Living the Dream
November 3, 1997, I woke up in a new apartment, in a different state and a new career to start. I showered, packed my lunch, ate breakfast and headed out the door decked out in a suit for the first time as a “professional journalist.” I was moments away from clocking in for my first day as a TV news reporter.
Then in a matter of seconds, my excitement was deflated just like the passenger side front tire of my 1992 Dodge Shadow. My heart sunk as I looked at the flat and I quickly began to panic. Not only was it my first day in the career I had wanted for so long, but I also knew I’d have to drive my car to the news stories that I’d be assigned to cover. But enter my calm, cool and collected wife of five months. She gave me the keys to her Jeep and told me she’d take care of the flat. So I was quickly back on course.
I walked into the newsroom at WOWL in Florence, Alabama with butterflies in my stomach. They were actually more like pterodactyls as I was incredibly nervous. After a brief reintroduction to my new co-workers, I was told I’d be going out with another reporter to cover the attack of a local man from over the weekend. Jennifer Kirkpatrick had been at “the Owl” for a while at that point, even though she was more than a year younger than me.
I learned a lot from her that day as we covered a sensitive topic. The man in the attack was an older gentleman and the grandfather of one of the front office workers at the station. Sadly, he died as a result of his injuries. I watched and listened as Jennifer went through the paces of getting video, gathering interviews with police and family, logging the sound bites, writing the script and editing the video. Such is the life of a “one-man-band” reporter.
The days at the Owl were unique. We didn’t have the AP Wire or computers or a lot of other bells and whistles in your typical newsroom. The TelePromPter was a conveyor belt and the paper scripts from the typewriter (yes, it was 1997 and we only had a typewriter) were taped together and rolled under a camera. I’d never seen anything like it before or since. Over the 20 months I was at WOWL I went from reporter to anchor to news director. By the way, with each additional title, I (or anyone else) retained the original job duties as well. Again, it’s the way the business works.
I have so much to be grateful for on this anniversary. I still have trouble wrapping my head around 20 years. The road to this point was a rough one. I was getting rejection letters via the mail on a nearly daily basis. I was told by some people that I wasn’t going to make it in this business. I should give up and try my hand at producing and working behind the scenes. For some reason, that rejection just motivated me to try harder. So did the love and support from my wife, parents and friends.
Although I don’t think he’s on social media anymore, I have to thank Todd Napier. In October 1997 he brought me into Florence for that interview at the Owl. Five days later when he offered me the job I was beyond excited. He believed me in at a time few if any other professionals did. For that, I will be forever thankful. Todd is responsible for helping me live my dream.
There are too many others to list who have assisted along the way. Those who are keeping score at home know this is my third station on the path. I’ve been at WSIL for nearly 14 years and have been the morning co-anchor since August 2004. It’s another one of the “pinch me, I’m dreaming” moments.
I guess the point of this post has been to reflect for a moment and thank those who have supported and mentored me along the way. Family, friends, bosses, co-workers, viewers and the community. I told my parents right before moving to Alabama that I’d be back home in St. Louis and reporting again within three years. I also had a goal of winning a local news Emmy by age 30. Those deadlines have come and gone and if there’s one lesson I’ve learned in life it’s that things change. Adapt and overcome. It’s okay to stray from the course. Life is a marathon and not a sprint.
Thanks again to everyone. I would not be where I am today without the love and support. Also, those who offered criticism along the way, I feel like it’s made me a better person. Even the guy who suggested I be taken to the rural parts Canada and hunted for sport.
I am a journalist with more than 20 years of experience and a professional blogger. I have been writing for most of my adult life. I have clients in several states and look forward to writing something for you soon.