After more than five years of writing this column in The Gazette, it’s time to say goodbye.
This week marks the end of a 15-year journalism career that started in September of 1997 when the publisher of a weekly newspaper in Wautoma, Mary Kunasch, hired me, sort of fresh out of college, as the news editor. I had little experience in the field – some writing and layout work in high school and college where I majored in English – but because Mary thought I was someone she could work with, she took a chance on me.
I remained at that newspaper, the Waushara Argus, for 10 years until my wife and I decided to move to Stevens Point to be closer to her job at that time in Marshfield. Learning about a job opening at The Gazette, a paper I hadn’t heard about before, I called the paper’s managing editor and one of its founders and owners, Gene Kemmeter, and landed an interview. Upon meeting Gene, I knew immediately I’d like to work for him, but judging by the paper’s rundown office on Church Street, I wasn’t quite sure if it was the perfect fit for me.
I took a few days to decide whether or not I wanted to take the job after Gene offered it to me. My decision became easier to make after reading the paper and realizing all it offers to the community. I knew working for people who produced such a quality product could help me better my abilities.
For three years I worked as Gene’s associate editor, trying my best to learn as much from him as I could. He made sure I knew the Associated Press format well, and that everything that goes into the paper requires at least three readings to make sure it’s ready for publication (and even then it’s not always perfect). He taught me more than any teacher or co-worker in my educational and professional career.
In addition to being a great teacher, Gene has also been a source of humor. Every time I hear one of his many stories for the fifth time, I laugh. I laugh not because the story is funny, but because he’s so thrilled to be telling it. I wish I could remember some of my own stories like he does, but also to have the same passion for story-telling that he shows. And nothing gets a bigger laugh out of me than hearing him spell his name – G-E-N-E – to people taking his call-in restaurant orders.
When he retired in 2010, his job became mine. It’s been one I’ve enjoyed, especially since he taught me well, and it’s one I will miss. Not many jobs allow you to meet hundreds of interesting people, experience all that is going on in the community and have fun while working.
But it’s time for me to move on. Beginning next week I start a new journey, one I returned to college for in 2011. In this new role, as director of marketing and communications for the United Way of Portage County, I’ll be able to continue working with many of those in Portage County I’ve already met, but in a new capacity employing many of the skills I’ve already learned through my journalism career.
I’m excited, especially since I know I’ll be working with a group of people I know are equally as cool and fun as the crew at The Gazette. While I’ll miss my Gazette family, I know I’ll still see many of them on a regular basis and most are a quick click contact through my cellphone or Facebook.
This column is probably the hardest thing I need to say goodbye to, as I’ve been writing it regularly at The Gazette since starting here, carrying it over from the Argus where I wrote it occasionally. Through the years, I’ve had countless people make comments about my musings, many of which were about my family and my life as a thirty-something.
“The Light of Day” has allowed me to write about the beginning of my relationship with my wife, our marriage, the birth of our first son, selling our house and moving to Stevens Point, and the birth of our second son in 2012. I’ve tried to humor people by giving my unique perspectives about popular culture, and I’ve upset people in talking about Ed Gein (seriously people of Plainfield, lighten up and acknowledge your past – it’s not going away).
But now it’s time to say goodbye. My wife said she’s somewhat relieved to know that a lot of what we do won’t become public knowledge anymore, but I know she’ll miss it. After all, she has been my biggest motivator in convincing me to write this and to continue writing it.
I thank all those I’ve mentioned who have helped me get to this point, as well as all the others at The Gazette and in the community who I’ve worked with and met over the years. Thank you.
In saying goodbye, I’ll let people know I’m leaving the paper in excellent hands. Matthew Brown, my associate editor since 2010, will take over the role of managing editor. He’s impressed me every day since hiring him, and now it’s his turn to impress you.
I leave you with some Bruce Springsteen lyrics from a song this column got its name from, “The Light of Day”: “I’m just around the corner to the light of day/Just around the corner to the light of day/Just around the corner to the light of day.” I hope we all are.
Thank you for reading.