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When I walked into the Manchester Times office back in November of 2005, I was just a kid needing a job.
I hardly had any dress clothes, but I scavenged up some decent looking blue pants and a polo shirt that looked like it was better fit for the early 90s. I later learned sports writers weren’t the dressiest of folks, anyway.
I had little experience. Actually, I had no experience. But the thought of covering sports in my hometown seemed like a perfect fit. After all, I was, and still am, a sports junkie (I’ve slowly been weaned off 10 hours of sports television a day, though).
I thought, “I love sports. How hard can writing be?”
Just put together a subject and a verb and punctuation.
But putting those together in a sports article and telling a story that someone else was supposed to understand was much harder than I thought. My first year at the Times read like a who’s who of boring book-report writers: “In the first quarter this happened … In the second quarter that happened …” I’m sure I wasn’t building any fans.
It still pains me to look at those old articles. I’m not sure why they let me back in the door after a few editions. Maybe they were as desperate for a sports writer as I was a job? Later on I found it must have been desperation on management’s part.
The publisher at the time, Chuck Cunningham, had so little faith in me that he refused to order me any business cards. I was so naïve I just assumed it was because he was too busy to order any. He later said it was “because I didn’t think you would last very long.”
Seven years later – I’m still here. I couldn’t say that if it weren’t for some great help from former editor Susan Campbell and lifestyles editor Rebekah Hurst. In their own ways they taught me the ropes. For that I am forever thankful.
Some things haven’t changed in the last seven years. We are looking for a sports writer. Apparently that was still the case even after my tenure began. I just designed and published a basketball preview – my first assignment from all those years ago (remember, we need a sports writer, hint-hint).
In fact, on my first day at the office my instructions were, “We need a basketball preview next week … you sit over there at that empty desk.” I guess if you throw someone into water, they either sink or swim. After plenty of years feeling like the Titanic and trying to learn and catch up, I guess I can at least hold my head above water.
So much is different, though. I do have business cards. I’m psyched about that – just in time for the world to move on to all digital contact information, I can hand folks something they can use for a bookmark. Wait, those are digital, too.
The undeniably hideous 1950s green paint that covered the walls is now covered by a less revolting brownish color.
I’ve come to understand in seven years that I’ll never make a small fortune working in newspaper. But I enjoy what I do. I am thankful to have a job.
Like with anything else, the stress can be overwhelming and the hours long. I’ve taken some cussings that included words that shouldn’t be spoken to the most evil in this world.
I got an email from a lady once that ranted for 500 words about how much of a disappointment I was to the community because I didn’t cover a story that she insisted warranted coverage. She was right. The story did warrant coverage. The story wasn’t only in the paper, but it was on the front page. I had to bite my tongue in response and politely say, “I’m sorry, I assume you haven’t seen this week’s edition just yet but your story got the best spot possible” while all along thinking “can you read?” Heck, I’m thankful for her, too. People like that keep me on my toes.
But in the end I get to report the news in the community that I grew up in and still call home. It’s a community I’m raising kids in. I’ve been fortunate to meet, interview and simply talk to a lot of good people. I’ve been able to tell stories of tragedy and triumph.
I’ve shed tears writing about the tragic triple murder of the Hershman family and I’ve partied on the baseball diamond with a team that beat Tullahoma for a trip to the state tournament. I’ve met senior citizens who just want to get by and don’t have enough money to eat and exposed the flaws of a local nursing home that led to a new management regime and a better life for those living there.
As long as they keep ordering me business cards, I guess I’ll keep coming to work and doing what I love to do – informing and, hopefully, making a positive influence in the community I love.
For that, I am thankful.
-Josh Peterson is the editor of the Manchester Times. He has won TPA awards for writing and photography. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at 931-728-7577 ext. 105. Follow him on Twitter @joshpeterson29