There are 22 steps from the lobby to the second floor of The Daily Independent. I’ve traveled those L-shaped stairs what seems like a million times.
It was 42 years ago this spring, a few weeks before graduating from Paul G. Blazer High School in 1975, that my career with the then Ashland Daily Independent started.
My father was in the Lions Club with Paul Sierer, the late editor of the ADI who at the time was the managing editor. He mentioned to Sierer that I was looking for any kind of work at the newspaper.
Sierer put me to work — rolling ticker-tape at 6 in the morning and matching that ticker-tape with the numbered story that was ticking over the Associated Press wire and being spit out. There was a certain way you rolled the tape and I’m sure I could do it today (It may have also contributed to some carpal tunnel in my older age).
The newspaper intrigued me and especially the sports department where I spent much of my idle (idol?) hours.
The late Mike Reliford, who would be my professional mentor, was the sports editor then and he took a liking to me. He was your typical crusty newspaper editor of the time. But he taught me how to write, how to stand your ground and how to interact with the public.
I worked around the sports department so much that he began putting me to work but, in those days, a byline had to be earned. It took from April 1975 to October 1976 before I wrote my first bylined story — a Kiwanis Bowl game between Coles and Putnam.
Since that first story went to press, I’ve written, conservatively, more than 15,000 stories — I’m sure more than anybody else in this newspaper’s history. I’ve also had easily more than 3,000 photographs published, and again, that number is conservative.
I say all this because this will be one of my last stories with The Daily Independent. I’ve accepted a new job as managing editor of Kentucky Today, a digital newspaper operated by the Kentucky Baptist Convention.
I’ll still be writing, reporting and editing, but no longer for this newspaper. My home base will be Ashland — so I’ll be around and involved in the community like always. But I’ll be representing the KBC, a natural move for me, and look forward to growing its digital brand. I'll start for the on July 1.
This community and this newspaper have been my very heartbeat and supplied me with a tremendous life. I leave with no regrets but only the best of memories. I’ve worked with tremendous journalists and photojournalists who shaped my career. The names are too many to mention for fear of leaving someone off the list.
I saw the country while being privileged to cover UK sports from 1990 to 1998, including a midcourt seat when Christian Laettner’s dagger of a shot made us all cry in 1992.
I witnessed the Reds winning the 1990 World Series from the press box, sat in on an interview with Muhammad Ali and had multiple interviews with Pete Rose and the best seat in the house for Brandon Webb’s meteoric rise from the Ashland American Little League to National League Cy Young Award winner.
But it was never the celebrities that meant the most. It was you and your son or daughter, from the youth league arenas to battling for state championships. You were the community that mattered the most to me after I became the managing editor and then editor starting in 2005, too.
I worked with seven publishers and they showed confidence in my abilities to do what I thought was best from my seat. That was especially true for Eddie Blakeley, the current publisher, who never doubted anything I did. He let me do the job I was being paid to do.
Even in these tough times, we have a great newspaper that cares about our readers and community. It stands on journalist principles and ethics that makes sure everybody is fairly treated and that government officials are watched closely. That has never changed.
It’s going to be strange not being the face of this newspaper in the weeks, months and years ahead. It’s all I’ve ever been and the ink from The Daily Independent will be flowing through me for the rest of my days.
Thank you for reading, responding and respecting me. I’ve enjoyed this unbelievable journey and look forward to what God has in store for me next.
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