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Not a farewell, but a so long, and thanks

It seems silly to write a going away column after only two years as a working professional journalist. Fans of the rebooted show "Cosmos" know that famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson would register the time I spent putting fingers to keyboard in the name of sports journalism to a mere few minutes on the calendar that is my life.

Still, here I am, writing what is certain to be my final column during this stage of my writing career.

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My reasons for leaving the business after just two years are pretty spread out. I won't bore you with the little details about the business of journalism, or how the job climate is fairly daunting. I had a good gig, with a company that clearly wanted me to stay in my position and continue to grow.

Instead, the calls to try something different became too loud to ignore. I have accepted a position with a marketing and public relations firm in Owings Mills, where I will trade in my press pass for a new career that I can't wait to start.

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As sad as I am to leave the business I not only spent two years working in, but four more as a student, I can't overstate how excited I am for this new venture. It's a business that I know plenty about from the journalistic side, though I know I still have much more to learn. I'll just be switching teams.

While I will be leaving journalism in this capacity, I still plan to keep my hand in the business. I hope I can return with the Carroll County Times as a freelancer from time to time. It's not something I want to do for the extra cash. It's because I want to continue to hone my craft, grow my voice, and stay close to the sidelines.

Journalism is not an easy industry in which to work. Local reporting, in my opinion, is even harder, because we're not just faceless creatures hiding behind our screens in a big New York City newsroom. We're in your community. You know what we look like. And it's personal.

Just in my sports reporting, I can't tell you how many angry calls, emails and encounters I've had with readers throughout the county — both in my capacity in Carroll, but also in the year I spent working in Howard County as well.

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Our job is unique in that our work is put on display for thousands to read, and subsequently criticize. What isn't often noticed are the extra hours put in at the office or out in the field, filing stories at odd hours of the night.

Then again, there are plenty of other lines of work that require employees to miss out on things at home, and many of them are certainly harder than covering a varsity basketball game on a Tuesday night. There are worse ways to earn a paycheck.

Still, there's something to be said for the attention to detail and the passion local reporters have. Even further, you won't hear these people complain — unless you catch them on a Friday night at one of the area's local watering holes after deadline.

All that said, I wouldn't trade my experience for anything, and I'm not leaving because things got too hard. Even through some of the tough days, the thing I will miss most will be working directly with the people.

It has been my pleasure to work in the community where I grew up, often covering younger brothers and sisters of friends with whom I went to school. And believe me, while we get some negative feedback, it doesn't mean that we don't get the occasional call or email full of praise. Those are the ones I'll remember the most.

If you've shot me a note saying thanks for the coverage, or because a certain article or column particularly struck you, thanks. And if you've stopped me out in the field to ask how I was doing or to commend me for my writing, I really appreciated it.

Moments like that are why I love this work.

I'll close with a few thank you's to a few of the people who helped me along the way.

There's my very first editor at the Howard County Times, Brent Kennedy, who saw the potential in a kid fresh out of college who thought he was a lot better than he actually was.

And then there's Paul Milton, who hired me in Howard County, only to join me more than a year later as the editor for the Carroll County Times. Trish Carroll, the Times' publisher, is also one of the best people I've ever worked for. Jack Gibbons, an editor I had downtown, taught me plenty as well.

I learned from two fantastic sports editors with the Times in Bob Blubaugh and Pat Stoetzer. Bob showed me what it was like to truly be a newsman, while Pat carried that mindset into a more digital-centric era. Both broke me of some pretty bad habits, and I am forever grateful for their patience.

And for all the reporters I've met over the last two years, I'm thankful for your friendship, and continue to be in awe of the work you put in on a daily basis.

I'm especially impressed with the work of Jake Rill, still a college student, who has been putting the work in of a full-time reporter for longer than I have.

Thanks for reading, and don't be afraid to reach out via email (owingsmatt186@gmail.com) or on Twitter (@mattowings).

In the limited time I worked as a reporter, it was my goal to serve the community as best I could. I also had a damn good time doing it.

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