When Brian Tolley, The State’s executive editor, told me that I would become the paper’s South Carolina Opinion Editor, two thoughts immediately came to mind.
The first thought was that I’d better quickly find a Goodwill store and donate the Florida Gators stuff I had collected during six years as an Editorial Writer for The Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville.
(That said, my Jacksonville Jaguars gear has gone nowhere — and yes, I do plan to be in a Downtown sports bar on Sunday wearing my teal Jags jersey and yelling “Duuuval!” as the Jaguars whip the Carolina Panthers.)
And what was my second thought?
I just felt extremely proud that I had been given this opportunity and responsibility.
Trust me, that’s not pandering spin.
Journalism, after all, is the only career I’ve ever wanted to pursue, and following that lifelong passion has been a winding path that’s taken me from Cleveland, Ohio, to Bristol, Va., to Jacksonville to here.
It’s a path that’s seen me hold roles ranging from being a sports columnist for my hometown Cleveland Plain Dealer to serving as a “cover whatever, wherever” reporter for the Bristol Herald Courier, a small paper doing great community journalism in the Appalachian Mountains.
It’s a path that’s allowed me to experience the ego-inflating high of being recognized on a busy street in a major city — but also the spirit-sapping low of going 932 days without a full-time job in journalism after making the horribly timed decision to take a buyout just as the Great Recession was about to hit.
(Who knew that it was going to go on for years? I obviously didn’t.)
So I truly am thrilled that my path and passion have brought me to The State and Columbia in this role at this time.
Now I already know your first question: “Is The State’s Opinion page going to have some kind of agenda?”
We absolutely will.
The Opinion page’s agenda will be to relentlessly use our voice and our space to make our city, our region and our state better places for all of our citizens to live, work and thrive.
That’s the “radical” agenda.
And, yes, I also already know your follow-up question: “So how is the Opinion page going to promote this radical agenda?”
* We’ll do it by making the Opinion page a “people’s page” that expands the circle of voices that are heard on the issues and concerns of the day.
* We’ll do it by taking a beat reporter’s approach to producing the commentary that appears on the Opinion page.
Because the foundation of a difference-making Opinion page isn’t built by firing off half-formed views from a keyboard while sitting in an office chair. It’s built by getting the deeper perspective you gain when you’re scribbling on a reporter’s notepad while standing in the corner of a packed room during a public hearing. Or a town hall meeting. Or a community forum.
* We’ll do it by working hard to be the authoritative voice of editorial opinion in our state during the 2020 primary season — one that will see South Carolina play a defining role in a presidential election sure to be among the tumultuous in American history.
* And we’ll do it by always remembering that an Opinion page can’t just ask tough questions and dish out criticism; an Opinion page must also seek the answers to those questions — and make its criticism as constructive as it is warranted.
So let’s get started.
And don’t mind the teal.