My journalism award is for getting old!

Posted 3/17/19

I had a mild surprise recently, and was more than a little confused. It was an e-mail from the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth.The communique informed me I had been selected for a …

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My journalism award is for getting old!


I had a mild surprise recently, and was more than a little confused. It was an e-mail from the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth.

The communique informed me I had been selected for a prestigious award, the John Seigenthaler Kids Count Media Award. Named for the former publisher of The Tennessean, the award is coveted in journalism circles.

Last year's recipient was Dolly Parton, and I am very cognizant of her efforts for children and youth, especially her scholarships for high school students in Sevierville and Sevier County, and her statewide Imagination Library for Tennessee's youngest children.

My confusion was that obituary writers do not normally receive awards.

Calling the state office, I inquired  if the award was for Cleveland Daily Banner coverage of children and health issues. Again, I was informed I was "targeted" as the recipient.

A  little research resulted in a second call, and continued inquisition.

This time I was told, "The Commission felt this was an opportunity to recognize your 57 to 60 years in journalism."

This I could understand.

When you get old enough, people may decide to help you out the door! I say this in jest, and am appreciative of this recognition of my long career in journalism.

I realize the door is closing on my career, as well as print journalism. I also understand social media is the newspaper of the future.

Young journalists, regardless of how much they love writing and newspapers, face looking at options for the future. The world of  "paper and ink," as we are being constantly reminded, is apparently fading.

I am not bitter that my life and employment are changing so drastically in my twilight years. I am thankful for having enjoyed something that might not be available in the future.

I have received a number of rewards since I have reached what I perceive as "old age," and since I first arrived in Cleveland.

There's high blood pressure, diverticulosis,  neuropathy, reflux, the gout, an irregular heartbeat, arthritis, cataracts  and diabetes ... to name a few. Add two kidney stones, gall bladder removal, three successful cancer surgeries, and a quartet of TIAs (mini strokes). As you can see, my cup runneth over!

Six or seven little pills each night remind me what it's like to get old.

You might ask me why I've continued as a full-time journalist, with its time and effort requirements.

The answer is easy. I love what I do, and  I've enjoyed "my world" of newspapers.

Still, if Guttenberg and I had realized  the limit of financial and physical rewards, he probably would not have invented the printing press, and I would probably would have been a truck driver!

An old friend and high school classmate, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander,  has a wonderful story that explains what it's like to become "old," and less recognized than in the past.

When returning from Washington, D.C., to his home at Blackberry Farm in Blount County (Walland), Lamar was driving along Lamar Alexander Parkway and stopped at a convenience store. 

After making his purchases, he handed the very young clerk his credit card.

She regarded the  renown senator, a former two-term Tennessee governor and U.S. Secretary of Education, and glanced back at the credit card.  She then asked, "Did they name you after this highway?"

Such is the result of being known, and then growing old and fading away.

The young lady brought Lamar down to earth, and also had the opportunity to tell her family she met a man named for a highway! A memory to last her lifetime.

Lamar and I had parallel careers.  He walked across the state in a plaid shirt to get a job as governor. I walked downtown to the Maryville-Alcoa newspaper office, which was located in an old feed and seed store. Such are the things of life.

Our careers have progressed since that time. But, I don't have my own highway!

I have other reasons for hanging on as one of Tennessee's elder journalists. I have been fortunate to have grown children come back home to live, along with their pets. My little dachshund and kitty, Lucy and Annie, are still wondering what happened.

My people at home are wrapped up in social media, like a majority of today's younger generation.

I constantly wonder about the future, and how the world of newspapers will turn out. I hope I am around to see the finished product, but know it will be directly related to  technology. I imagine it will be an amazing thing to see.

Unlike many, many people I have interviewed over the years, I have not yet talked with God. There have been a few whispers, but I feel it will happen when we're both ready.

Hopefully, He will confirm my newspaper articles have left a little joy and good in the world.

For now, I'm appreciative of this latest honor, and recognition, for my newspaper career. Many of my mentors and co-workers have passed, and I will always be thankful for their positive influence and encouragement.

Competition is one of the reasons I've enjoyed my career, always looking for that special story, special coverage, unique photograph, and meeting new people, and seeing new things.

I've won state championships in multiple athletic venues, and other honors, but this is the first time I've been recognized for getting old!

I guess no one else in the business had the age to qualify for this special honor.

A special treat was that my two sons, Robby and Russell, shared this honor with me during the presentation in Nashville.


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