I can remember it like it was yesterday, although it was 30 years ago … my first “real” assignment as a correspondent for the Herald Republican.
A budding photojournalist with just enough photography knowledge to make myself dangerous, I headed to Fort Wayne on a cold, rainy Saturday to cover an Indiana State School Music Association marching band competition. I arrived at Northrop High School with my 1980s era Minolta X700 camera, two lenses and three or four rolls of film.
After over an hour of standing in the rain to shoot photos of the Angola Marching Hornets and the other area bands in competition that day, I returned to my car soaked, but hooked on what would grow into a 30-year career.
As I sit here today reflecting on what has been a rewarding, although sometimes frustrating career, I realize how much I am going to miss this path that has taught me so much over the years.
Thursday, Oct. 20, was my last day as a journalist. I am getting ready to embark on a new career in municipal government with the City of Auburn. Admittedly, it will be a change from what I am accustomed to, but I know I will take all the knowledge I have learned from those who have influenced me along the way to make the next career just as great.
Over the years I have reported on and captured photographs at a wide variety of events. The job has afforded me many opportunities that the average person can’t take advantage of, from access to concerts, sporting events, special government functions and more. It has been an adventure.
I started my career as a correspondent with the Herald Republican in Angola with then-editor Rick Martinez and assistant editor Mike Marturello (who currently serves as editor of the publication). It was those two gentlemen who gave me my first shot in journalism as I worked my way through college at Indiana Purdue University Fort Wayne and Ball State University. The on-the-job training and experience I gained helped to shape me into an award-winning photographer. I spent over a decade capturing the everyday moments in Steuben County — some happy, some sad, and some tragic.
It is those memories that will stay with me for a lifetime, and some still haunt me today. In conversations with students over the years I always share both the heartwarming stories and those tragic stories that we as journalists have to cover in order to bring our readers the news of the day.
One of those stories occurred on a mild winter day in late March in Steuben County. As the fire tones rang across the scanner, I jumped into action to capture the moment that was about to unfold — what I thought was going to be the rescuing of two ice fishermen on a rural lake. Little did I know that day wasn’t going to have a happy ending, as the ice was too thin and temperatures were too mild for crews to successfully rescue the two fishermen.
Throughout the ordeal I captured all the heroic efforts of the first responders who risked their own lives in an attempt to rescue the fishermen. After several hours of struggle, their efforts failed.
The two fishermen lost their lives that day.
Those images still flutter back into my consciousness every now and then. Fortunately, though, there are more happy endings for me to remember than sad ones.
After working for the Herald for more than 10 years, my journalism career took me to Crawfordsville, where I was forced to make a career change. If I wanted to continue working in newspapers … and I did … I could no longer be strictly a photographer.
I was going to have to pick up a pad of paper and pen and learn to write stories, too.
To this day I’m not sure what the editor of the Crawfordsville Journal Review — Mr. Jay Heater — saw in me, but I’m glad he gave me the chance. It was there I got my first real taste of covering local government, as county government and a couple of the smaller communities in Montgomery County were my assigned beat. It was there I learned to love reporting on the happenings in those communities as well as capturing events with digital photography (which my wife often reminds me I told her would never replace film).
The two editors I worked for at the Journal Review — Mr. Heater and Tina McGrady — pushed me to hone my craft, while also taking on the duties as a quasi-night editor in charge of proofing and finishing up pages each night.
From there it was a trip back closer to home to take a job with the Hillsdale Daily News in Hillsdale, Michigan as a newsroom manager and then editor. During those almost five years I polished my craft even further and became the editor I am today.
My motto became, “No story is too big or small for me or my staff to tackle,” and if someone invited us to cover a story we did our best to do it. I have always had a heart for community journalism and feel newspapers are a vital part of any community.
Restructuring at the Hillsdale Daily News left me questioning my career, but ultimately brought me back to KPC in September 2019 — from which I honestly thought I would retire someday. In the summer of 2021, longtime editor of The Star, Dave Kurtz — who I have always admired for his approach to community journalism — retired and I had the opportunity to follow in his footsteps here at The Star.
These opportunities over the past couple of years have been amazing, and I thank the community for welcoming me and trusting me with the stories of DeKalb County. It was my time here that has set me up for the next chapter of my life, which I’m sure will be just as eventful.
So as I look back over the past 30 years, I thank everyone in my professional life who has helped to mold me into the journalist I am today … Rick Martinez, Mike Marturello, Jay Heater, Tina McGrady and Steve Garbacz.
And I can’t forget the people in my life who have been there all along the way encouraging me: my family.
My wife Jamie has been by my side every step of the way, encouraging me and supporting me through the career that has a piece of both of our hearts. We met on the job and worked together for many years, so journalism for us was all day, every day for a long time.
My children Danielle and William have also been with me throughout the journey, unfortunately more often than they probably would have liked to have been sometimes. They often had to tag along while Dad was covering the news after hours, because we all know if there is breaking news out there it is the job of your local reporters to cover it no matter what time it is.
It has been a wild ride, and one I will miss. But it is time for me to embark on something new, and even though I am a little nervous I am also very excited.
Thank you, DeKalb County, for the chance to serve you. I will see you around.