This spring marks 35 years that I have been in the newspaper business. It’s really been longer than that if you count the years that I was on the high school newspaper staff or the years I roamed the neighborhood collecting the community news to put in the family newsletter that I wrote, typed and delivered.
It has been 35 years though since I first called Helen Buffington as a very nervous high school senior and she told me to come by after school and then she agreed to give me a chance to learn the newspaper business.
I’m sure I learned more from Mrs. B than I did in Athens, where I obtained a journalism degree from the University of Georgia. I have lots of great memories over the past three and a half decades including:
•those early days when we put the newspaper together by hand, cutting and pasting the pieces of paper. I never could seem to lay them together exactly straight. Mrs. B had that one really long fingernail that she could quickly pull up a long strip of paper with and put it back down in a perfectly straight line before I could blink my eye.
•those late nights in the newsroom that went well past midnight. You couldn’t take a laptop home and finish writing a story like you can today. You had to do all the work in the office and that often meant really late nights. It wasn’t unusual to get home at 1 a.m. or 2 a.m. and sleep a few hours and head back to the office.
•election nights when you also worked really late waiting for the numbers to come and running down the winners and losers to get a quote. Now, you can easily look up the numbers online from the comfort of your home.
•Covering trials where both sides seemed mad at me and would even say cruel things as I took my seat in the courtroom.
Reading over these memories you might wonder why I stayed in this business for 35 years. Well, there were lots of tears and lots of hard times. But anyone in the business will tell you that you have to love it to stay in it. You don’t do it for the fame and glory. You don’t do it for the money. There are times you swear you are going to take another path. But you don’t. You stay with it because you love it and that old saying that “you have ink in your blood” really is true.
I can’t believe it has been 35 years. This milestone in my career comes at a time when our country is filled with uncertainty and fear. I am also filled with a lot of uncertainty and fear. I am thankful though. I am thankful for the path I chose and the memories I have shared with the thousands of people I have encountered in my work in Jackson and Banks counties during the past 35 years. Thank you all.