At the Planet office, we had a saying when someone left: Just wait, they’ll be back.
With some coming back three times, it almost became a running joke. I guess newsprint really does seep into your blood.
Despite that, when I officially left the Planet office on Dec. 31, 2015, to take a position across the river at the Pagination Design Center of Paxton Media Group, I honestly though it was for the last time.
In one way it was — the Planet office is no longer open.
But that doesn’t mean the newspaper isn’t.
I’m glad to say: I’m back!
(Those are words I thought I’d never get the opportunity to type again.)
Growing up in Metropolis, I remember a certain excitement each week when the Metropolis Planet arrived in the mail. Even then I thought it would be cool to work there, but while I loved writing, a career in the field didn’t become a goal until my senior year at Massac County High School. So for the next 4 1/2 years in college, I turned a communication degree emphasizing public relations into journalism — taking the required reporting classes my sophomore year where stories were the basis for the bimonthly campus paper; working for the next 2 1/2 years as editor of that paper; and doing an internship my junior year at the college town’s small weekly.
As graduation neared, the time came for submitting resumes all around the area — including the Metropolis Planet and The Paducah Sun — and wondering who would bite. It wasn’t until literally a few days before graduation that I wondered if I’d made the right decision in focusing on journalism and not public relations.
Either way, that first round of resumes garnered two prospects — a small daily in Olney, Illinois, and a small weekly in Ripley, Tennessee. With its proximity to my college town, I chose Ripley — a place I’d never heard of and where I only knew of one couple: college classmates of my mom’s. I spent the next three years there, learning more as I went. And when that chapter ended, again out went the resumes all around the area — including the Planet and the Sun.
This time, it was the daily in Dyersburg, Tennessee, that called (followed a few weeks after I’d moved with a phone call from then-Planet manager/editor Clyde Wills offering a position). At the time, Paxton Media, the owners of The Sun, also owned the Dyersburg paper and I hoped that would be a jump into coming back to my home area. So while Clyde’s call was tempting, I chose to stay where I was, garnering all the experience I could on the daily side of newspaper.
When the time came after 10 years to leave Dyersburg, again went out those resumes, including the Planet and The Sun. This time, under the circumstances, thankfully I got another call from Clyde. I worked at the Planet from 2008-15, mostly covering city government, feature stories and whatever else would come up.
The next four years, I commuted to Paducah to layout sports sections for various PMG dailies and was the PDC’s assistant director when it was closed in March — right at the start of the initial COVID lockdown. I had just marked 25 years in the newspaper business in January and was ready to put that experience to work in a new setting.
Instead … well … COVID.
So for the next six months, I took some much needed time off. Then, I got a call; while that offer fell through, three weeks later, it came again. This time, the Planet was on the table.
On Sept. 11, I started back working in the town I grew up in, for the paper I grew up reading, in a job that obviously has seeped into my blood. A week later, while finishing an interview with Norma Korte, I had this warm, tingly feeling come over me (honestly!) and I thought, “Man! I have missed this!!!”
So, while the newspaper business has changed dramatically over the four years I’ve been away from reporting (much less the last several months), I hope my philosophy hasn’t: No matter the story, I hope to continue covering Massac County as a fair, accurate and truthful reporter.
Growing up here, I know, or know of, many of you. I hope I will have the opportunity to share your story. I can be reached at email@example.com or 731-589-1470 (just leave a message).