Managing Editor, The Garden Island
In high school, my senior year, I got talked into writing for the newspaper that serves the high school. And an issue popped up. I was a student athlete and one of my friends – happened to be – was all of a sudden allowed to play more than one varsity sport per season, which I – in eighth grade in entering high school – had been excited to do soccer and cross-country. I was told I couldn’t because it’s one-sport per season.
However, all of a sudden when our football team, which – being in Ohio, football is all-powerful – needed a kicker, he was allowed to do soccer and football. There was nothing against him I would’ve done it in a heartbeat too.
So I wrote a story for our school newspaper. And the next day I found myself in the AD’s office, asking why did you do this and why did you do that? And I learned a lot in that instance.
One I learned the power of it and that it can get some quick change, and quick reasoning. And I believe they went back and changed the code to make exemptions – to allow more than one athlete. I don’t think that they had ever had been questioned before. That’s one of the earliest instances that comes to mind.
Another that was way more, I guess, gut wrenching and stuff, was taking on a very prominent deacon of the church and businessman at the first daily paper I work for not as an intern. And he, on the side, ran a trailer park. Which literally – after getting a couple of calls from residents and I went out there and checked it out – literally had sewage running right down the road.
And I called him and I said,” Hey, what’s going on here?” He said,” I don’t know what you’re talking about.” And I showed up at and I showed him photos and all kinds of stuff. And I talked to the residents – interviewed the residents – and got their stories about how they’d been impacted by this that somehow – even though we’re poor – we shouldn’t have to live like this.
And I think he was trying to call my bluff – the deacon – and he said no you are not going to write this because of who I am, because of who you are and look at who they are.
But we ran it – I had a great editor at the time who helped me make sure all my facts were checked and Is were dotted and T’s were crossed. And sure enough the EPA was out soon thereafter; there were fines issued. And the trailer park that cleaned up. Suddenly right after that cleaned up, he subsequently closed it.
But I sure learned the impact that a good story can have on journalism. I also learned there is a backlash that you have to be able to stand up to and take after that.
And that was my first time really learning and experiencing that. Because he would go on to the Council in public forums and utilize his TV time to bash me and the paper for ruining his life and all this. So that first got me second-guessing the story – did I do something wrong? And then ultimately, I obviously learned that you’ve got to be strong enough to stand up behind the story.