For those who don’t know me, I’m the old guy who totes around a camera, has a closet full of WPSD logoed shirts and does football on Friday. For years, I used to tell my daughter Hannah to behave.
For 37 years, I’ve had this growth on my shoulder. Some call it a camera. As I get older, this camera seems to get heavier and heavier.
There’s a little voice in my head that says lighten your load.
There’s a bigger voice in my back saying enough is enough.
Two things are sure:
- I’m admitting I hear voices.
- It is time to slow down.
My dad once told me, "Michael, if I knew I was going to start having medical problems this soon after retirement, I would have retired much sooner. If you learn anything from me at all, retire while you still can enjoy things.”
On that note, this old bald photog is putting down his camera and calling it quits.
But along this 37-year journey at WPSD, I wouldn’t change a thing.
I have met some not-so-nice people, but so many more wonderful, angelic, down-to-earth, heroic, humble, beautiful and great people.
I’m still not sure why people allow perfect strangers into their home, open up their hearts and let a TV crew put their mugs on a screen for all to see, but they do. And I would like to say to each and every one of you, thank you from the bottom of my heart — for your patience, your openness, your trust and occasionally your cookies.
Sometimes I wasn’t welcomed to your neighborhood, much less your street or in front of your house.
I understand that.
To be honest, it’s one of the worst parts of my job.
But I’ve also been honored to sit on your couch, take a tour through your home, meet a little girl who celebrated life and then passed away a few days later.
I’ve met some great people on their worst days, and can still call them friends.
That’s the thing about television news. We’re showing up on someone’s best day — or their worst.
I like the good stories better.
So do my colleagues.
Trust me on this.
And doing those good stories makes you feel better about your day, about your week, heck, about your life.
It’s not a badge of honor to have covered two school shootings.
But through all that tragedy and ugliness, I’ve made some friends.
Missy, Christina, Sabrina, the Jameses, the Copes and the Holts, y’all are true champions, and it’s an honor to call you friends.
To my friends in law enforcement, you will be relieved that I won’t be calling you quite as much, at least for news stories and info. Thanks for putting that uniform on each day. We are safe because you do.
To the elected officials I have hounded in one way or another, thank you for your public service. Bob Leeper, you will never have to worry about me kissing you on the cheek in front of the governor anymore — or maybe you will.
To my colleagues past and present, y'all are the best. Y'all are family. Y'all are really patient to put up with me all these years and never clobber me — although it was close.
To Perry Boxx, our current news director, thanks for bringing news back in the newsroom. You are the booster shot we didn’t know we needed.
I know you are looking for a replacement for me. I doubt you'll find anyone else that will supply a camera to your doctor for your next colonoscopy.
To Bill Evans, my former news director and vice president and now general manager, I heard that sigh of relief! Yes, the guy that was never afraid to ask multiple questions or pose lots of ideas is finally out of your hair.
Bill is a tough boss. A really tough boss. His standards are high and expectations are higher.
But you made me a better leader and journalist.
Dough Harnice, you were and are like a father to me. You taught me how to lead a photography department. You taught me to make careful decisions, but not too quick. You were my sounding board, my shoulder to lean on and sometimes my disciplinarian. I was and still am honored to follow in your and Mike Swift’s footsteps, being only the third chief photographer at WPSD.
To Jeff Bidwell, I wish I had your memory of sports info and every conversation you ever had. You're a big picture guy. I hope that your office door wasn’t closed to keep me out — it didn’t work. But the conversations we had about work, life and where we go from here are cherished.
Lori Barrett, my work wife, I wish I had your organizational skills. You are an amazing assignment manager and an even better person. Thanks for keeping me in line, pointing me in the right direction and doing your best to keep me from saying stuff I shouldn’t. Although you deserve all the vacation time you can get, I always hated filling in for you because you are just so darn good at it. I'll miss our daily references to old movies, TV shows or music. Those young'uns just don’t get it.
To Mike Mallory, you are the ultimate professional. Our days of What's it Worth were so much fun. Your quick wit, memory and musical knowledge are amusing and amazing.
To Jen and Todd, keep the torch alive of practical jokes and laughter. Newsrooms are filled with pressure and bad news; the down times need to be enjoyed. Keep teaching, keep mentoring and always remember: there is a security camera to catch those unforgettable moments.
To Dan Wilson, our chief engineer, I couldn’t asked for a better friend. Over the years you have explained engineering stuff in English, or at least in words I could understand. I will miss our meetings where we solved the station’s and the world's problems, if they would just listen. You have come to my rescue when my camera wouldn’t work, the editing system was down or my water heater stopped working. Good friends help you out. Amazing friends are repeatedly showing up — just because.
To my daughter Hannah, thank you! You grew up at WPSD. Heck, you were born on TV in a news story. You played on a blanket on the floor while I edited a documentary. You hung out with old dad on football nights. You forgave me every time I was late to dinner or to pick you up or missed a ballgame or. You forgave me and kept me in line. You inspired me then and still do every day. I LOVE YOU!
And to my wife, Carrie, you are beautiful both inside and out. Many say you really must have done something bad and you are paying for it by having to spend time with me. I do know you have earned your wings. And to you, I'm also sorry for the missed dinners and the being late and the "be there in 20 minutes" calls only for it to be another hour or two. Thanks for your love and support and for never, never leaving bruises. I LOVE YOU!
My last day a WPSD will be Oct. 31. I’ve already put memorabilia and stuff I have accumulated in four boxes. Most of the people in the office keep saying “When are you going to start cleaning your stuff out?” So I guess I’ll have at least four more boxes.
And as I look around, I see pictures from kids I met at Saint Jude and the Telethons, a bolt from the old Ledbetter Bridge, hand written thank you cards from folks throughout the years, a glass bottle that was found under and old jail, a “World’s Greatest Dad” trophy and lots of candid photos.
My wife calls me a hoarder. I like to think of it as a memory collector. And as I get older, my memory is fading, so I’ve got “stuff" to remind me.
Although, I am slightly confused as to why I have kept every old cell phone I’ve ever been issued. And pens, so may pens!
To any aspiring photogs or journalists, it’s a great job! The world is your office. You will never be able to please everyone, so just do your best. Embrace small victories. Treat every person with respect, even those avoiding you, yelling at you or in handcuffs. You never know who you will meet at the grocery store. It's happened to me twice.
And to everyone else I failed to mention, THANK YOU. You are part of my life and a part of me. Thank you for the memories, the laughs, the critique sessions and the strawberry cake.