He doesn't remember living in an apple box with a light in the corner, but Ivan M. Lincoln calls that unusual beginning his real claim to fame.

The Today section makeup editor and theater writer was born three months too soon - and accomplishing long-term tasks in a short time has been his trademark ever since. When the 2-pound, 3-ounce baby was finally released from the hospital, it was big news in his hometown of Twin Falls, Idaho. For years thereafter, he endured the embarrassment of being hauled into the waiting room by his family doctor, where other patients were allowed to inspect the "miracle baby" - by then a strapping teenager.Lincoln accidentally entered the field of journalism almost three decades ago when he answered a "blind ad" in the Twin Falls Times-News: "Wanted, 5 p.m. to 2 a.m., must have good typing, English skills."

"I didn't know what the job was," he said, "but I had spent six months as a clerk-typist in the Army Reserves in Fort Ord, Calif., then went to work on the family farm for awhile and hated it. So I didn't really care what it was."

"It" was the beginning of a career. He started as a cub reporter and found he loved it. "I cut my teeth on Grange meetings, PTA meetings, and learned how to load a camera. I guess I looked a little like Jimmy Olsen."

He worked the night beat for three years, then spent six on the copy desk, before answering the siren call (literally, since he became a police reporter) of a bigger city. He moved to Ogden and joined the Standard-Examiner staff, where he is still remembered as a reporter who could cover sensitive - and potentially offensive - stories "with discretion."

Lincoln may know more about overall newspapering than any other staffer. In 30 years on three newspapers (20 at the Deseret News), he's worked almost everywhere - backshop liaison, copy desk, religion editor, farm beat, city desk, Today section - and in each department he's picked up skills, friends and nicknames.

"Everyone calls him something different - Two Shoes, Buzzard, Ivan Hobo - but we all call him with affection," a colleague said.

He's also watched the changing face of newspaper technology, from the small-town paper ("I love 'em. They run almost a scoreboard of traffic fatalities, like we're all trying to beat last year's record.") to the days of hot-lead type ("If you dropped a `page,' you could spend hours picking it up, a few words at a time.") to the advent of the computer age and pagination.

"I love to write about people and interview and see what makes them tick. Everyone has something in his background that's interesting," he said.

Lincoln and his wife, LuAnn, have three daughters: Stephanie, 18, Blythe Ann, 15, and Amy, 10. Through them, he said, his world keeps growing. "Now that Blythe Ann is in the marching band at school, I've been going to football games," he laughed. "And I am learning to enjoy them - even if I don't understand them."

When things slow down, Lincoln hopes to find time for more travel. He'd also like to turn his theater knowledge and interest in people into a play. But for now, he does his writing for the Deseret News - usually on a lap-top computer during the bus commute from Davis County into Salt Lake City and back every day.