It has been more than 20 years since I made my first foray into the world of journalism.
On July 12, 2000, I reported for my first day of work at the Daily American Republic, then headed out that afternoon to cover Brown-Mabry Post 153’s Senior American Legion baseball game against Paragould at Roger Pattillo Field.
I can still remember the first words to my first story: “Justin Hill should do this more often.” This referred to the fact that Hill, who rarely pitched, had pitched Post 153 to a victory despite spending little time on the mound that summer.
And so began a journey that has taken me a ton of places — northeast Nebraska, south-central Kansas, northwest Wyoming and southern Illinois — and now has brought me back where I started.
Here at the DAR is where I learned much of what I’ve used over the years. Much of what I learned about photography I learned from Paul Davis, who was (and still is) a photographer extraordinaire. I polished my sportswriting skills under Kyle Smith (who like me, has also returned to the area after years away) and learned page design from Brian Rosener, who succeeded Kyle as sports editor.
There have been many memorable moments over the years. Some of them include:
• Covering the National Football League’s Tennessee Titans — I had wanted to cover, and take photos of, NFL games from early in my career, but did not think it would ever happen. But I got the opportunity in November 2006 and covered the Titans for 3 1/2 seasons. I got to interview several NFL stars, including Larry Fitzgerald, Julius Peppers, Antonio Gates, Chris Johnson, Cortland Finnegan and many more. I got to meet people like former coach Dan Reeves, Heisman Trophy winner Andre Ware, Tony Dungy and country singer Sara Evans.
• I got to meet several people on the news side as well, including former Vice-President Dick Cheney, the late Fred Willard and soap opera actor turned Christian dramatist Frank Runyeon (whose on-screen wife on “As the World Turns” was my childhood crush, Meg Ryan — small world!)
But more importantly, I am still friends with several colleagues I’ve met over the years, including Travis Mounts, the president of the Kansas Press Association; Mark Davis, an outstanding outdoors photojournalist from the Powell Tribune in northwest Wyoming; and many more. I also think of many other friends I’ve made through the years who I did not work within a newsroom, including coaches and athletes I met through game coverage. To say the least, it’s a very long list.
Perhaps the best example of friendship over the years came in the summer of 2008 in Kennett, when a car accident in Arkansas totaled my car, destroyed my camera gear and almost took my life. I did not have the funds to replace my camera gear, especially since I also needed another car to drive. However, several friends banded together and donated the money to allow me to buy a new camera body and a new telephoto lens, which allowed me to get back to shooting photos at games when I was back on my feet. Even all these years later, I am amazed by such generosity.
It has been an amazing journey — and one that has brought me full circle.
Mike Buhler is a staff writer for the Daily American Republic and can be reached at email@example.com.