One of my favorite parts of my job in Winnsboro was sports coverage but a close second was writing these columns. Readers, note the past tense here.
Friday was my final day with The Herald Independent. An opening came about in our sister paper’s office, The Newberry Observer, and I was transferred there. For me, this is a dream come true in many ways because Newberry is home. My grandmothers will read the story copy I write now. I will see old friends as I cover the beats and visit former teachers as I cover the schools. Newberry is where I attended college and where I had hoped to work after graduation.
But life turned out a bit differently. The Herald Independent found itself short staffed in May 2012, so I was loaned out over here from The Observer. What I thought was a short term gig turned into a year and a half. At times early in that tenure, being in limbo was frustrating personally.
But professionally, the Winnsboro job was the best thing that ever happened for me. Newberry, in my humble opinion, is getting 10 times the reporter back that it loaned out to Winnsboro in 2012. Why? Experience matters and thanks to the variety of story beats I covered in Fairfield County, I now am more skilled in investigative reporting, sports coverage, photography (thanks Martha Ladd, Joe Seibles and Deanna Robinson for the tips), and county government.
Along the way, I made a lot of contacts, many of whom I consider friends and hope to remain in touch with in the future.
Fairfield County, in many ways, became like an adopted home town. I slept in Pomaria and went to church there, but most of the rest of my hours were spent on the other side of the Broad River. It took a while to become acclimated but the people of Fairfield welcomed me in as one of their own, eventually. For the weddings and funerals, the scandals, the triumphs and tragedies, more often than not I found myself viewing them through my camera lens.
I’d never been to Winnsboro prior to my taking a job with the Neweberry Observer. This job, at times, challenged me in ways nothing else in life quite did before. I learned a lot about time management and became faster but also learned how to be quickly accurate.
I learned more about how to rely upon the team around me to cover news and our office chemistry was one reason part of me was sad to see Winnsboro in my rear view mirror Friday. Sometimes members of the public and I didn’t see eye to eye on things. This is a public job and opinions come out in a very public way, so that part comes with the territory. During my tenure I did my best to do right by the readers who picked up our paper. Over all, I think that mission was accomplished.
Of course time and news cycles move on. The paper is now in the capable hands of Lucas Vance in the interim. Eventually another staff writer will come on board to help him with coverage. If I had an event in the community, I’d want him to cover it.
We were cross trained to do sports, crime and politics coverage as well as local profile pieces. For a converted radio broadcaster, he picked up things quickly during the months we worked together and I was comfortable trading off assignments or asking him to fill in for me at a moment’s notice.
But, the paper is not just in his hands — it’s in yours. When I manned the office by myself in the months prior Luke’s coming on board, we relied upon community members to help us take photos and send in copy from community events.
Parents helped with sports coverage and sent photos, too, as did school district employees. Community members contributed columns, too. I’ll let you in on a little secret that will make you even more proud of your community. Due to budget restrictions, we no longer have a freelance budget at the paper; so all of these citizen-journalists contributed to us for free. That’s right, free. Many of them still do so.
They did it because they love their community and wanted to share in “The News and Herald,” as many of them still fondly call the paper. Because of those relationships being formed and strengthened, I believe our paper grew stronger during the time it was short staffed and that, together, we were able to take it to another level once Lucas came on board. I have faith that with your support, he, and whomever my replacement is, will improve it even more.
I’ll be a resource to help Lucas during the transition, and it may be our boss sends me over to Fairfield to help him in a pinch. And we have a few mores stories I was working on that will hit the paper during February.
Goodbyes are hard to say, but another deadline looms, so I’d best wrap this up. I hope to see you around, maybe at Arts on the Ridge or Rock Around the Clock.
Kevin Boozer can be reached at email@example.com. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper’s opinion.