." I answered the main phones for the newsroom, transcribed our infamous Sound Off line, entered calendar items, wrote briefs ... Editorial Assistants wear many hats, none of them so trivial as fetching coffee or anything of that sort.
At the time, I was attending journalism school at a local university.
The Oakland Press had sued the university I was attending in years' past after they refused to conduct an open search for a chancellor. The newspaper won the lawsuit and with the money it received, started a scholarship program for journalism students at that university.
It was called "Oakland Press Excellence in Journalism" and on the application, you were asked to write about how you are impacting journalism currently and how you intend to in the future.
I remember writing that it was my intent to help move my newspaper into the new era of news; to help it keep up with changing technology and innovate to find success.
I won that scholarship. It wasn't much money, but a great point of pride for me.
I finished my last class in August 2007. Two weeks prior, our reporter who covered North Oakland announced she'd be leaving for another publication.
I applied for the job.
"When do you graduate?" I remember Julie Jacobson Hines, our Local News Editor, asking me.
"Next Friday," I said. What great luck.
She hired me. (Thanks, Julie!)
It was May 2010 when Journal Register Company, our corporate owner, rolled out it's plan for the ideaLab.
The ideaLab would be a select group of folks from across the company who would receive three gadgets — an iPhone, iPad and netbook — as well as a little extra money each month and 10 hours per week to innovate.
I applied. It was difficult to write an application for something so huge in no more than 200 words. See all applications beneath this post: Independence and the ideaLab.
A coworker called me on a Sunday later that summer.
"Did you see Paton's blog?" she said excitedly. "You were chosen for the ideaLab!"
It was one of those surreal moments in life where it suddenly dawns on you that things have come full circle. I pledged on a scholarship application years beforehand to help move my newspaper forward, and now I was being tasked with that very project from our CEO, no less.
What do I do?
I started as a reporter covering Northern Oakland County in 2007.
There is no longer a distinction between what type of reporter you may be here while working here. There's no newspaper reporter versus broadcast reporter versus blah blah blah. We are all multimedia journalists displaying stories on a variety of platforms, from print to web to video, etc.
We can do it all, and we do.
In October 2011, I became the Community Engagement Editor for The Oakland Press. Wish me luck in this new and exciting role!
As a member of the ideaLab, you'll see my accomplishments posted in this space, but that's not all.
You'll also see the accomplishments of my entire newsroom here, other ideaLab members and cool things being done by my colleagues across JRC.
I'm simply the narrator.