I gotta say, I’ve been pretty lucky in life when it comes to opportunities, and quick on my feet to jump on them.
That was the case two years ago, in early August of 2018. I saw a chance to take a columnist/opinions position at the UT Daily Beacon, the University of Tennessee’s editorially independent student-run newspaper. I leapt at the chance and applied. And wouldn’t you know it, I came out of the interview conducted by the section’s editor with a column.
“Wondering Wanderer” is a homage of sorts to my dad. Back in the old BBS days of the late-80s, early-90s, he was known on his board, “Another BBS,” simply as “Wanderer,”. I figured I could take that a step further, becoming the next-generation “Wanderer” who’s always wondering about things. Thus, a column title and concept was born.
A lot has changed since that first column on August 23, 2018. I further developed my style, found a structure for each week’s piece, figured out how to write better and more coherently.
Looking back at some of the earlier columns, I start cringing a little at how poorly their written. It’s a process, though, and one I learned quite a bit from along the way. Many of the early pieces easily took me several hours if not days to write. Now I can slam out a 500-700 word piece in less than two hours. Talk about character development.
There’s been a handful of columns I really like – the good ones of the bunch. Like the ones about Appalachian culture, New Tazewell, Norris, Jellico.
Many of these, especially starting with the summer columns of 2019, include pictures inserted throughout. I thought this was a unique, forward thing to do – no one else has a column or opinions collection like it at the Beacon, and it has the added benefit of being multimedia. (And it shows I’m not just a one-trick pony.)
There’s something else about why I wanted to get into the opinions section: I wanted to emulate the feller who sparked my interest in journalism to begin with, but with modern eyes.
Way back in 2013 I came across a movie called, “The Story of G.I. Joe.” At the end of that film was a WWII newsreel clip of this skinny, old-looking guy interviewing a small group of soldiers at rest. (I say interview, but it was more like shooting the breeze with them.)
I became interested in this little fella, wanted to know who he was and what he did.
Ernie Pyle, Scripps-Howard Roving Reporter and War Correspondent.
I don’t know how or why, but that became on of those life-changing revelation moments for me. Somewhere in my mind I decided, “You can do that. Be like Ernie. Major in journalism. Tell stories that mean something to someone who seems insignificant, but in reality is the backbone/driving force of a country/population.”
So, from 2018 to now, I tried it. I tried to tell stories of snippets of America and its culture and people in a folksy, down home sort of way.
I hope I succeeded.