My first real writing job, way back in 1980, was covering the Pittsfield Township Zoning Board for a local real estate development consulting firm. Pittsfield Township, located just south of Ann Arbor, Mich., was experiencing rapid suburban growth due to its proximity to the University of Michigan, an economic juggernaut in the state.
Substantial sums were changing hands as farms gave way to subdivisions, shopping malls, and chain restaurants. The Ann Arbor News, a prosperous paper with a large staff and no competition, rarely covered zoning board meetings.
My employer needed to know what was happening at those zoning board meetings. Objectively, and in detail. So he hired his own reporter. Me.