For many people, Columbus Day is a time for parades and a celebration of Italian heritage. Others contend that it is wrong to honor Christopher Columbus as a hero.

For me, Columbus Day is significant for another reason. It was on Columbus Day in 1975 that I spent my first day in a newsroom as a working journalist as a reporter for a suburban weekly named The Montclair Times.

It also was a day I learned a lot about being a journalist.

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Because Columbus Day is a legal holiday, government offices and most businesses were closed, so I did not expect to make many contacts with local officials and other sources. But the reporter whose beats I was taking showed me that was okay to call the mayor, the school superintendent and even the police chief at home if they were not at work.

I also learned that Sam, who ran a luncheonette across the street from the paper, knew more about the high school sports scene than just about anyone in town because his son played on the football team and often could be found at the counter with several of his teammates.

Similarly, my reporter/mentor pointed me to the eateries, taverns and coffee shops where I was likely to find the decision-makers in town.

More than 40 Columbus Days and several jobs later, I still recall that first day on the job at The Montclair Times and the lessons I learned about reporting. Even with the advent of the Internet and the growth of social media, those lessons from an October day in 1975 are just as valuable today.