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The type of person and reporter I want to be

Yesterday was hard.

When I came back from my school board meeting Wednesday night I couldn’t concentrate. It had nothing to do with the story or meeting. It was because the courts reporter was there cleaning out his desk. He spent much of the day Thursday finishing the job. And then, after a short but touching reception, he walked out of the building where he has worked the past 21 years to launch a new career.

It was hard on me, so I can’t imagine how he felt this morning when he woke up and realized for the first time in more than two decades he no longer works for the J&C, or as a reporter, or in journalism at all. Considering that represents all but about a year of my life, I can’t even begin to imagine.

Besides the entire newsroom at his reception (literally, there was one copy editor still in the newsroom), as proof of what an institution and great reporter he is, the sheriff, police chief, judges, attorneys and former J&Cers all showed up to pay their respects. The police and sheriff’s dept. even gave him plaques. I forget the exact saying but the general gist was “Thanks for your relentless pursuit of the truth.”

I felt silly that I was as sad as I was when I have only known him six and a half months. But you know what? I learned more from Joe in those six months than probably anyone else. He was hands down one of my favorite people. I lucked out that his cubicle was beside mine, because he got to help me with a lot of my dumb questions as I was just starting. All I got to repay him with was a few good laughs and some tech support. He also knows everyone(!) and how to get everything, which I guess tends to happen when you’ve been doing it that long. So he was an invaluable source of advice and knowledge. Not to mention he’s a hell of a reporter and a genuine good man. And you know what, he was still learning new things and chasing a story right up until the clock hit 5 p.m. on his last day. That’s the type of person and reporter I want to be.

I was talking to him before he left about how long he had been there and what has changed and what’s still the same. And he said that in his time he’s seen a lot of reporters come and go and many he can see their face but can’t even remember the name. That makes sense. I mean, 21 years is a long time to be in any one place, especially in this business. There are names I can hardly recall from my internship last summer. But I know that no matter where I go, I’ll always remember him.

What struck me most was what an impact he made. I mean, man, I hope someday to have a job at a place I like enough to stay somewhere two decades. I hope I’m able to make an impact that’s worth so many important people coming out to celebrate my accomplishments and lament my choice to leave.

It’s going to be hard for me to walk into the office today and sit down at my cubicle and not have Joe beside me asking how to fix something or send something or do something on his computer, not to have him telling me about the dumb criminal of the day or asking if I caught the address they just said on the scanner. The only consolation I get that a lot of other J&Cers don’t have is I know I’ll see him again.

See, Joe’s not leaving journalism like many people these days. He’s not being laid off. He’s not being forced out. He’s not jaded to the point that he hates what he does. Instead, he’s starting a new career. And lucky for me (and for the seventh and eighth graders he’ll be teaching), it’s as an English teacher. I keep telling him he can be my deep throat at the school or that I’m going to do a trend story on first year teachers or people who are taking on teaching as a second career and he’s going to be my main source. I’m kidding of course, but I know every time I stop by the school, I’ll make a pit stop by Mr. Gerrety’s room. It’s hard for me to let him go, I can’t imagine how hard it was for him to let go of the J&C.

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