February 20, 2013

Direct Kick: A humbling experience

By Denis House
Sports Editor


To slightly change a line from Bob Seger’s “Like A Rock,” “Thirty years now, where did they go. Thirty years, I don’t know. Sometimes I sit and I wonder, where they’ve gone.”

Last Tuesday night, before the South Laurel-Madison Central boys’ basketball game, I was given a plaque by South Laurel athletics director Keith Gilbert celebrating my 30 years in the newspaper business.

First off, I was very touched by the honor, and really wasn’t expecting anything like it. I only found out a week before that they were planning on doing this. Now some of you might find this hard to believe, but being honored in public is something I try to avoid as much as possible. I’m not a glory hound. In fact, I’m the furthest thing from that. I’m actually a pretty private person.

But yes, this marks my 30th year in the newspaper business, either full time, part time, or freelancing. That’s a lot of years to stay in one profession. And to tell you the truth, not something I expected or planned on.

Oh sure, I took journalism my senior year at Laurel County High School, mostly because I thought it would be an easy class and it would get me out of the classroom, which I took full advantage of. Many an afternoon I spent goofing off in the gym because I was “working on a story” for the Cardinal Classic, the school newspaper, which sadly, no longer exists. Neither high school has a school paper, and that’s a shame. I have to give a big thank you to Janis Scoville, who was my journalism teacher. I didn’t know it at the time, but she sure shaped what my future turned out to be.

Anyway, after graduation I still had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, so when I attended Sue Bennett, I put “journalism” as my major, and took a news writing course that they offered. Still, it wasn’t what I had planned for the rest of my life.

I soon found out college wasn’t for me, so after one year, I dropped out to decide what I wanted to do, then I would go back to school once I had that figured out. We all see how that turned out.

Soon I found myself working at McDonald’s (I have the distinction of being a member of the first crew ever hired at the first McDonald’s here in London). Meanwhile, I was also playing in a band with hopes of, as Foreigner sang, becoming a “jukebox hero.” We all see how that turned out.

Soon I found myself unemployed and looking for work after quitting McDonald’s. A friend of my sister’s who worked at this newspaper told her they were looking for part-time workers in the press room, inserting newspapers. Yes, I literally started at the lowest rung of the business in 1983.

But I soon worked my way into composition, typesetting ads because I knew how to type and had an art background. From there, I started writing a music review column. Then I moved into sports.

After leaving the Sentinel in early 1990, I did some freelance work for various newspapers while I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to do. Then in late 1993, the Laurel News-Leader had a help wanted ad for an advertising sales position. I came in to see Willie Sawyers for that job, but it had already been filled. But he did have a news reporter job open, so I took that until 1995, when I again moved into sports and have been there ever since. I also delivered newspapers during this time. When Willie sold the News-Leader to Community Newspaper Holdings Inc., the same company that owned this paper, I moved over here with him in 1998 when he took over as publisher.

So now here it is 2013. I’m still here at the Sentinel. Still doing sports. Along the way I have managed to win a few Kentucky Press Association and CNHI awards for writing, photography and design, which is nice. It’s always nice to be recognized by your peers.

But all those awards take a back seat to the plaque Keith Gilbert gave me last Tuesday night, which read, in part, “in recognition and appreciation for covering South Laurel and Laurel County sports.” Thank you, Keith, for doing this, and for the nice things PA announcer Rick Chandler said about me. And thanks to the South Laurel basketball team as they all shook my hand and thanked me.

It’s nice to know that I am appreciated for all the hard work and hours I have put in lo these past 30 years, even though I never expected to be doing this for that long. I am truly humbled.