Carden’s Corner: Let the games begin

Published 10:50 am Tuesday, August 16, 2016

For the past five years, I’ve joked that my personal ‘fiscal year’ begins Week Zero for prep football and, well, ends the week before that next year’s Week Zero.
Let’s go ahead and get the quick little introduction out of the way. For over three months now, readers of the Elizabethton Star have seen ‘Curtis Carden’ bylines scattered throughout the pages.
This column will be popping up throughout the year to address a variety of topics in the sports realm, where I was able to get my start in this profession.
As some may know, I graduated from Hampton High School in 2010 and right after graduation, had the opportunity to be a freelance sports writer for The Erwin Record, a weekly publication in Unicoi County.
Freelance went to full time, and sports went to sports, news, assisting with paper routes, helping with advertisement. It was a busy, but fun time where I was blessed to be part of multiple award-winning years and was able to carry over a solid base created by the Record’s former sports writer Kevin Lewis for over five years.
But after awhile, you need a change. Scanning the landscape, offers came in from out of the state, but when I came by the Elizabethton Star’s office, General Manager Delaney Scalf did the best impression of car salesman before I accepted the position.
The ‘sales’ pitch of the Elizabethton Star now is quite simple ­– it is here for the people and in a growing period. Not like this was a new territory, either. During my freelancing days, I was helping with the sports department covering a variety of events. You can’t help but to accept an invite to help place your mark on a product.
Whether it is a news piece, sporting event, feature on an individual, or even delivering the paper, one of the lost arts of the profession is the connection with people.
That’s why I am sitting in the desk right now. Of course the paycheck helps, you know, to live on, but the profession isn’t your normal 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. job.
You’re fighting an ever-evolving news media world. Newspapers across the world continue to scale back, something the Star itself had to go through a few years ago, while your typical ‘journalist’ nowadays has to be a jack of all trades – write multiple articles, attempt the most accurate as possible research, update stories with social media, take your own photos, be ready for the questions and either the compliments or backlash from a piece and be practically on call all hours in an era where let’s be honest, people want everything for free. (This goes back to the social media, oh what a double-edged sword Facebook and Twitter can be).
Mistakes do happen, they happen with everything that everybody does, and typically pop up more frequently in papers across the globe with the sheer volume of multitasking. Worst feeling ever as a writer is to churn out multiple stories and see a typo(s) skirt by and make it into print. Near vomit-inducing. Journalism is a constant pressure-filled, stress-inducing daily exercise.
And by golly, as long as I have a Dr. Enuf in hand, it is something I love.
This job puts you in a unique position of spotlighting individuals, a community, a town, a region, a state, the nation and even the globe. Sharing the stories to the public … how can that not be exciting?
I’m always a positive-first guy. You see so many negative headlines, and while sometimes they need to be reported, so much of the positivity gets lost in the clutter of ‘click bait’ articles that engage race wars, gun rights, sexual orientation and political arguments that typically lead no where except to an anger-induced day and a heavily cluttered Facebook or website comment thread.
One of the most exciting things is that even though I have had the chance to document numerous people’s stories, it is just the tip of the iceberg. With so much history, heritage and day-to-day activities going on, we’ve just scratched the surface of the region.
And not to mention prep and college athletics and getting underway … see you Friday night in Baileyton, Unaka.
Journalism is exciting, isn’t it?

(Curtis is an award-winning news/sports journalist and photographer for the Elizabethton Star. Questions or comments can be addressed to him by emailing or by calling 297-9507. You can follow Curtis on Twitter at: @Curtis_Carden)

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