Walter Ford: Thank you for reading
There was this particularly snarky professor at my alma mater going around the room picking journalism majors at random and asking what they wanted to do with their degree after graduation.
I think it was a scared straight type of thing. He was a sardonic and jaded fellow who would often say, “print media is dying, but at least the pay is bad.”
Answers from the students ranged from political reporter for a major paper, to feature writer at High Times magazine, to TV news anchor.
The professor volleyed back each answer with barbs of honesty on what it would take to achieve those professional goals.
He was blunt and harsh, but in a tough love kind of way. I’m pretty sure he just wanted us to know what we were getting into: high stress, long hours, competitive, etc.
After he had effectively dimmed the light in several young students’ eyes, he pointed to me.
In my head I was still playing out several different career/life path scenarios, when I just blurted out, “I don’t know, I kind of think it would be cool to be the sports guy in a small town. Cover high school sports and local rec leagues and stuff like that.”
I know it doesn’t sound ambitious, but it was good enough for Andy Farmer.
My life goal was never to be Bob Woodward or Carl Bernstein. I just wanted to find a gig I enjoyed and be able to raise my daughters in a small, safe community.
My answer drew some looks from fellow students, but the professor nodded approvingly and said, “Uh, OK. You might actually do that.”
Through good fortune, good timing and a fair amount of hard work — I did. I got the gig I wanted, and in the town I grew up in no less.
For the last nine years I’ve been The Union’s sports guy. It’s been an honor and an absolute joy.
I got to be on the sidelines for the tradition that is Friday night football, and all the passion and pride that comes with it. I saw records rewritten. I was there for historic races. I covered incredible feats of strength and endurance. I witnessed perseverance. I saw titles won and I saw titles lost. I was there for buzzer beaters and there for heartbreaking losses. I saw future pro athletes play for school pride and I watched this community mourn the tragic loss of young student-athletes who are gone too soon.
From high school sports, to brick-breaking, to IndyCar, to rocketry golf, to Little League, to rec league … I got to be there and I had the privilege to tell everyone about it.
It has been a dream come true.
But over time my dream has changed. And, so has how I can better serve our community.
So, it’s time for me to set off on a new journey. One I’m both nervous and excited about.
My time at The Union has helped me grow as a professional and as a person. I can’t speak highly enough of the all amazing folks who produce this newspaper. They are some of the most noble, honest and rational people I’ve ever come across. I’m going to miss them all.
I’m going to miss covering the big game. I’m going to miss writing feature articles on the many outstanding athletes in our community. I’m going to miss just “talking sports” with whoever called up the desk that night.
I’m going to miss a lot of things about this job, but most of all I’m going to miss you, the readers.
You challenged me, you encouraged me and you called me out when I spelled your kid’s name wrong. All of it was, and is, greatly appreciated.
As I hang up my writer’s cap and put down my pen for now, I walk away with a smile on my face and a soul filled with gratitude.
Thank you for trusting me to tell your stories, and thank you for reading.
Walter Ford can be reached at email@example.com.
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