With the sign of my pen I put an end to a few weeks of contract negotiations and officially began my 10th year in Oklahoma. Does that make me an Oklahoman? I have the driver’s license, the car tags, the desentization to dirt that is red and am accustomed to nature trying to kill me. Both my daughters are Oklahomans and I’ve been here twice as long as they have.
But why am I staying? I get asked that often enough. Some people think I should be in a bigger market, or pushing my way to national news. No thanks. I don’t like traffic and I’ve had my fair share of national news and the craziness being on a national story brings.
I am staying because I like what I do. I like Fox 25. It is my home and my family.
I’ve been a part of something incredible at Fox 25. I started when we did 90 minutes of news a day. That has grown to a morning show, a midday show, an early evening newscast…along with exponential growth online and in new digital formats. I got to be a part of election night coverage and just talked shop with my favorite political scientist and reached thousands of people on Facebook. That’s just cool.
There are still stories to tell in Oklahoma City. There’s still dirt to uncover. But I want to make a difference and I want to make a difference in a place I call home.
The other day I was at a state agency doing just a run of the mill story. After the camera turned off, the person I was interviewing said thanks to me. I thought, at first, it was for the story I was there for. It wasn’t. The thanks was for a story I did years ago. Long before I even knew this man’s name. I had stood up for some state employees he knew. People who felt like they had been forgotten, abused and neglected. I was told how much that story meant to those folks; how much it still meant to many of them who knew someone had their back.
It seems like every time I am debating staying or leaving or just stepping off the news carousel a story like this comes along. A simple thanks. I believe these are God’s way of telling me He’s got my back. That even when I feel beat down or rushed or that I am not making a difference, the work I do has a purpose.
I’m staying because I have unfinished business. There are case I have to see through. For a long time it was the Weleetka murders I wanted to see solved. There’s a man in prison today for those murders. It became the topic of my thesis for my Master’s degree at Oklahoma City University. I’m not certain the case is solved, but then again based on my research few in law enforcement can agree on a definition of what solved is anyway.
There’s the case of Richard Glossip that I want to see through to whatever end is in store. This case sent me to the Supreme Court of the United States. I have visited with people around the world about the implications of this case. It is not finished and neither am I.
There’s the state’s budget that I want to keep an eye on. How could I leave news or leave this market without knowing if lawmakers hold true to their promises? There are emails I haven’t read through at the Governor’s office and open record requests I still have outstanding. I suppose if the politicians really wanted me off their back they could just fill all my outstanding open records requests and I wouldn’t have this excuse. Oh well…they’re stuck with me.
But Oklahoma City is more to me than just news.
I have a home here and not just a street address. I have a church home at North Church and a pastor who has literally changed my life. Pastor Rodney Fouts has taught me more about loving my neighbor in the past few years than I was willing to learn in the decades before I came to this town. North Church has provided me and my family with love, friendship and support.
Quite honestly North Church and the people I’ve met in Oklahoma have much more to do with me staying here than my salary. If my boss is reading this…the contract is signed and you can’t take back the raise.
When I was in college, I had to do a senior exit interview. The interview was with professionals and faculty and in that interview I was asked where I saw myself in 5 years. That was easy. I wanted to be a reporter in a top 100 market. Living in market 146 at the time, the jump to the top 100 in five years was very reasonable. Where did I see myself in 10 years? I said it would be nice to be in a top 50 market, but in 10 years I just wanted to be somewhere that I could be happy. God blessed me with more than I could have ever imagined.
So I’m staying. Because I am happy here. I am excited here.
This is my home.
I am an Oklahoman.