The wheels on my suitcase bumped down the sidewalk as I hustled from an orientation meeting. I had only been in Monroe for a couple of hours after catching a 6 a.m. flight from a conference in Toronto.
No car, no clue, no worries. I was heading to Tim Hortons to meet the Agora editors and my predecessor, Dan Shaw, for coffee. I caught a local cab, and the driver and I enjoyed a short reunion from the last time I visited for my interview. Very cool guy.
Bleary-eyed, a little fried and very lost, I walked into the store and found Todd Salisbury already tucking into a chicken club sandwich. Jordan Jewell arrived shortly after and we talked journalism. Dan popped in for some black coffee and we talked more journalism.
It was great.
These kids are amazing.
This place is amazing.
I don’t say that flippantly, either. These editors are amazing. Yes, my predecessor has done a fantastic job of preparing them for this incredibly difficult responsibility. But they are simply amazing humans.
Todd knew I was idling about town like a rudderless ship and offered to give me a quick tour of the downtown area. We jumped into his truck because we first had to pick up his bike from the nearby bike shop, Jack’s Bicycles, where I immediately slipped down the rabbit hole of nostalgia. All those old freestyle frames on the wall brought back so many memories of makeshift jump ramps, dirt trails and summertime wheelies. Redline! I had that Redline…or at least one very similar. What a cool shop.
I got to know Todd a little better, his colorful language, his take on the town and the people. Maybe he got to know me a little better as well.
Which reminds me. This column is supposed to be like 300 words introducing myself to the campus community. I just couldn’t help bragging on these students a little bit.
Anyway, so I dragged my family here from a little town called Warrensburg, Mo., where I taught journalism and advised the student newspaper at the University of Central Missouri for about eight years. My wife, Angela, and I had lived in that town for nearly 25 years as a couple but she grew up there. We have two teenagers, Asher and Lucas. Both are attending Monroe High School.
I ran my own independent newspaper, the Warrensburg Free Press, for three years way back in 2002 while also working as a reporter for the Lee’s Summit Journal in that lovely Kansas City suburb some 40 miles from home.
Working two newspaper jobs was a very challenging, yet rewarding experience.
Essentially, my newspaper career has been grounded in community journalism. I briefly worked for a daily newspaper at the Sedalia Democrat, home of the Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival and the Missouri State Fair, as their county beat reporter, but I worked at weeklies for a majority of my career. I enjoyed the daily work in Sedalia, but I was lured away by a great offer to serve as editor of the competing paper in Lee’s Summit, the Tribune. We went up against the Journal, a McClatchy publication, and I like to think our humble family owned operation became the best paper in town.
However, things took a turn in 2008 during the recession, and I decided to return to school for my master’s degree at the University of Central Missouri. As I completed that degree, the adviser to the student paper retired and they asked me to stick around as an adjunct. I stuck around, became an instructor, was accepted into the School of Information Science and Learning Technologies Ph.D. program at the University of Missouri, became an assistant professor and finished my degree as I looked around for my next adventure.
I found Monroe.
This place is amazing.
These kids are so amazing.