Last week marked an interesting milestone for me professionally speaking. I have now been working as a professional journalist for 25 consecutive years. It has been a wild and crazy ride.
To say the least, it has not been an ordinary life.
I have met and interviewed every Kentucky governor since Brereton Jones. There have also been United States senators, congressmen and a few celebrities too, such as Academy Award winning actress Julianne Moore.
My favorite interview that I ever did was probably with then Kentucky Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Stephens, which took place a few years after he wrote the famous decision declaring Kentucky’s funding system for public education as unconstitutional. This lead to the Kentucky Education Reform Act in 1990 greatly changing the way education is taught.
I had the pleasure of interviewing the late Jim Bunning multiple times. Bunning was a Hall of Fame baseball player, congressman, senator, and just an overall interesting and fun person to be around.
To go along with the good, there is also the bad, including working many nights, weekends and holidays. (For some reason, people in Williamsburg really like scheduling things on holidays. I have never quite figured that one out…LOL.)
Even though many people probably think of bake sales and beauty pageants when they hear “community journalism,” I can assure you that isn’t normally the case, or at least not in Whitley County.
I have covered more fires, wrecks, drownings and homicides than I care to remember.
Community journalism isn’t a job for those faint of heart. In addition to what you see, there are the sighs, sobs and anguish of victims and survivors that are perhaps harder to forget. You also never get used to writing obituaries for your friends. My wife, Cecelia, who has a master’s degree in clinical psychology, says I have secondary trauma. I wouldn’t disagree with her regarding that diagnosis.
My professional career started modestly in late May 1993 as a reporter for the Sentinel Echo in London. I lasted there for a little over four months, which was probably three months or so longer than I could stand. I really disliked that job, and now that I have the benefit and clarity of hindsight, I can say that I really, really, really hated that job.
I would literally lay in bed for 15-20 minutes every morning mumbling to myself over and over, “I don’t want to go to work today. I don’t want to go to work today.” Then I would reach the point where I would say to myself, “There are going to be days worse than this that you don’t want to go to work today.”
Some jobs just aren’t a good fit. Had I stayed at the Sentinel Echo a lot longer, I suspect that I might have very well looked at going into a different profession.
After that I worked about 13 months at a certain daily newspaper in Corbin, before moving to the News Journal where I have been ever since.
Most days I am pretty happy with my job here. This isn’t to say that I don’t frequently ask myself how many more 16-plus hour Tuesdays that I have left in me. For those wondering, this is our production day, the day we put the paper together.
Would I recommend that a young person, such as my niece or nephews go into community journalism?
If I had been asked that question 10 years ago, the answer is probably.
My answer to that question now would be only go into community journalism if you love it, and even then have a back-up plan for if, or when, you decide this isn’t for you any more. The job often isn’t exactly conducive for family life. Fortunately for me, my wife’s job can be equally crazy. (Pun intended.)
One thing is certain about community journalism. You never really know for sure what tomorrow will be like, or even today for that matter.