Three Years at the Mast

With each passing year August proves more and more to be a time of beginnings for me.

You teachers out there know what I’m talking about…  yeah yeah, I know the calendar year starts in January, and I know that fiscal years tend to have some variation depending on the agency or company.

But I work for a small town newspaper, a town whose largest employer is the local school district. The ebb and flow of the academic term sets the tone for a lot of what goes on around here.

Additionally, I’m a parent of five children, which is another reason why the span of months from August to June and each turn of the seasons are how I mark the time.

This is also the month I started my duties here at the Henderson Daily News. I was hired as a Staff Writer and Photographer on Friday, Aug. 21, 2009 with my first day of work being the following Monday and my first byline appearing the day after. Yesterday marks three years on the HDN masthead and year one as News Editor.

On my first day of work I grabbed a few sundries from the well-stocked supply closet: a couple legal pads, some palm-sized notebooks to keep in my back pocket, highlighters and a Sharpie, pens of red and blue ink, as well as two long No. 2 pencils reinforced with eraser caps.

I still have those two pencils and use them on a daily basis… they’ve been sharpened down to two short nubs that I can barely hold in my fist, with eraser caps that’ve been worn nearly flat.

Though I’ve filled two digital recorders with interviews for stories, burned through at least a dozen spiral notebooks and legal pads, and outlasted three computers, I’ve still got these two stubby pencils to keep track of the various appointments, phone calls, and ideas that occur to me in a given day.

A few days ago HDN Editor and Publisher Les Linebarger noticed these poor excuses for writing utensils. I explained the story of their origin in brief and a few minutes later he provided me with two fresh-from-the-box No. 2 pencils.

“Here you go,” he said with a laugh. “I think we’ve got our money’s worth out of those other two.”

Over the weekend I spent a little time combing through my archives. Thousands of stories and many more photographs, a great torrential cascade of words and images. I knew this milestone was upcoming, and my thoughts had already inclined toward a bit of workplace nostalgia. Thinking of those first few awkward months, an anxious time when I wasn’t sure if this was job going to work out for me. Racked by hesitancy and uncertainty, almost each day spent lurching headlong from one deadline to the next. All in the hopes that eventually I’d start to “get it” and things would start to become intuitive and routine. It’s gotten better, to be sure, but I still have a long way to go.

In the same month that our teachers prepare for the impeding tumult of another school year, I am reflecting upon from where I have come and to where I must go. For all my self-indulgent sarcasm and seeming witticisms, I take my work with the utmost seriousness.

Working at the Henderson Daily News is not something I do just to make a buck, or to pass the time. I work here because I believe the role this paper occupies in our community is an important one, and I hope to eventually make myself worthy of the responsibility I carry.

Of course, I’m not there yet… not by a long shot. I still make a lot of mistakes and even the occasional typo, each borne out of the intrinsic haste that is a fundamental aspect of daily print journalism.

But tolerate me a little while longer, give me time, and I may just figure this job out.

No matter how many pencils it takes.

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