JARED McMASTERS, Sports Editor

Always get the name of the dog.

It’s an old expression in journalism that serves as a reminder to cram as many specific details and anecdotes into a story as possible because those are the little idiosyncrasies that bring a story to life.

And as my time as the Tribune’s sports editor comes to an end, I find myself thankful for all of the little details about this community and the memories I’ve made with the people here.

But before I could meet most of those people, there were always three leaders —Sean Frye, Shanna Guiot and Stu Butcher — since my first day on the job to guide this lost puppy 1,100 miles from home in North Carolina.

In my four months in Chanute, Sean taught me more about what it means to be a sports journalist in a tight-knit community than any college class or internship ever could. Shanna took a chance on me as a 22-year-old sports writer fresh out of school and trusted me to tell this area’s athletics stories. Stu oversaw it all from a desk just seven steps to the left of mine, where he shared countless tips and ideas that gave me a fresh perspective on my coverage.

I could never thank those three enough for the last four months.

But those weren’t the only people in the area who made me feel welcomed.

Just a few weeks into my short tenure, Neosho County Panthers girls basketball coach JJ Davis and I met on the sidelines during a Panthers soccer doubleheader. We talked about Roy Williams’ retirement from UNC basketball while Davis munched on sunflower seeds, and his laid-back demeanor broke the ice with ease.

Fast-forward to a few days before Halloween, when Davis was more than happy to be the first Neosho County coach to invite me to the school’s athletics offices for an in-person interview on a standard season preview story. In a time when people may distrust the media now more than ever, Davis’ kindness and openness in moments like that will follow me back to North Carolina.

The Thursday and Friday before I met with Davis were the two most rewarding days of my four months in Chanute.

I spent that Thursday night bouncing from desktop to desktop, from email chain to email chain, from phone call to phone call. I was coordinating with Shanna and Sean while I designed a special 4-page section for the weekend that highlighted the Blue Comets’ soon-to-be SEK League title in football.

The next night, after Chanute breezed through another victory, this time over Labette County, the whole team posed for photos with copies of that section to celebrate their accomplishments. The smiles on those kids’ faces and messages from coaches and parents expressing their appreciation made all the long nights, road trips to games and weekend events worth every second.

About three weeks before I visited Davis’ office, I received one of my all-time favorite emails. Chanute girls basketball coach Dustin Fox reached out to pass along some compliments of my coverage (with way more praise than I deserved) and invited me to come speak to his journalism class at the school.

On Wednesday, Nov. 3, I stepped into his classroom of roughly 30 or 40 high school students — a position I was in just five years ago — and their questions reminded me of why I fell in love with sports journalism as a teenager. It also reminded me that the future of journalism is in great hands.

That two-week span from the end of October to early November was overflowing with moments and memories that shaped my tenure as the Tribune’s sports editor.

But that’s just a fraction of the impact this community has left on me. I just hope the stories I told left half as gracious a mark in return.

As I head back to my family in North Carolina, I leave behind one parting request for the Tribune’s readers — continue to be yourselves.

With the holidays ramping up and a new sports editor expected to arrive the first week of January, there’s going to be a bit of a transition period. Your patience and support will be appreciated for the next couple of weeks.

But if you can continue to be the kind, patient and welcoming readers that I’ve experienced firsthand, then all should be well in just a short time. And you’ll be back to making more of those sweet, fond memories through sports before you know it.

 

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