One year later

Published 4:57 pm Friday, August 11, 2017

Sometimes it helps to reflect a little on the past.
June of last year, I made the decision to step away from a position across the county line and accept a new challenge in life. Years of sports coverage, contacts, friendships and memorable moments locked away in the ’ol noggin to try something new.
Sure, it probably made more sense to do a piece like this a couple of months ago, but much like journalism, gameplans oftentimes have their fair shares of audibles. Heck if Peyton Manning can do it through his football career, surely there’s nothing wrong with it, right?
Over the past 25 years, one trait I’ve continually worked on is staying busy. Saying life growing up wasn’t easy could be an understatement, (will save that for the future joked-about autobiography), but the joys of writing gives an author the ability to express thoughts deep inside in a way that can provide. The last two years in Erwin, I tried to magnify that. Responsibilities of just sports grew tenfold to news coverage, assisting with advertising, photography, riding in the back of old reliable (a paper van we used in the late night/early morning hours to deliver papers in the Johnson City/Unicoi County areas) and just going out to talk with people.
It isn’t healthy, so don’t take this as advice, but work absorbed my life. You attempt to mask problems going on personal with your business life — you may be able to pump more into your work and have success, but the battles at home just grow even larger.
That led to the decision to make the trip over to Elizabethton. Following recent changes over the years, the chance to make an impact seemed too easy to not pass up. I mean, c’mon now, a Valley Forge/Hampton native, graduate of Hampton High, somewhat back on the home turf. Covering sports took a backseat, but I got the opportunity to share stories of residents that wouldn’t have been shared before.
Before going any further, a special debt of gratitude is needed for the readers of this publication. Support for a local newspaper actually growing in era that sees other papers across the country slashing and cutting on a regular basis means more than you’ll ever know.
I can’t necessarily say journalism all together, but writing is something my former junior English/Journalism teacher Rebekah Harris helped me learn to love. The power of the pen, well nowadays a keyboard, is an incredible tool.
But it doesn’t come without its fair share of setbacks. Waiting an extended amount of time on a callback, seeing a typo or two (or 5,139394) make their way into a story, having the perfect story idea come to your attention to just go “nope” and, my favorite, having facts in stories but get berated because “That ain’t what I seen on Facebook” (Joys of a society-media-driven society). No matter how much of a change goes on, you’re not always going to win everyone over.
These are issues I, and thousands of journalists across the country, deal with on a day-to-day basis. But even with that, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
The amount of people I’ve been able to meet and become great friends with is beyond incredible and something I will appreciate for the rest of my time on this earth. Journalism isn’t a 9-5 job (if you’re actually doing it right). So many different parties, get-togethers and other activities have been thrown out the window for one of the so-called audibles to get online and in the paper. But sharing stories with others … you can’t pass that up. The cell phone stays practically surgically attached to the hip for a reason. Well two reasons, since Ezekiel Elliott went rouge there’s some work to be done in fantasy football.
The culture, though, of local journalism is changing. Whether it wants to or not. The community has started to rally behind a form of media that’s “dying”. When people could have said no thanks, support stuck around.
We never know what the future has in store. Covering athletics is a passion that will never go away. I will always be in debt to Unicoi County and the other media outlets I wrote for during the six-year stint of being a primary athletic writer. Awards are just paper or wood, but they were won by all of us. I will never forget that. Heck, I’ve been singing the “back to song” song from Billy Madison but that’s also on my docket. The future is unknown, but definitely exciting.
All kinds of different ingredients are cooking in the crockpot of life, but that’s what makes this ride we’re all in together worthwhile.
Curtis Carden is an award-winning journalist and columnist with the Elizabethton Star. Curtis can be reached via email at or by phone at (423) 297-9057

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