As the end nears, we human beings have a tendency to reflect, and those reflections will naturally bring us back to the very beginning.
In a sense, I’m about to end a 37-year run as a proud member of the Daily Journal editorial team. While plans are in place for continued contributions in a less substantive role, my job as a lead editor comes to an end this week.
Had it not been for our Sports department, there would have never been a start, let alone a career which began before I could legally consume alcohol and concludes with me old enough to get the senior citizen discount at many restaurants.
In March 1982, I attended a Kankakee Community College men’s basketball game. I was a KCC student at the time, and a staff member for the student newspaper.
My Dad, Dick Frey, was a KCC administrator and a personable man who seemingly knew (and continues to know) everyone in town. That included then Daily Journal Sports Editor Bill Greene and his colleague, Tim Yonke. Dad told me these guys would be there and wanted to talk to me. They pulled me aside before the game and offered me a part-time job in Sports. I readily accepted and started soon thereafter.
That first night on the job was a rough one as I struggled with the computer editorial system used to produce the newspaper. When my Mom asked me later how the first day went, I informed her it would probably be my last as the computer dumbfounded and downright intimidated me. She offered encouragement and urged me to go back and give it another shot. So I did.
With each successive day, things got better and better. Over the passage of time, I rose to become a full-time sports writer, then assistant sports editor, then sports editor in 1996. Three years later, I shifted to news and became metro editor. Then managing editor. Then editorial page editor. That amounts to seven different jobs for the same company.
As my roles changed, so did my status. At first I was the wet-behind-the-ears kid who badly needed mentoring and guidance. But as experience was gained the roles were reversed and I became the one who offered advice and tutelage. It might have qualified as visionary at times, while at other times it might have been a case of the blind leading the blind. But I always took the role seriously as I figured it had that “pay it forward’’ aspect. Someone had once helped me, so it was my turn to repay the favor.
I am retreating from the role now, but am pretty sure it will never be abandoned completely as I have applied it both inside and outside the workplace.
So here’s my parting request: I may have ultimately helped no one, and I may have helped thousands. The accurate number is probably somewhere in between.
But if you are included in that number, whether it be large or small, please do me a favor: Make it a priority to help those who are coming up behind you. There is no better feeling on Earth than the knowledge you have helped someone out, and it can truly be the gift that keeps on giving.
Let me repay one other deep debt of gratitude before I end here. I will be forever thankful to those readers who have done us the extreme honor of paying for our product and loyally consuming it over the days, months and years. I urge you to continue.
A local newspaper is a good thing for a community to have, and working for it can be a tough job made easier when the places you cover are filled with good people. I wish each and every one of you the very best.