Memories of a sportswriter

I’m bringing this blog feature back, at least for today. But maybe more, because it’s enjoyable for me to think back on my career. Most of the time.

I will have been at The Eagle for 38 years in a few weeks. Who would have ever thought I could hold the same job – with some different responsibilities – for that long? It’s been an interesting ride.

But my newspaper career actually started when I was 16 years old and went to work part-time for the Derby Daily Reporter in my hometown. I was a nearing the end of my junior year in high school and, because I apparently had some aptitude in a journalism class I had taken when I was a sophomore and became the sports editor of the highly-acclaimed “Panthers Tale” as a junior, I was able to finagle a part-time job out of it.

Not all of what I did for the Daily Reporter was sports, though. In fact, I don’t remember the sports stuff as much as some of the other things I covered during my time with that paper.

We were a small operation, just a four-person newsroom, as I recall. So in addition to being the sports editor, I also occasionally covered Derby city government, the school board and whatever else needed covered at the time. I was as green as a reporter could get and had little grasp on the important issues facing a city or a school system. But I dug in and gave it my best. I often wish I had saved more of the stories I wrote from that time, just to see how bad they were.

I was also a staff photographer in Derby. When I covered an event – whether it be sports or news – I was expected to take pictures and then develop the film. This was long before the digital age. I remember being very proud of a picture I took at a Derby football game in El Dorado the year after I had graduated from high school. Bill Campfield, who went on to play at Kansas and then in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles, was a Derby running back and I got a shot of him slipping as he was close to running out of bounds near the sideline. It was a good shot, if I say so myself. It must have been; it’s the only picture I remember taking.

It wasn’t an easy job. Anybody who has ever worked at a small paper knows how time-consuming it can be. And those few of us who worked in Derby during the early-1970s were committed to doing a good job.

I didn’t make much money, but I thought I did. And one of the best perks of the job was knowing that Pizza John’s, a Derby institution that makes some of the best pizza and hoagies on the planet, was across the street from the Daily Reporter building. So when I worked nights – and I worked lots of nights in those days – it was easy just to go a few steps and eat a sandwich. Plus, I kind of had a crush on one of the girls who worked there at the time, but please don’t tell my wife.

Working at the DDR was a big deal. I grew up reading that paper. They used to have a Man on the Street feature when I was a kid that we all talked about at school.

But the Daily Reporter shut down in 2009, a victim of the tough times in the newspaper business. It had been a Derby staple for 47 years and it provided me with a great training ground.

It’s been fun thinking about those years in Derby, where I even helped load the press with plates and did some page layout. Most everybody there at the time did a little bit of everything. Those were good times.