It sounds like a long time, but feels like such a short journey. A decade ago I walked in the doors of KOKH-TV for the first time as an employee. I had every intention of putting in a few years and moving on to the next big thing. I don’t know if I could explain it to 2007 Phil that the next big thing was right where he was…well not technically. That old newsroom was hopelessly outdated, now I’m working in a truly state-of-the-art facility with one of the nicest newsrooms and studios in the country.
I had left a newsroom in Des Moines that was like a family. Those colleagues were my mentors. Bachman, the legend, who identified some of my pronunciations and helped me improve my voicing. The photojournalists, Fiser, Felton, Bill, Argo, Borland…the people who taught me how to let the pictures and sound tell a story…Lee who taught me there are times you don’t need to be fancy you just need to have solid writing and get the job done. Sonya and Erin who taught me to fight for what is right. The other reporters who were the best in the business; from politics to features to investigations. From the news director who hired me, to the assistant news director who taught me how to be a producer, writer and assignment editor. It was great. I left them to jump into the unknown.
I honestly did not know if I could do the job in Oklahoma. I had doubts. I still had doubts after some time. Eventually I was promoted to the first one-man-band/MMJ position at Fox 25. From there it was a move to the official title of investigative reporter. Even then I had doubts.
I remember talking with my wife about whether or not to take the investigative reporter position. Would I be able to come up with good stories? Would I be able to keep up digging into things? How would I find stories that were worthy of the title “investigative reporter?”
Here’s how I know God was watching over me…the day I signed the new contract my phone rang three times. Each of those calls was a tip about a great story that was truly worthy of the investigative title.
A lot of people say they are blessed. It has become something of a humble brag in our culture. I know I am blessed, and I can tell you exactly how God has blessed my life and my work. He brought my wonderful wife into my life at just the perfect moment. He provided me someone who is my biggest fan and my biggest critic. She has helped me have the confidence when I felt inadequate. God has provided me children and a family that show me every day that I am working to make the future better for them. God has provided me a church family and pastors who encourage me and challenge me. He has provided a community that supports good journalism. He has provided me a company that invests in investigative reporting. He has provided me great friends and colleagues who encourage me and support me. I do not say I am blessed to humbly brag…I say I am blessed to boast in the goodness of God.
I’ve been very reflective these past few weeks. A look back at my pictures shows how I’ve aged over the last ten years. A photographer at the station told me recently that she listened to an old story of mine and I didn’t sound the same, that my voice had aged.
People sometimes ask how I do what I do. It’s always been a fairly simple strategy. When I come into a place I try to find out who is the best, how they are the best and how I can be better than them.
These past few weeks have brought me new attention. My work over the years has been featured on national websites and publications. Recently it was referenced in the New York Times and other industry blogs. It has all been a bit overwhelming.
I’m just a reporter in Oklahoma that’s dedicated to open records and government transparency. Could I be more? Maybe, I’m happy just being where I am, I feel that I am able to make a difference. I’ve been able to hear from so many people who have thanked me for helping them. I’ve helped families get justice for crimes. Exposed people who hold have abused the public trust. It’s been an amazing ride.
Here’s to the next ten years. Who knows what they hold.
But at least I start accumulating an extra week of vacation time…I love my job but also love naps and fishing and that extra week of vacation time is going to come in handy.
For sticking with me this long…here’s a bonus. One of my first television news stories: