Local journalism is tough but worth it
I feel like a really young dinosaur.
I need that perspective to keep feeling young even though I have been in this industry for 20 years.
Since May 4, 1994, I have seen a lot of things. The 23-year old who took over a newsroom thought he knew a lot. The 43-year old sitting in my office today would laugh at that kid.
We didn’t even have email when I started in this business. But our fax machine that printed on thermal paper was wonderful.
Now I have to check Twitter to catch final results on a sporting event I had to leave early to make sure I had photos of another event so that I can have the results to include in the video I post online before I go to bed. At least I’m not still sniffing chemicals in a cramped little darkroom hoping my photos turn out.
Technology advances I made in that newsroom in my hometown included using a 14.4 bps modem to connect to a bulletin board site to download a sports column that a radio guy wrote each week. We felt so state-of-the-art.
It seems like the combination of digital and print delivery of news started slowly but it has advanced at a breathtaking rate.
I remember planning a print product in my head as I took photos and did interviews at the scene of the Murrah Building Bombing in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995. I can’t imagine having to live-tweet that event with so much death, destruction and disinformation.
But another event I saw first hand was the May 3, 1999 tornado that came down from the sky as multiple vortices about a mile from the old beat up car I was driving. I wish I would been able to update Twitter and Facebook as those multiple vortices came together into one massive tornado that left a mile-wide swath of devastation through our county all the way across the state.
Instead, we had to call off the chase in time to gather all the color film my newsroom shot and head to a one-hour photo developer in hopes of getting photos in the newspaper the next morning.
Today, with just my phone I would have posted photos and videos to our website and sent them out across a massive social media network while the tornado was still on the ground.
Times have changed.
I have covered floods, fires and many murder scenes. I have been the state’s journalist witness to multiple executions and I have spent more hours covering meetings than I even care to count.
I have covered state champions, national champions and seen many broken hearts of athletes whose dreams were crushed when they came up just short.
I was on the sidelines with a camera in hand when a team of boys I had coached for 10 years saw their dreams come true when they won a state championship in baseball.
I was a single guy when I started this journey. I can honestly say that at 23 I never thought I would have spent 20 days in Ethiopia and returned with a son by this point in my life.
So many things have changed in 20 years. But one constant never will.
Local news is important.
I will never win a Pulitzer or be a millionaire. But neither of those really motivate me that much.
I hope in 20 years I have been able to touch just as many lives with good news, bad news and opinion columns as I have the past 20 years.
This job isn’t for everyone. You should see the things I have been called in letters to the editor. Of course those things pale compared to those said online or to friends.
I have been cautioned by police officers that people I am writing about are dangerous and I have even had a group of law enforcement officers caught in an illegal gambling scheme threaten me in ways that kept my head on a swivel for months.
But I have a stack of thank you notes from people who the newspaper helped with events and emails from people who said a story or column had an impact on them.
This job isn’t easy and, if it were, I don’t think I would love it as much. Local journalism is tough but worth it.
I just hope in 20 years, 63-year old Kent is a little more impressed with 43-year old Kent than I am with the kid who took over a newsroom two decades ago.
Bush is the publisher of the Butler County Times Gazette and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org