By Curtis Carden
I’ve always kidded around with people at the office of The Erwin Record about wanting to write an autobiography.
There have been lots of positives, and negatives, that have happened over my 24 years of being on the earth, but even with all that, there are still some chapters to write, figuratively speaking.
It has been a joy to serve in Unicoi County as a journalist with the Record for more than five years, but I have decided to step down from my position, effective June 6, to return home by accepting a position with The Elizabethton Star. There, I will delve into coverage of the city, feature articles on citizens and of course, sports, in Carter County.
The decision was not something that was taken lightly. You don’t just toss five-plus years of work out the window when making a decision like this, but I feel it to be the best for my future in the journalism profession.
Unicoi County has given me an opportunity to hone my craft and learning the inner-workings of how a newspaper operates. Whether it comes from assisting with ads, riding shotgun on a trip to deliver papers or cover a town meeting – the experiences have been eye-opening.
Even with all that, my primary focus has been on the athletics in Unicoi County.
I’ve spoken of it before, but Mark Stevens, then publisher at the time, called me up, after the passing of my grandfather, while I was in my freshman year at East Tennessee State University, after coming across the ‘Bulldog Bark’ (the online newspaper Hampton High School) after receiving a recommendation from my English/journalism instructor, and then associate editor of The Erwin Record, Rebekah Harris.
Of course when I stopped by the office and heard the position, which was just freelancing sports, I was all about it. ‘Sure! Writing about sports? This will be easy!’, I thought.
Needless to say, I was wrong once I started reading previous articles by Kevin Lewis, who carried over a storied, award-winning career from up North to the Valley Beautiful.
Unicoi County went from a guy who strung together eloquent pieces in the paper, and online, to a teenager who freaked out during his first event and was only calmed after Josh Kite, athletic director from David Crockett High School, actually let me use some score sheets from inside his office to cover my first event, which was the Hardee’s Classic in Jonesborough. (I’m sure Mr. Kite won’t remember that, but gratefully, I do).
It was later in the evening though, when I spoke with Jeff Birchfield with the Johnson City Press, that I received a level of closure.
“As long as you love doing it” were his words of advice and while I was a nervous wreck, I knew I loved this profession. The near nervous breakdown was after I had my first interview with Michael Smith, who was very helpful considering the person he was talking to. My second ever interview was with John English, following up his team’s performance in the Hardee’s.
It was after that bulk of fun I knew it was time to hit the ground running and try to make things fun in Unicoi County.
And with the green light from then sports editor Anthony Piercy, we started to make things happen. After the OT magazine was discontinued, we still strove to provide an enjoyable sports section for the public.
His constant guidance and education in how to approach the landscape of sports, from a writing and personable aspect, along with Rebekah’s help, this teenage idiot continued what Kevin provided, while building on the online aspect of things with Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
My goal was to make sure each program got its fair shake as far as coverage goes and I feel proud of what The Erwin Record was able to provide, continuing the trend of being considered award worthy. To help build something and then leave it is always tough, but sometimes it is needed.
I will always be appreciative of the opportunity Stevens allowed me to have years ago and for what Mr. Whitson has allowed me to do in print, online and for how great of a friend he has been over the years.
There are so many names to mention that I won’t just for the simple fact I don’t what to leave anyone out. Whether it has been colleagues, students, coaches, parents or citizens of the county, the support has been overwhelming and I will always cherish the moments.
It has been a fun ride, Blue Nation. I’ll leave this piece with a quote from one of my journalism heroes, Edward R. Murrow: “Good night, and good luck.”