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home : columns : columns June 28, 2016

10/9/2013 9:57:00 AM
Still writing after all these years
I attended my 25th class reunion almost a decade ago and a comment there struck me oddly - and proudly.
Before I get to that comment, I'll preface it by saying that I had not kept up with many of my classmates over the years, even though the Primghar (Iowa) High School Class of 1979 numbered just 32 students. I knew what a few have been doing as far as their occupations are concerned. Others in our class had been much more diligent in knowing the job changes of our classmates.
Which brings me to the comment that I certainly took as a compliment.
My classmate, whom I had not seen probably since graduation 25 years earlier asked what I was doing and I said, "Still writing for the newspaper."
She replied, "Wow! That's what you said you were going to do when you left high school."
"Well, I did have a four-year sabbatical where I went to work at a parts warehouse company in Windom before going back to the newspaper," I countered.
And here was the comment that struck me:
"But I think you're about the only one from our class who's doing what they went to college for," she said.
I had a hard time believing that but as I conversed with my other classmates, that seemed to be true.
As our newspaper marks National Newspaper Week this week, I thought back to why I got into this business and why I've stayed with it for so many years.
As an elementary student, I recall a project assignment at the end of each English section that gave students several options as to what they wanted to do to complete the section.
One of those options was writing a story - fictional, factual or fantastical. I always chose the writing assignment while others looked at me like I was crazy.
I have always enjoyed writing.
But that wasn't the only aspect of life I enjoyed. I also loved to play sports. As I went through my elementary and middle school years, my male classmates were always active in sports. We played pickup football, basketball or baseball games at noon hour. In fact, we would turn one half of the school tennis court into a baseball diamond and try to hit home runs over the tall chainlink tennis court backstop. Of course, we would keep track of the home runs we hit.
Over the years, the interest in all sports for most of my class waned. Not for me. I loved sports and, even though I was never very good at any of them, I thoroughly enjoyed every opportunity to be a part of a team, to practice and, in those rare instances, a chance to get in a game.
When my freshman year of high school arrived, it was my first opportunity to write for the school newspaper, which in Primghar was no more than a page in the community newspaper. Nevertheless, it was an opportunity. Because I loved writing and loved sports, I put the two together and was assigned junior high sports.
I didn't write too many articles that first year. But as a sophomore, our sports editor had graduated and the job fell to me, which I wholeheartedly embraced. I religiously began reading the top newspaper for area high school coverage, The Northwest Iowa Review, based in Sheldon and how the sports writers there so eloquently and carefully crafted each story.
I tried mimicking their styles, their phrases, their "veritable plethora" of sports jargon.
Soon, I was not only writing sports for the school page in the newspaper, but I also was hired in the summer to write baseball and softball stories. I was paid $5 an article. Wow! My first paid writing job.
When high school graduation arrived, I knew the job I wanted to pursue - sportswriting.
I studied in college, graduated with a communications degree and a career concentration in journalism, then interned at the Worthington Daily Globe.
Looking back, I'm amazed at the path my life took. I met a friend from Worthington while in college, who showed me a copy of the Daily Globe. It was a daily paper with a small-town feel. Coming from a small town, I really wanted the chance to work at a daily while at the same time having the opportunity to cover area high school athletics. Moreover, I liked the writing styles of the sports writers at the paper, Bill Brower and Scott Manch.
After a semester internship, I landed the sports editor's job in Windom, which lasted for most of 12 years.
That opportunity - now almost 30 years ago - apparently was obviously the biggest decision of my life. Not only have I remained here, but I married my wife and together we've raised three children, the last of which will be graduating from college in the spring and will be in the same position I was in 30 years ago.
Yes, life has come full circle.
And, yes, I'm still doing what I said I was going to do when I graduated from high school and college. From my freshman year in high school when I started writing for the school paper, minus the four-year sabbatical, I've been writing for a newspaper for 34 years.
I may be the only one from my high school class who is still pursuing his high school occupational dream, but I consider myself the lucky one.

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