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Sometimes it takes a few years — or even a few decades — to figure out what you want to do.
But deciding on a career was never really a problem for Richard Stolley, who got his first job as a journalist at the age of 15 and would go on to become a founding editor of People magazine.
During World War II, a friend of Stolley’s joined the Navy. His job — sports editor at the Pekin Daily Times — would be left vacant. So the newly enlisted friend asked if Stolley was interested in the position.
“Of course, not knowing any better, I said I would be very interested,” Stolley says.
Stolley was tasked with filling stories and editing the sports section, but he also got to read news about the war well before most Americans.
“This was during WWII and a lot of unusual things were taking place,” Stolley says.
The day before the invasion of Normandy, the Pekin Daily Times’ teletype received an alert that a major news break was coming.
“I felt very privileged that a 15, 16-year-old could walk over to the teletype and find out things about WWII that almost nobody else in the world knew,” Stolley says. “Pretty heady stuff.”
Stolley remembers the excitement of hearing the presses turn on every afternoon. The roar resonating from the basement of the newspaper offices invigorated him too.
“I had this feeling, well, whatever I wrote is going out to 15,000 readers — can’t call it back now,” Stolley says.
For Stolley, his first job was more than just a paycheck. It set the tone for his entire career.
“I mean, it cemented my life,” Stolley says. “There was no way after working as a professional journalist at the age of 15 that I was ever going to want to do anything else.”