New places provide an education not found in textbooks

One of the pluses of being a journalist is that we can be a nomadic bunch. Granted, there are some who wouldn?t see that as a plus, and yes, it can be a pain moving every couple of years. However, new experiences and persepectives gained by brushing shoulders with different people far outweigh the negatives.

In the time I?ve been at The News, I?ve seen 14 reporters come and go. A reporter, on average, stays at a newspaper two to three years and then it is off to what they presume are greener pastures.

My generation had parents who, by a fairly hefty margin, stayed put. Both my parents lived, with the exception of military service, in the same community their entire life. At one time in my dad?s career, he was mulling a job offer in another state. So radical, I thought, the prospect of leaving the town where the family had grown up. Nobody did that and neither did we.

As I grew older, I couldn?t wait to leave. The hometown, I thought, looked best in the rearview mirror.

In reflection, it was a good decision because I never could have gained the education I was about to receive by staying in my hometown.

Since leaving home, I have lived in 10 different communities in three states. A part of each community (or parts in many of the stops) have nudged me along an enlightening path.

That is why it used to rankle me when attending meeting or public events, I would hear comments such as, ?Why should we listen to you, you aren?t from here?? Perhaps if they would listen, they would learn that different ideas and thoughts do exist, and most of them are valuable.

I have also noticed in local political advertisements or stories, if the candidate is from the community, he/she is quick to point that out, possibly thinking it is a distinct advantage and worth a gold star to reside in the community you wish to represent.

Before I go too far, I have nothing against people who choose to stay rooted in their hometowns. It is their choice and they share a wealth of history with us newcomers. Neither choice (staying or leaving) is wrong, and neither should people be criticized for the choice they make.

So what have I learned? Read on because I am going to share a few tidbits from life?s journey, but it won?t be a tidbit from each community. Rather, I will practice a little selective journalism.

My first road trip was to Sundance, Wyo., between my junior and senior years of college, for my required internship. I never had been 300 miles from home until spending the summer in Sundance. Although most newspapers at the time had long ago ditched the linotype and the printing process dubbed ?hot metal,? the Sundance Times had not. Consequently, the job gave me the opportunity to experience the initial method of publishing a newspaper. Combined with my future jobs in the industry, I have worked in every type of newspaper publishing process.

The Times had a small operation and I was told after about two weeks of employment that the other staff writer (and lone advertising salesperson) would be taking a month?s vacation, so I would be responsible for the news and advertising content of the weekly newspaper. It turned out to be not as vigorous as it first sounded.

When I returned to college for my senior year, it also meant writing a resume with preparing for life after college. I had numerous interview opportunities but narrowed it to two ? an editor?s position in Pierre, S.D., or the sports editor?s job in Yankton, S.D. Both newspapers were dailies. I am not sure why I included Pierre as a finalist. Possibly because it was in my home state. Pierre, however, despite being the state capitol, doesn?t have much else. As soon as I finished interviewing, I knew I wouldn?t be back.

Yankton, meanwhile, was the perfect first job. It was a community I knew fairly well, having grown up 60 miles to the north. It afforded me the opportunity to keep playing softball in my hometown, which at the time, was important. I was also close to childhood and college friends, so it was the best of both worlds.

I accepted my first job in Iowa several years later, thinking I would stay a few years and then move somewhere warm. I?ve never left.

During my years in the Hawkeye State, I moved from sports into news and eventually purchased three newspapers and a shopper. Ownership expanded my horizons into the advertising field and brought a whole round of new headaches, such as finding new employees, worrying about making payroll and putting out daily fires.

However, the experiences have provided me an education I never could have gained from a textbook.

As time marched on, I thought about returning to South Dakota. I still have some childhood friends in my hometown. Returning would complete the circle. But then I woke up ? remembering South Dakota winters. Now, if South Dakota and Kansas traded places, I could go home...just like Dorothy.