I’ve often wondered what I would write when this day came along. Now that it is upon me, I honestly am not sure I have the words.
I guess I’ll start here: My time in the sports department at The Observer is over.
I’ve had an opportunity put in front of me that I believe is from the Lord — a new challenge to step into: Beginning next week I am taking over as editor of the Wallowa County Chieftain.
I’m not certain how to sum up my more than five years here at The Observer, other than this: I’ve largely gotten to live a dream doing what I originally got into journalism for — being a sports reporter.
What is ahead of me is a step way out of the proverbial comfort zone, as I’ve always viewed sports writing as a strength. But moving into a role primarily as a news writer and editorial writer while leading the Chieftain newsroom will challenge me to further grow and develop, and I couldn’t say no.
The good news is, I’ll be staying in La Grande, and hopefully still have opportunities to see many of you whom I have worked with during my time here. It’s a weird dichotomy because in one sense, it doesn’t feel like a goodbye. My mom always likened me to the bouncy tiger Tigger, so if I may channel him, it feels more like a “ta ta for now.”
But it also does feel like a goodbye. A goodbye to the 100s (or by now, probably at least 1,000) of coaches and athletes at the high school and college level I’ve had a chance to work with. It also feels like a goodbye to you, the readers, who have continued to open the pages of the sports section — whether in print or online — since I came to La Grande in March 2015. It feels like a long time to be in one role, yet feels like I have barely been here. I still recall the first stories I wrote the day I joined the paper, but also have gotten to tell so many stories since that I’ve forgotten many of them.
“Blessed” is a word that many times is overused, but I have been blessed immensely during my time here. Blessed by the coaches who have been rock stars to work with, who have put up with a text or a call late at night requesting stats, or who have been willing to talk even after a painful defeat when I’m probably the last person they want to see. Blessed by the athletes who have allowed me to tell their stories, who have stood out on and off the playing surface, and who have put up with my at times rambling questions. And blessed by you, the readers, because without those who pay their own hard-earned money to subscribe to the paper and who read our stories over, and over, and over again, we don’t have a job.
To say thank you to each individual I’ve encountered while wearing the sports reporter/editor hat the last five and a half years would fill every page of the next dozen editions and would still prove fruitless because I would inevitably forget somebody important. I do, though, want to single out the editors at The Observer who pushed me and challenged me in various ways during my time here: Andrew Cutler, Cherise Kaechele and Phil Wright. Thanks especially to Andrew for taking a chance on a 20-something who had been fired from his previous journalism gig.
To our publisher, Karrine Brogoitti: Thanks for holding the ship together in the rockiest of storms during the bankruptcy, and for your timely words to me in moments when I felt I was at the end of my rope.
To the rest of the staff, especially those who endured those trials and times of severe uncertainty: You have been amazing to work with, to laugh with, to cry with, and to just be around. Thank you for everything you have brought and continue to bring to the paper.
To the athletes: Thanks for having great stories to tell, for being class acts, and for tearing it up on the playing surface. I feel very fortunate that I was able to cover so many high-level contests — including well over a dozen championship events, numerous close calls and countless individual standout performances. You all made that happen.
To the coaches, from the smallest schools in the area to Eastern Oregon University: Thank you for all you put into your players, for your willingness to work with me (often on a moment’s notice), for making athletes available, and for the grace with which you handle roles that certainly are not easy.
To the parents, especially of the high school students I have written about: You did a great job raising kids who were easy to work with. Thank you.
To those who have maybe the most thankless job, the referees: Thank you for continuing to show up so that the games can go on and for doing your best.
And to the readers: As I said earlier, the paper is nothing without somebody to read it. Thank you for reading, for offering feedback and for continuing to subscribe. Though I stepped foot into only a few of your homes, each of you let me in three days a week by reading what was written and by taking in the photos and page designs. I rarely tell people this, but often I worry that a story I wrote — especially a feature — isn’t done well enough to do the subject justice. I hope what I produced met your standards more often than not.
I still can’t find the words to describe my time here. It’s sad to see it end, but exciting to see what lies ahead. I’m truly grateful to God for bringing me here, for the opportunities I’ve had here, and grateful to each of you.
God bless you all.