I was nursing my second cup of coffee and making breakfast for my kids Tuesday morning when my phone buzzed.
I had a text.
I got as far as reading “answer your phone”, when the Alan Parsons Project’s song “Sirius” started playing. You may remember that as the instrumental tune that served as the background for the introduction of the starting lineup for Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls in the 90s, but it’s my ringtone and has been for years.
I was a little confused, but answered the phone nonetheless. We exchanged greetings and I took a sip of coffee just before the question was posed, “how would you feel about coming back to The Courier-Times?”
I gulped…hard, and my coffee burned going down my throat.
After it was explained to me exactly the purpose for this seemingly out-of-the-blue call, I realized that it was the conversation that I secretly always wanted to have but never thought was remotely possible.
For me, as a kid who grew up in Person County and stole the paper from my dad before he could read it after work, this is the dream job.
But let’s be real, the circumstances for this call, this opportunity, are far from ideal.
The company that I devoted so many years to as its sports editor made a mistake so massive that it cost someone his job and damaged the credibility and standing of “Person County’s Newspaper Since 1881”.
It was heartbreaking to see from a distance.
I hurt for the people in my community who rightfully feel insulted and betrayed by their local newspaper. I have no right to tell you how to feel or how to interpret the circumstances that led to that cartoon running in last Thursday’s paper, but I can assure you that it was a breakdown in the editorial process that will be corrected immediately. By immediately, I mean the minute I walk in the building on Monday.
I fear that the egregious error that was made on the editorial page in last Thursday’s edition overshadowed the main story in that same week’s paper. That main front page package was about the peaceful, purposeful march through town where people of different races came together in unity.
What should have been the focus coming out of last week was how Person County has been a shining example of how to peaceably assemble, discuss serious issues in respectful and honest ways with a heart for bringing our community closer.
Sadly, it wasn’t.
So let me tell you where we are now.
The person, the only person responsible for that mistake, is no longer employed at The Courier-Times. The other staff members, none of whom saw that cartoon before it was printed, were appalled and devastated when the paper landed on their desk and the enormity of the situation became apparent.
And here I am, back at my hometown newspaper and now serving as the editor and publisher.
For those of you who may not have been frequent visitors to the sports section in recent years, let me introduce myself.
I am a Roxboro boy, through and through.
I was one of Mr. Spencer’s favorites at South Elementary and remember him being at least 10-feet tall with the kindest heart and biggest hands ever. I was a product of the Swann sisters of South and Mrs. Clay and can say with absolute confidence that Mrs. Allen is the greatest third-grade teacher ever. DeCrystal Talley was my Cinderella to her Prince Charming and we remind each other of that often when we run into each other.
I was the original “Pete Tuck Guy” as the catcher on his first-ever baseball team at Southern Junior High School and was blessed to be on the field to see the last collection of his guys take him all the way to the 1A regional finals in his last year coaching at Roxboro Community School. Before Pete coached me, Brian Crutchfield and I made the greatest double-play combination in the history of Longhurst Park as members of the Roxboro Reds.
I was front-and-center with a camera and a notepad for almost all of the noteworthy sporting events in Person County during the past 20 years and somehow became the unofficial mayor of Volleytown, N.C.
I’m Myrna and Paige’s baby boy and Terry and Tonya’s little brother.
Above all else, I’m the daddy of the four most energetic and unique kids ever, ranging from 14 to 5-years old and I’m Autumn’s husband of 15 years. All four of my squad graduated from something this year, Katie from middle school, Emily from elementary school, T.J. from kindergarten and Matthew from preschool.
Person County news has been in my blood for as long as I can remember. My first-ever published story was when I was third grade after I interviewed former Person High School basketball star Avie Lester following N.C. State’s ACC tournament championship in 1987.
It took a little time, but I eventually found my way back home and for much of the last 17 years, I’ve been your source for sports information either at the C-T or, most recently, in my own venture, Person County Sports Now.
So now, I’m back home at the C-T and I didn’t make this decision lightly. I’m back because I believe that for this paper to truly succeed and return to its place as your hometown newspaper, it’s going to take a Person County native to lead the way.
I hope you understand that I’m still processing the gravity of the job that I’m about to undertake and the whirlwind that life has thrown at me in the last few days. It may take a little time to figure out the best way to proceed, but for now, the most logical first step is to listen to you.
I hope that you would feel comfortable enough to tell me what you think we, as a newspaper, need to do to gain or keep your trust. I’m not taking this position lightly, but with, to steal a phrase from one of my favorite TV shows ever, “clear eyes and a full heart”. Starting Monday morning, I work for you, the people of Person County.
I’m ready to get started, and I hope you’re willing to give us a shot to earn your trust back.