Monday, April 11, 2016

99. The People You Don't See

During my first day at the Marshall Independent my editor David Merrill told me that I have the best job at the paper. It turned out he was right. I got to spend a lot of time out of the office. I got to know a lot of people, cover lots of games, and I got some pretty good recognition. However, I was able to do my job as well as I did due in large part to the work David did behind the scenes.

As David heads out to a new job, I wanted to make sure he gets the props he deserved. He’ll be working with on Virginia Tech football recruiting, which is part of the network. It’s in DI college football, which is the direction he wanted to go.

I did have my disagreements and frustrations with David, but what reporter doesn’t with his editor? However, those disagreements were never about ego. At the end of the day (literally), they were about getting the best sports section out to readers. If anyone in Marshall reads this, they need to know that. David always cared about putting out a good product (even more than me sometimes.)

Yes, there were mistakes, but most people don’t realize what a precarious task it is to put together a sports section night after night. I know there are some of you who think it’s easy working in a sports department, well it’s not. You work late hours when friends are out drinking. You get paid crap and you have to deal with ownership which continually demands that you do more with less. And you have to deal with coaches and parents who think they are above silly things like deadlines. Remember that when you sit with your morning coffee and read the paper. Someone sacrificed an evening to get that out to you. And more often that not, that person was David.  

I had it easy. I really only had one person to answer to, him. David had three or four people breathing down his neck on a daily basis, to go along with dozens of coaches, administrators, and parents. I got to get outside of the office regularly. David was at the desk basically six nights a week. I was able to drop my work at 11 p.m. most nights. David stayed late, usually by himself, to make sure the finishing touches were put on everything.  

Most people forget that David had the sports reporter job before me. He was thrown to the wolves and appointed sports editor after about four months on the job when the previous sports editor quit. I didn’t know that guy, but from what I’ve gathered, he didn’t give a shit about putting out a good product. He whined and didn’t pay attention to deadlines. David, on the other hand, put forth his damnedest effort every night.

A little birdie told me that some people weren’t happy with David’s time at the paper. To use a a popular phrase of some parents I had to deal with, “I’m disappointed.”  Everyone is entitled to their opinion about the sports page, but everyone needs to know this: David gave a shit about your teams. That's more than you can ask for from young, ambitious sports reporters. He could have easily treated the job as a stepping stone, but he didn’t.

This past fall he put a lot of free time into quality coverage of the SMSU football team. That involved covering a game on his one night off. He even drove a few hours to some of the away games. He bought a new camera with his own money and used it to make sure quality pictures got in the paper. He made sure wrestlers, track athletes, soccer players, and athletes from other less popular sports got their due on the page. There were nights when those of us working with him would plead to cut off accepting anymore phone calls, but David made us wait it out. He wanted as many scores in there as possible.

It was easy for me to show I cared about the Marshall community. I could show up at the games. I got a weekly column with my face in it. David was stuck in the office most every night and he didn’t have enough time to pen a column. I got accolades and community recognition, when David didn’t as much.  

So while David finishes out his tenure in the next few weeks, remember that there are people out there who care a lot, but rarely get to show their face to the public. Working behind the scenes is not always the most fun way to work, but David did a hell of a job.  

JSYK- His Twitter handle is @SWMNDave. He’d appreciate a shout out.

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