No matter what the stigma was about the industry, I always knew my destiny was to be a sports journalist.
I grew up in a family where every Saturday morning was spent around the television watching College Gameday. From the time I was probably 12 years old, I would gaze longingly at Kirk Herbstreit giving his astute analysis on the games of day to think to myself “I could totally do this someday.”
Granted, the five-foot-eight white guy probably didn’t have much of a shot in D-1 college athletics — so being an analyst was probably out of the question for me. As I continued to consume sports media as an adolescent, I expanded my viewing digest beyond College Gameday. Of all the programming that was available on the ESPN buffett, I was drawn to “Pardon the Interruption” more than any other show.
“Pardon the Interruption”, or PTI for short, is a studio show starring two former Washington Post columnists Mike Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser. The show is built around the sports topics of the day, allowing the duo of Wilbon and Kornheiser to discuss and debate the current issues in the world of sports. I specifically remember going to SportsClips after school and watching PTI in my barber’s chair watching in envy of Mike and Tony.
“I can totally do this!” I would think to myself as I contorted my head along with the rotation of the chair just so I could catch every second of my new favorite show. It didn’t take me long to Google the duo to find out both of them got their starts as newspapers columnists. So as a plucky, ignorant middle schooler that’s when I decided what I wanted to be when I grew up.
My journey to becoming the next Mike Wilbon has taken me on quite a ride since I made my mind up. Whether it was being the sports editor at my high school paper, traveling out to Nebraska for an ill-fated internship or even winding up here in Statesboro — I haven’t regretted my career decision for one second.
But that’s not to say there were many detractors along the way. I specifically remember my junior year in college going to interview a political science professor for a story about the upcoming South Carolina gubernatorial election. My camerawoman and I waltzed into his office and introduced ourselves as student journalists for this story — and of all the things this guy could have come back with,
“Student journalists huh? Well you won’t be making much money after graduation huh?”
Even worse, he said it while giggling to himself as if my future poverty was some joke you’d find printed on a popsicle stick. I wanted to respond with, “Dude, you teach political science majors” — but instead I held my tongue and continued on with my assignment.
But professor jerkface wasn’t the only person to try and dissuade me from pursing a career in journalism — specifically in newspapers. Some of my good friends from college, members of my wife’s family and even some of my journalism professors at the University of South Carolina told me to stay away from the “dying” newspaper industry.
But I pressed on, confident in my abilities as a writer and a reporter. There certainly is noise around the newspaper industry “dying”, but I’m here to dispel those as cries of wolf. I believe this call for killing local papers is greatly exaggerated.
Yes, if you live in a city where the Associated Press or Reuters can come in and procure a wire service — there’s a good chance the papers in those towns will have to cut back on reporters and resources. The middle tiers of newspapers are in trouble, but not the bigger and lower tiers.
The New York Times and the Washington Post are fine and will continue to be fine because they are large, national brands (no, they aren’t fake news either). Smaller papers like say, the Statesboro Herald for example, are also fine because they have an exclusive service no wire service could possibly creep in on.
No matter how big the AP Wire’s coverage map expands, the inner workings and happenings around Bulloch County will never be seen by the big news services. There are less than 75,000 people in 689 square mile chunk of Georgia soil we call home, so it’s up to us — the citizens of the small counties across America — to keep our information free flowing.
I truly believe in that spirit. That’s why when I had nefarious naysayers telling me to stay away from newspapers, I ignored their pleas no matter the intention. The drive to give the people of this county the information they crave (and won’t get anywhere else mind you) is what gets me out of bed in the morning.
The AP or ESPN isn’t going to give you a recap of the Bulloch Academy girls softball game or a season recap of the Portal basketball season. The Statesboro Herald is the only place you will find such information. And that will ring true so long as I’m the prep sports writer here and long after I’ve left to bigger platforms.
You see, videos and podcasts aren’t going to keep the Statesboro Herald alive. The access to the coverage of the four local county schools and Bulloch County government is the lifeblood of this paper. That’s what makes local papers important and is what will keep local dailies up and running for years to come.
And as much as I love this job, I can’t do it alone. I depend on numerous coaches and parents to get the scores and reports from games all over the county to keep our sports section in tip-top shape. It’s a group effort to make the Statesboro Herald sports section great, and that’s why I’m writing this plea to the people of Bulloch County.
I can’t do my job without community involvement. I would have never known Portal High School was sending a swimmer to the GHSA state championships without the help of Austyn Woods and her mother. I never would have been able to report on the success of the BA Wrestling team without head coach Andy Tomlin consistently sending me updates throughout the season. Much like the sports I cover, getting the information to report on these schools is a team effort.
If you have an issue with coverage, come to me — not my operations manager Jim Healy or my editor Mike Anthony. If I spell your kids’ name wrong, if I neglected to get a score in, if there’s a team that’s doing well and deserves coverage — call me at 864-243-7433. I want to help you out.
I didn’t make $500 a month as an intern in Edenton, NC because I wanted to half-ass my career. I believe in the work I do and I want everyone in this community to care as much about it as I do. We can keep the local paper business thriving as a team — me and the rest of the citizens around Bulloch County and even further out.
Especially as summer approaches and the prep sports go on hiatus, help me get the stories in the paper I wouldn’t normally know about. If you have a travel softball team, a summer basketball league or a beer-league softball team — I want to know about it! That’s what’s going to keep the sports section alive — not a bunch of Atlanta Braves blowouts day-after-day.
Help me prove professor jerkface wrong Bulloch County. We together can keep this sports section great if we make this a team effort. Sure, it wasn’t my dream to write for the Statesboro Herald to start with as a teenager in Houston, Tex. — but as I’ve matured into a 25-year old columnist I know what it’ll take to climb to the top and that’s keeping newspapers where they belong, at home.