After nearly two years, yesterday was my last day with the Murray Ledger & Times. Working my last day in the office alone on a Sunday was kind of odd, but at least I got to wear my PJs. I’m taking a few days to clean up my apartment, go see my folks and breathe for a bit before joining Murray State as a communication specialist next week.
This is an uneasy goodbye for me, even though I’m only moving a mile down the road. I went to school here from 2012-2016 and I immediately fell in love with Murray. It reminds me a lot of my hometown in Dixon, Kentucky. There’s that rural feel, but with so many incredible community organizations and businesses, all with LBL in our backyard, Murray has something special going for it.
Even as I graduated nearly three years ago and returned to work just outside Madisonville, I knew I wanted to come back one day.
It seems fate was on my side. After some eight months of interviewing for jobs as close as western Kentucky and far away as Wisconsin and even Alaska, my former boss in the WKMS newsroom, Matt Markgraf, told me about an opening at the Murray Ledger & Times.
I remember applying but not expecting to hear anything back. I had zero print experience and hadn’t set foot in a newsroom in almost a year. I was working at a Carhartt distribution center at the time. While walking nearly 20 miles a night working inventory in a warehouse definitely kept me in shape, it didn’t sharpen my still-green reporting skills.
Anyway, I went ahead and sent my resume. I didn’t hear anything back for a couple of weeks, so I just moved on and didn’t think much of it.
Then I received an email asking me to interview! I remember getting really excited at work – I was working in what’s known as the “high bay.” Imagine aisles maybe 5 feet wide with shelves on either side going up about a couple hundred feet vertically and horizontally.
I was sitting in this big cherry picker-looking electric vehicle that ran on a track inside the aisles, moving up or down and from front to back each way. I was near the top of the aisles near the front and I definitely yelled a bit when I got the news. I also nearly dropped my phone.
I cracked up because as soon as I started shouting, some guy below me yelled, “Hell yeah, brother!” out of nowhere.
I took a day off work for the interview and tried to do my homework. I read up on the Ledger, trying to figure out what I could bring to the table. Print was foreign to me, but I was ready to learn.
I was so nervous when I walked in, but Mike, our publisher, and David, our former editor, were both extremely kind and friendly. I relaxed pretty quickly and I think it went well.
I didn’t hear anything for a while, and I just went about my life. Work, spending time with friends, repeat.
I remember when I got the call; I was once again working in the high bay, and I missed David’s call. I saw he had left a voicemail offering me the job. Kind of strange, but I certainly didn’t care.
I definitely yelled some more, though I didn’t get the call-and-response that I was going for. I had finally “made it,” I thought to myself. I went to school for four years, took on nearly $20,000 in debt and now I had a job in my field to show for it.
I put in my two weeks at Carhartt, found an apartment in Murray and made the trek back to the home of my alma mater. The rest is history, I guess.
I can’t thank the MLT team enough for taking a chance on me and helping me develop into the writer and person I am today.
My fellow reporter John Wright taught me that community journalism should be just that. He showed me how to treat sources like people rather than just information. I’ll never forget my second day of work that I spent just shadowing him. He introduced me to several city and county leaders, and on the ride home, he explained to me in no uncertain terms why The Who is the best rock band of all time. Don’t let that bad opinion fool you (Queen? Hello?); John is by far the most dedicated and talented coworker I’ve ever had. Granted, that’s a fairly small sample size at the moment, but the point stands.
Hawkins Teague, my editor, taught me to get out of my comfort zone and get myself out in the community. A good reporter can’t do her or his job from behind a desk. To deliver the news this community deserves, I had to meet new people almost daily or straight up approach strangers on the street and at events to get their takes.
Mike taught me to be brave in my writing and that most of the time, what I write is going to make someone mad. I can’t please everyone. I’ve been called everything in the book, from liberal media and fake news to a right-wing muckraker, so hopefully that means my writing falls somewhere in the middle. No one likes bad press, but I hope people can understand that my work has never come from a place of malice. I’ve genuinely enjoyed working with pretty much all my sources. People need to know the news, and I have to do my job.
Jordan Ferguson, Bryan Edwards and Martha Andrus – a fellow reporter, our sports editor and community editor, respectively – taught me to embrace any moment of levity I can get. News isn’t all fun, bubbly features, and it gets stressful. From every dumb joke of mine they laughed at (it’s OK guys, I’m gone, you don’t have to pretend anymore!) to just cracking up at weird news of the day, every bit helped keep me sane.
Lastly, I want to thank everyone I’ve worked with outside of the newsroom. That’s way too many people to name, but I loved working in and for this community. I wasn’t born here, but Murray has welcomed me with open arms and made me feel right at home.
There’s a chance you haven’t seen the last of me just yet. I might write the occasional column, and I’m sure some of my content at MSU will make its way into the paper at some point. I’m excited for the chance to work at my alma mater. There’s a lot of great things going on at Murray State, and I think people need to know about it.
I don’t think I’ve left any loose ends, but my personal email is firstname.lastname@example.org if anyone needs anything. Thanks for all the memories.