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Column: 18 years and counting

Posted: July 5, 2018 2:56 p.m.
Updated: July 6, 2018 1:00 a.m.

Thursday marked my 18th anniversary with the C-I. I celebrated by doing what I usually do on Thursdays: polish up my latest article (in this case, my interview with new Kershaw County School District Superintendent Dr. Shane Robbins); proofread some pages (including this one, so if you find any mistakes ... uh ... talk to the editor); and load up today’s articles, columns, obituaries, etc., on the C-I’s website.

When I think about my career here, I realize three interrelated things: 1) I’ve worked as a newspaper reporter and editor longer than in any other field; and 2) I’ve worked at the C-I longer than any other single place I’ve ever worked; which leads to 3) I’ve lived in the Midlands, mostly in Kershaw County, longer than any other one place I’ve ever lived.

Aside from working for a few restaurants and once (very briefly) as a telemarketer, my second-longest career, as long-time readers may remember, was in radio broadcasting. I started back in high school, in December 1980 and worked at various radio stations through mid-1995. So, about 14-1/2 years.

I started on Saipan, in the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. I then worked for one of the college radio stations at Syracuse University before transferring to the University of Memphis and working for the college jazz radio station there. Professionally, I worked at a station in the north Georgia mountains, and several stations here in the Midlands.

My second career lasted only five years, as an administrative assistant, teaching myself enough about the Microsoft Office suite and Windows to get me through the day. I worked first as a temp for Wachovia (since swallowed up by Wells Fargo) and then as an actual employee of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of South Carolina.

It was there that a friend told me of an opening here at the C-I. A guy by the initials J.T. decided to move to the coast. So, I applied and here I still am, 18 years later.

(That J.T. guy’s been back a few times, by the way. You might know him.)

I started as a staff writer on July 5, 2000. Three months later, my ex-wife and I adopted the first of our two sons, who will be 18 at the beginning of October. Our other son, whom we adopted 10-1/2 months later, will be 17 near the end of August.

How in the world did that happen?!

In fall 2004, the powers that be here were kind enough to have me try out acting as assistant editor, making the title official in April 2005. I served in that capacity for a little more than seven years before becoming editor in 2012.

In 2016, I decided to spread my wings a bit to work in another state. Five months later, I learned that the grass is not greener on the other side -- well, maybe it is, but it takes about double the work to keep it that way. Doubling your work load is liable to kill, or at least severely disable you.

I returned to Camden about 1-1/2 years ago in my present position as senior writer.

According to my calculations, I’ve written at least 4,000 stories for this newspaper, give or take a few hundred. I’ve probably written more than 850 columns, including today’s.

That’s a lot of articles about what happens at city council, county council, town council, school board and -- when it was public -- hospital board meetings.

That’s a lot of articles about alleged crimes that have taken place and the trials or other courtroom hearings in response to some of those crimes. (I could write a book -- hmm, I think I will!)

That’s a lot of articles about your family members, friends, neighbors and other folks with whom you share the land in this All-America City community called Kershaw County.

That’s a lot of columns about the S.C. Freedom of Information Act and why it’s at least as important to you as it is to me; about why you do have to spend money (yes, I’m talking about taxes) sometimes to make things work the way they should; about people, especially little girls and women, who have gone missing; and, yes, about Star Trek, Star Wars, super-heroes and so on. Not to mention columns about those aforementioned sons of mine.

And here’s the true common thread through those 4,000 stories and 850 columns: They’re my attempt to relate the story of living here in Kershaw County.

Writing is an obsession -- ask any writers of fiction, non-fiction, whatever, and they’ll probably tell you they can’t help thinking about what they’ve worked on, what they’re working on now and about their next project.

Being a journalist turns that obsession into a calling. At least it does for me. Why do we do what we do, usually for almost nothing, financially speaking? Because we believe that you deserve to know the truth -- whether good, bad or in-between -- about what is happening in your community, with your tax dollars, affecting you and your family’s lives.

It’s why I’m going to keep on writing for many years to come.

The byline’s nice, too.

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