Saturday, November 10

The Final Act

Curtains rise.
One more go.

First, a quick update on how yesterday went.
As you may have heard, I was scheduled to go to lunch with John O’Rourke (internship coordinator), Cameron Maun (high schools editor), Garry Leavall (sports managing editor) and Bob Yates (sports executive editor). Basically, a big group of big dogs.
Well, that didn’t happen.
Instead, I went to lunch with O’Rourke, Maun, Leavall, Yates, Jeff Miller (another assistant editor) and Keith Campbell (another assistant editor).
The six most powerful men in the office. And me.
No pressure or anything.
The seven of us piled into Mr. Levall’s mini-van (I’m serious). I sat on the back bench seat. In the middle. Between Cameron Maun and Bob Yates.
Some might call that the back middle seat. Most call it the “bitch” seat. I knew my place.
We drove over to Deep Ellum to a place called the Twisted Root. The burgers were excellent, and instead of calling you by your name when your order was ready, they gave you a name. Mine was “The Big Lebowski”.
While I ate my peppercorn ranch and bacon burger, we chatted. I got to tell my world-famous noodling story from my time in Tulsa, and the bosses asked me all about my internship. What I like, what I didn’t like.
An interesting question arose when Bob Yates asked me to evaluate John O’Rourke.
Wait, isn’t that supposed to be the other way around? You mean, I have to evaluate the job that my internship coordinator, the one sitting right next to me, had done?
I told the truth. I told Bob that I couldn’t have asked for a better internship coordinator, and that he provided a great balance between letting me be independent and giving me guidance.
John thanked me for the kind words, but they weren’t kind. They were true.
In the end, everyone had kind words for me. Bob said that I had done a great job, and that I should be proud of my internship experience. He called me the best intern he can remember.
Very, very kind words. Made me feel good.
After lunch, we piled back into the van and drove back to the Morning News. I thanked everyone for lunch, and went back to the TepCube.
Later, I handed out thank-you notes. Is there anything more awkward than handing out thank you notes when the person receiving the thank you note is right there? I think not.
But everyone seemed appreciative, and I even got a hug from Sylvia.
And during the day, everyone kept hinting to me that they expected me to be back. Man, what a dream that would be to be hired by the Morning News fresh out of college.
I left for my game at about 5:15pm, anticipating traffic. And traffic is what I found. But I got there in plenty of time.
Superstar Keith Whitmire joined me in the press box, partly because he wanted to see his cousin in the drill team. He even kept my stats.
The game was pretty good, and it ended at about 10pm, which is always nice. I got my quotes and sent in my story by 10:30pm. That’s efficiency.
I came home, ran back out to make an emergency batch of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies for the Morning News’ United Way bake sale, wrote my high school blog, talked briefly to my beautiful girlfriend, and now I’m writing this blog.

Today, I woke up at about 10am. It was my last day. That was my first thought: last day.
I talked to Jen for a little bit before showering and getting on the road at about 11am.
I came into the office early today because Matt Wixon, superstar columnist, offered to go to lunch with me. Matt had taken me to lunch on my first day, and I’m a big fan of closure.
At about noon, Matt and I walked across the street to Subway. The same Subway we went to on my first day.
I ordered my sandwich and, after vehemently insisting on paying for my own, sat down to eat. We talked about everything from high school football to his future to how he think I had done.
Matt told me that I couldn’t have done any better with my internship, and that I really impressed everyone. He also told me that I’m in a position where, should a position come open, they’d come looking for me.
He also said that given the nature of the business, and how people tend to move a lot, that he would be surprised if I didn’t get a job offer before I graduated.
I was floored. I mean…I didn’t, and still don’t, know how to react.
I thanked Matt for all he had done. He didn’t need to help me out, but he did, and those types of guys are OK in my book.
I came back to my desk and was in a goofy mood. I just goofed around with Gaby and tried to make Kate smile, who I think was actually working. I spent most of the day being goofy. After all, it’s my last day.
At about 5pm, I drove over to Highlander Stadium in Highland Park. To say that I drove over there would be an understatement though. It's more like, I got completely lost on my way over there.
But I got there and found a parking spot, despite the fact that this is the worst parking situation in the world. It's a stadium in the middle of a city. It's awful.
But I found a spot, was assured by a police officer that I would not be towed, and went into the press box.
I set up shop. I blogged. I killed time before the game. And no, the food wasn't that great: wraps and chips. Yawn.
The game was pretty good, but went as expected: Highland Park, the No. 1 4A team, beat up on West Mesquite. It was fun to watch, but when it ended at 10:20pm, I had to go to work.
I ran down the steps and onto the field. While I walked over to the Highland Park huddle, Christina, the West Mesquite trainer who was my fan, said hi to me. Great to see her again.
I had a hell of a time tracking down the quarterback Winston Gamso, despite the fact that he is 6'5. But I found him and did my interview with him. I also grabbed coach Randy Allen, who is famous for wearing a fedora. Pretty sweet.
I ran upstairs and got to my computer at 10:31. 14 minutes, kid. Don't blow it on your last night.
I zoomed through the story. At 10:44pm, I hit send.
I was done.
I packed my things and got into the Baron.
I intentionally took a long way back to the Morning News. I took a side street all the way there instead of a highway, because I wanted to take in the city, the skyline, everything.
I drove down Preston Road, singing along to the radio, reflecting on my internship.
I got to the Morning News and made one more ascent in the elevator.
I walked into Cameron's office. The entire newsroom was buzzing with activity, as it was about 30 minutes to deadline.
I put the computer down in his office, shook his hand one more time, and left.
I patted Keith Whitmire and Jason Zimmerman on the back and thanked them again.
I went into John O'Rourke's office and shook his hand one more time.
Then, I left.
As I was walking out the doors of the building, out the back way towards the parking lot, I muttered one thing to myself.
"I will be back. I will make sure of that."
---
So now, I’m sitting at home, a Shiner Bock in my hand. It’s late at night, and my internship is officially over.
12 weeks have passed, and it’s been a bit of a blur. But in the end, I think I can boil the lessons I learned at my internship at The Dallas Morning News down to three points:

1) Journalism is all about being prepared
Especially on a beat, you have to be thinking three steps ahead. If you’re not organized, you’re done. It’s plain and simple. What makes Kate Hairopolous so good on the SMU beat, or what makes Evan Grant so good on the Rangers beat, or what makes Todd Wills so good on the high school beat is the same: preparation. You need to know what you are doing before you do it, and if you don’t, you’re in big trouble.

2) Be flexible
Planning is good. Planning is great, actually. But don’t get so rigid in what you’re doing that you can’t adjust on the fly. Have an idea of where you’re going, but don’t get so committed to it that you can’t change course. This also works in the sense of doing things you’ve never done before. I had limited experience blogging (at least professional blogging) and no experience on camera. But if you go into it with an idea of trying your best and just being yourself, you’re going to come out of it for the better.

3) This job, in the end, is great
Think about what I just spent the last 12 weeks doing: writing about high school football. I got to develop great relationships with coaches across the east side of Dallas, and I got to develop a rapport with the fans and readers of The Dallas Morning News. And, on Friday nights, I got paid to go watch football games. Are the hours crazy? Yes. Do you work hard? Yes. But in the end, I am a sports writer. I get to write about sports. I don’t have to go to a job from nine to five that I hate. I get to go and pay attention to sports. And that, to me, is a pretty sweet gig.

OK, I need to pause to hand out some thank-you’s. This whole experience wouldn’t have been possible without a bunch of other people.
-To everyone at The Dallas Morning News. I go into more depth in my last DMN high school blog entry, but suffice to say that the people at The Dallas Morning News are not just role models for me, but my friends. They are great people who made the experience an unforgettable one, and I’m always going to be grateful for that.
-To my mom, who has always been my biggest fan, and made sure to tell me that as often as needed during my stay at home
-To my dad, who supported me through the good times and the bad, and always took time to congratulate me on even the smallest victory
-To my little brother Jeff, who put up with his older brother staying at home and eating all the best pieces of food. And on a side note, a big congratulations to Jeff, who just earned his Eagle Scout. Way to go, little bro.
-To the producers of the computer programs that made my podcasts possible, including Audacity, Switch and SpinXpress. Tremendous products.
-To my wonderful girlfriend Jen, who inexplicably continues to put up with my crap. Thank you for being amazing
-To the Baron, the real star of the show
-To the readers, who made this blog worth it. I loved getting feedback from all of you, and you made it fun to write.
So where do I go from here? I don’t know. I’ve got one more semester at Mizzou before I graduate. From there, who knows where I’ll land. I’m going to send résumés and cover letters across the nation in hopes that someone will hire me. But if you’ve learned one thing from this blog, it’s that I love journalism, and I’m determined to make it in this business.
And what of the TepBlog? This very well may be the death of the TepBlog. I can’t imagine getting another internship, and it would take an absolutely golden opportunity to resurrect it. I’ve loved this blog, and I’ve loved the readers. It’s been an absolute blast, and if it is the end of the TepBlog, I have no regrets.
So thank you, readers, for coming along with me on this journey. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.
Back in 1999, legendary announcer Keith Jackson called his final game before retiring. He later came out of retirement, but his words at the conclusion of that game ring true:
“Tennessee 23, Florida State 16. And so it is done. I say goodbye to all of you. God bless, and good night.”
I haven’t earned what Jackson has, but his words speak better than I ever could.
And, for possibly the last time, now I’m writing this blog.

The curtain’s falling.
Good night.

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