Last updated: December 27. 2013 9:11PM - 2292 Views
Cris Ritchie — Editor

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It was nearly a decade ago when I walked into the office of the now defunct Kentucky River News and handed a very sparse résumé to its publisher, Paul Taulbee, and asked for a job as a reporter. He looked it over, looked me over, and said he couldn’t pay me much. I said I didn’t care. He said a business at Glomawr had been broken into, so go find out something about it.

Glomawr is undoubtedly outside of the limits of the city of Hazard. So, having no formal training as a journalist or any idea what I was doing, I drove to the Hazard Police Department to find out about this burglary outside of the HPD’s jurisdiction. Needless to say, that story never materialized.

Looking back now, I consider myself fortunate that nine years later I can write this column, on my final day as an employee of The Hazard Herald, and smile at my early ignorance. It was, of course, one of several mistakes I would make over the years, first with Kentucky River News and then here at the Herald where I began as a reporter in January 2005.

Certainly I’ve written some things that on second thought I would have written differently. But in a business where you write on a deadline about things people do, as much as you try and as much as you know you’ll kick yourself after the fact you still don’t always get it correct, whether it’s some small detail or a major violation of AP style. You also realize very early on that you can’t please everyone and that’s not your job anyway, so don’t fret over it.

So it goes.

Now that it’s over and I look back, I wouldn’t trade the experience of covering the news here in Perry County for much of anything. I’ve said many times that being a reporter on local beats is the best civics lesson anyone could have. Prior to beginning my career I had never attended a meeting of the fiscal court, school board, or city commission. I had never watched attorneys battle it out during a jury trial. I had never paid much attention to the process of government at the local level at all.

Now, not only do I possess a deeper understanding of the how things work, but also a better appreciation of how things get done, and most of the people who do them.

Take Circuit Judge William Engle. He won election in 2004, took over the circuit court in 2005, and I’ve been fortunate enough to cover his time on the bench since he became a judge. He is now set to retire after his current term, and certainly his legacy will be one of restoring order. One of his predecessors left a huge mess in the courthouse, and Judge Engle essentially cleaned up that mess and set the judicial process back into place.

There was a reason when he ran for re-election, he did so unopposed.

I have been fortunate to hold the editor’s position for as long as I have. It has opened doors to me that I would never have stepped through otherwise, and I have been able to work with folks who are not only good people, but who are really good at what they do. Jenny Jones, for instance, is really the glue that holds everything together here at the Herald. I am quite positive that none of us would be able to do our jobs at all if not for Jenny. And that’s not an exaggeration.

And it really is a team effort that I wish all of our readers could catch a glimpse of, from the reporters to our ad staff to circulation. We may work in different departments, but it seems we’re always willing to help each other when we can. And believe me, I’ll miss that.

I also have been fortunate to work with a string of talented reporters and graphic designers, from my first day to my last. I no doubt learned much more than I taught them. I learned things like photography and pagination. I learned how to follow leads and make contacts and pursue a story to its end. For what I have been able to learn from each of them I’ll always be grateful.

As I write this column now I have less than an hour before my time at the Herald comes to an end. A lot of thoughts are going through my mind, but foremost is a thought not of myself and where my singular journey will lead me, but one for Hazard and all of Eastern Kentucky.

There exists a foundation of people here, like Judge Engle, who are working to make this region a better place not only for the present populace, but for future generations. Despite what very well could be a crippling downturn in the coal industry, I feel positive that Eastern Kentucky will make a comeback and in the end reach heights we never have before seen. And Hazard will be in the middle of it all.

Sure, we’ve got lots of work to do to get there, but there is no reason why we can’t do it. It’s time now to push forward.

So, as I conclude what has been a much more lengthy and rambling piece than I had intended, I only wish to thank all of the Herald’s readers who over the years allowed me to tell you the news. It really has been an honor, and one that left me a much better person than when I began. There is nothing more one can ask from a job, and no better reward.

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