Forgive me for wallowing in self-indulgence this week.
You see, today is exactly 20 years since I walked into the Otago Daily Times and began life as a sports reporter, so I might be excused for feeling a little reflective.
Twenty years as a fulltime journalist. I’m not saying that warrants a medal or anything, but at a point in time when dozens of my colleagues have left the industry, I am proud to be a bit of a survivor. Just don’t ask me if I will last another 20 years.
Back in 1998, newspapers were king, and the life of a sports reporter was, let’s face it, relatively cruisey. There were fewer sports events to cover, and you could craft a story at your leisure without having to worry about the demands of the digital age.
I blundered through for a couple of years, covering sports I knew nothing about. Then I did a year at the Oamaru Mail. Then I returned to the ODT for three years as a general sports reporter, four as rugby writer and seven as sports editor.
Life, as it tends to do, threw up a curve ball when Dad fell ill. We moved to Oamaru, and 12 months later I was serving as the first editor of the weekly Oamaru Mail and helping co-ordinate North Otago coverage in the ODT
What’s kept me going?
I’m not in it for the glory or the public respect (clearly). I’ve never won any major awards. It’s a hard time to be in the industry.
But I still love newspapers. I still like the buzz of seeing a really good story in print.
And, by god, I have been a lucky man.
Six weeks in France and Scotland to cover a Rugby World Cup. Five weeks on the road for a Lions tour. A month in the United States. Four New Zealand Open golf tournaments. Getting to meet and interview some extraordinary sportspeople. The opportunity to help a community newspaper thrive.
Mainly, though, it’s the people around me who have made 20 years fly by, in a good way.
My first two mentors, Brent Edwards and Ali McMurran, both now departed. The extremely supportive Murray Kirkness, Barry Stewart, Dave Cannan and Craig Page. Sports reporting colleagues Steve Hepburn, Adrian Seconi, Matt Smith and Rob van Royen, and talented sub-editors Tony Love and Andrew Morrison. Rivals turned friends Kate Buchanan and Nathan Burdon. And too many people in North Otago to mention, especially in the sporting world.
Most of all, my wife and my son – who sits at my desk, as I write, doing his homework – are the people who have provided my inspiration, who share my joy when it’s been a good day at the Oamaru Mail, and improve my mood when it hasn’t.