Longtime journalist Joe Day ’58 sometimes has a nightmare: He’s been assigned to cover the New Mexico Legislature, but he has two problems. He doesn’t know who any of the lawmakers are. And he can’t find the men’s room. “When you’re my age,” he says, “that’s crucial.”
For more than 50 years, Day has been a journalist — even now, in his semiretirement, as he and his artist wife, Nancy, split the year between Santa Fe and the Hawaiian island of Kauai.
Day, who once reported on presidential campaigns, files stories for local public-radio stations in New Mexico and Hawaii, covering everything from drowning deaths to a proposed dairy farm that’s controversial because it could produce a lot of manure.
“Journalism is good for my brain,” says Day, 77. “I’m still curious.”
Reporting and writing run in Day’s veins. His grandfather, father, brothers, and other relatives were journalists. Day got his start at newspapers in Milwaukee and Providence in between stints in the military. He then tried his hand at TV, first with WGBH in Boston (sometimes eating meals prepared by co-worker Julia Child), then with the ABC and CBS affiliates in Boston.
At age 55, tired of covering politics, he moved to Santa Fe, where he also has made documentary films.
“What I’ve tried to do all along is to report about real people,” he says. “I don’t call them ‘ordinary’ because nobody’s ordinary.”
As an “old newspaper guy,” he reads the paper every day and despairs about the death of newspapers: “We need reporters — people to go out and try to find out what’s going on as best they can, so they can tell other people.”
As for himself, he says, “I’ll do it as long as my mind and body are active. ... I love this work.”
LISTEN: Joe Day ’58 interviews a parking lot attendant.