After a one week break, it’s time to pen another column. Well keyboard, but you knew what I meant.
I spent a lot of time pondering what to write when a I got a question from a young, aspiring writer.
I met this young man while I worked at the St. Joseph News-Press when I covered Northwest Missouri State sports and he was a student-reporter.
We talked a little bit last week via emails as he was applying for a newspaper gig in the Kansas City area.
He asked me a question that didn’t take long to answer: why did you get back into writing?
As a little background, I started writing for papers as a senior in high school for the Joplin Globe. I was an intern and then got kept around as a freelance writer for a few years before landing my first full-time job in 2005.
So last year, I turned 36 and had been writing for papers for 18 years. A lot longer than I ever imagined and a lot longer than a lot of my friends who got out of the business for better hours and better pay.
I finally took that leap last August. I felt burnt out. I took over a paper in Maryville and didn’t make it a year. I felt in a way like a failure. I had worked five years in Joplin, five-plus years in Neosho and seven years in St. Joe. I’m not one to walk away from a job and each move was for a better job, better pay or both.
But in August, I took a job at the Independence Police Department as a dispatcher. It was a fun job. I leaned a lot about police work on the other side and have a much better respect for officers and other dispatchers. It’s not easy going home and turning off what happened the previous 8 or 10 or 12 hours.
I still remember phone calls hearing someone screaming a loved one was shot. Or a pursuit in town. Or on New Year’s Eve when officers responded to a call and you hear the pop pop pop of gun fire coming at them.
The next few days changed my life a bit. On Jan. 1, we got calendars from the boss. On the bottom of the phrase said ‘follow your passion.’
It got me thinking. I wasn’t doing what I loved. It was just a job and in all my years of writing I never felt like it was a job. It was fun. I got paid to watch games and recap what happened.
A few days later, Ross Martin called and said he had an interview somewhere in KC and asked what i thought about applying if he left.
The timing was spooky. It didn’t take me long to say yes.
And a whirlwind followed. Ross got the job. Will — the owner — interviewed me and one other person. He offered me the chance to get back into writing and I jumped at it.
So that goes back to the top of this story. The question.
I was asked why did I go back?
To me it’s simple. I’m a writer. It’s who I am at this point. Hopefully it’ll be what I do the rest of my life.
It’s a job where you spend more time with other people’s kids covering game than your own kids. It’s a job where you don’t get much fanfare unless you make a mistake or make someone(s) mad — I’m sure I’m on some kind of do not talk to list by Republicans in Platte County. It’s a job with long hours. I often fret there are mistakes in paper and I check the PDFs multiple times. I still make mistakes and miss things. I’m human but unfortunately my mistakes are pretty apparent. When I was a dispatcher and had a misstep it was talked about and we moved on. Now it’s on paper and you can’t fix those in print.
Even with all that rambling, I love what I do. There was nothing that bothered me more than missing Friday night football games. I missed going to state championships. I miss seeing fellow writers at those events and telling war stories. I missed talking to athletes after they win titles. Or lose at times. I’m often amazed how well this generation is at seeing the big picture.
I love going to signing days and seeing dreams achieved. I love following the standings in the Suburban Conference and going around the area for district basketball and then to state wrestling.
It felt normal. I felt like I’m back where I belong. So that’s why I came back. I can’t quit.
I got into writing for two reasons. I love sports. It’s a passion. I used to play every sport possible and I used to always love seeing Thorn in a box score years ago.
So maybe someday one of these athletes I cover now will feel the same way and will remember seeing their name in a story and will want to write.
Cody Thorn is publisher of The Citizen. He may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @Citizen_CodyT.