“Don’t call it a comeback, I’ve been here for years.” –LL Cool J
Where do I even begin? That is the question I’ve been asking myself over and over since learning that I would be writing my first column for the Boone County Journal in over five months. How do I explain to you, my faithful readers, what went wrong nearly half a year ago, and what has gone right since?
I suppose the first thing I should do is explain my departure from the Journal last Fall. On a Wednesday afternoon in September, during my lunch break at Southern Boone Primary School, (where I have been teaching Music this school year,) I flipped to the opinion page of the school’s copy of the Journal. I had written a column for that week’s issue that celebrated young people. The title of the piece was “Kids These Days—Are Pretty Great”.
To my surprise, my column was nowhere to be found in the paper. In its place was a letter to the editor written by a subscriber who was quite unhappy with the piece I had written for the previous week’s edition. I was not bothered by the fact that someone had taken the time to express their displeasure with my one of my opinions. In fact, I appreciate it very much when someone is so passionate about their beliefs that they feel compelled to write about them. Frank Burkett, who has been featured regularly on the Journal’s opinion page in my absence, has penned more “anti-fan mail” about me than probably anyone else on Earth, and for that, I thank him.
However, I was quite bothered that my column, one that sang the praises of children, was replaced by a particularly venomous piece attacking me both as a writer and as a citizen. Had the letter to the editor AND my column both been printed that week, I would have been fine. Unfortunately, that’s not what happened.
I will admit that I was more than a little upset. I was hurt. I was angry. That particular Wednesday, September 25, 2019, was my 48th birthday. It was during my birthday dinner with my family that evening that Journal publisher Gene Rhorer called me on the phone. Let’s just say, the conversation did not go well. At all.
For the record, Gene did not fire me. I quit. My eight-year stint as a featured newspaper columnist in Missouri’s fastest growing community was over. Or so I thought.
My friend Ernie Wren recently created an online news site covering the Southern Boone area, and in less than a week, nearly 1,000 people started following the site’s Facebook page. I had signed on to start writing columns for the site in the summer, when the full web page was scheduled to go live. Momentum was on our side. Then, something strange and unexpected happened.
Ernie reached out to me to ask if I would consider writing for the Journal again. He and Gene had been discussing ways to improve the Journal, and my name came up. Gene said that he would like me to resume writing for the paper.
I contacted several people associated with the Journal—past and present—asking for their advice. The consensus was that a community such as ours needs a newspaper. Rather than signing on to an online news outlet that would be in direct competition with the Journal, why not do everything possible to ensure the current newspaper remains viable for generations to come?
In other words, I had a choice to make: Continue to hold a grudge, or do something for the greater good of the community. The choice was easy.
Ashland has felt quite divided lately. People are choosing sides between City Hall and a police chief placed on administrative leave, between SoBoCo School District administrators and a teacher placed on administrative leave, between multi-generation Southern Boone County families and first-generation, recent arrivals, between Republicans and Democrats, and between SoBoCo News and the Boone County Journal.
The reason I decided to resume my career as a writer for the Journal is because I want to help bridge the divide in our community. I want to use my column as a way to bring people together. I want to uplift people. I want to do whatever I can to make our small corner of the world a better place.
Shouldn’t that be the case for all of us? For the sake of our children and our children’s children, can’t we all come together to ensure that the Ashland area continues to be a great place to live and raise a family? I’m not naïve. I recognize that there are some difficult issues confronting our community right now. But if we work with one another instead of against each other, our odds of solving our problems increase dramatically. United we stand, divided we fall. The choice is ours.
I choose to be someone who unites. I choose to be someone who writes. I choose to write for the Boone County Journal. Thanks for having me back, Gene.
Watch for my new and improved weekly column, “Out of My Mind”, every Wednesday.