There’s not a better job in the world than being a community journalist.
Throughout my long career, I8 years as both an editor and managing editor and last two plus as a freelancer, I have had the opportunity to cover all sorts of topics from agriculture to high school sports.
I’ve ridden in rusted-out pickup trucks with famers to feed their cattle and check their crops and I once drove a combine while doing a feature story. I remember once climbing a grain bin to get a better view, only to discover that climbing down with a camera hanging off my neck was much harder than going up.
I’ve drove through corn fields, followed pheasant hunters on a cold January morning and I will never forget the time I got pooped on at a dairy farm. I got it good, too!
Another time, during an ice storm, I drove five miles on a sheet of ice to cover an overturned semi carrying hogs to market. The little squealers where roaming all over the road.
I’ve ridden in school buses and sat in locker rooms during halftime of a game and listened as the coaches pumped up the players. I’ve stopped to interview someone and they invited to the table for supper.
I remember going to a football game once in Russell and had the opportunity to write a column about a girl who played football. She was one tough cookie as was her parents. Her dad laid carpet and her mom drove a semi.
A reader once grew me a batch of okra in her garden and brought me a bag full. There was so much that I gave some of it away to the local grocery store owner and the rest I cooked and ate. Okra is a southern delight.
I once had a fellow tell me he enjoyed reading the paper so much, that he took it to the toilet with him. No award on my wall can stand up to a man reading a story I wrote while taking care of his business.
I’ve stayed up all night at the after prom parties and ate lunch with the kids at the school cafeteria. I’ve covered hundreds of community events, parades and county fairs in two different counties. I’ve photographed hogs at the county fair for 24 years. I never miss an opportunity to cover the swine show at the county fair. It is one of my favorite things to do at the county fair.
I’ve traveled to Washington, D.C. with a HLV one year and I’ve attended performances at Hancher Auditorium, thanks to the late Orville Bloethe.
I’ve covered FFA, once traveling to Louisville, Ky., to cover the National FFA Convention. And I’ve done hundreds of stories on 4-H youth and that great organization. And I can’t forget about Farm Bureau and the many stories I’ve written about that grassroots organization.
I’ve interviewed political and gubernatorial candidates, once even interviewing presidential candidate Fred Thompson.
I’ve covered stories at the Iowa State Capitol and remember the time I was walking down the Capitol corridor with then Representative Danny Carroll.
“Hello, J.O,” one person said as we walked by. Then another said hello and I stepped into the prayer chamber and some else I knew greeted me.
Representative Carroll asked, “how many people do you know?”
“A bunch,” I replied.
I’ve mentioned a long list of accomplishments, but the best part has been the people in the communities I have served. They’re the ones who are making a difference. I just get to tell their story.
The American “can do” spirit is alive. Don’t let COVID, the election and threats of this and that crush your will to be difference makers.
We all have something to offer from the custodian to the teacher, CEO, factory worker, cook, writer, banker, community business owner, political candidate, barber and historical timekeeper. We all play important role, not only in our communities, but in the world.
Don’t give up! Take time this Thanksgiving to be thankful for opportunity. A door is waiting for you to open and go in.
Have a great week and always remember that “Good Things are Happening,” every day and always.