What do you do?
I spend half of my life on the road. I cover all Missouri sports, primarily men’s football and basketball. I also cover baseball, softball and volleyball. Athens in 2004 was my eighth Olympics to cover. It made for a busy summer. I write primarily people stories.
How did you get your job?
I was a student at Missouri and they had correspondents jobs for Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri. We went to football practices and wrote features during the season. I called the KC Star and asked about a job and sent my clips. I spent a year on high school sports and then went immediately to major league baseball. I did a year as the assistant city editor, the same year the Hyatt Skywalk fell down. I also worked for the Star Magazine for nine months.
What was the best professional lesson learned at the J-School?
My best professional lesson was actually from the now deceased Dr. Robert Knight, who did a lot of work with high school students before they came to college. My junior year of high school I went to a journalism workshop. We had to go out and find stories. While I was there, there was an anti-war protest in front of Memorial Union. I got talking to people, even though I was not assigned to the story. I took the idea to Dr. Knight and he said to write it up and turn it in. I got third place in spot news. Frequently, it is the story you don’t know is there that you pick up and is better than the story you are out to get.
What do you consider to be your greatest professional achievement?
I was in Cuba doing prep work for the Pan-American Games. I went down with 16 other journalists and with the U.S. Olympic committee. I went down with the idea that I wanted to do some lifestyle stories. I wanted to show how the world stopped after the revolution. I ended up with 11 or 12 lifestyle stories. We got an interview with Fidel Castro, and that worked well. It was well received and the most satisfying stuff I’ve done. It may not be what people remember my writing for, but it is what I remember.
What makes you good at your job?
Sometimes, absolutely nothing. Sometimes, I’m not good at my job. I write people stories; what they are about. It’s not my story, it’s their story. I try to be fair. I try to write like Stephen King would write it. I would read him to develop my own style. You show people where the cracks in the sidewalk are. I think people like to read about what other people are like. If I were good at something, it would be imagery in my writing.
What are you working on currently?
College football expansion/reorganization seems to take up a part of every day, or at least fill in the cracks of preparations for the upcoming season and trying to wade through the muck of MU basketball coach Frank Haith and what he did and did not do and did and did not know about the scandal that has rocked his former employer, the University of Miami. In this modern age of journalism, even old horses like me are writing on the 24-hour news cycle, blogging, video logging, writing for the daily paper and for special sections, and doing it in the face of furloughs and layoffs that afflict the industry.
What are your next career steps?
I’m about to quit doing what I have done as a vocation for so long and return to doing what I always have loved. That is, playing acoustic guitar, finding the words to all the songs I’ve learned to play the last 45 years, and building a small recording studio in the basement so I can put all of that on DVD. Who knows what I will do with them? I like to think I will put them in a wonderfully mysterious leather case, put them away in the corner of my bedroom closet, and anticipate the day after I am gone when my grandchildren or great grandchildren come upon them and listen in amusement (or perhaps wide-eyed wonder) at what I have hidden away for them to find.
What skill would you most like to have?
I’d like to have patience. I would like to have the ability to wait and not let it eat me up. I’d like to wait and watch things unfold, instead of trying to affect them. Patient people tend to be happier people.