Opinion: Why this ‘brought in’ decided to stay

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By Randy Patrick

This was supposed to be goodbye.

After five years as a reporter for The Kentucky Standard — the best job I’ve ever had in the most beautiful place I’ve ever lived — I was going home.

I had accepted a job with the Richmond Register, the small daily where I learned the craft of reporting in my 20s after earning a journalism degree at Eastern Kentucky University and working a couple of years without an editor at nearby weeklies.

I loved Bardstown and Nelson County, and the Standard, the best little community newspaper in Kentucky. That’s because of our talented and dedicated staff and the leadership of our editor, Forrest Berkshire, who could be working as an investigative reporter for a big daily, and our publisher, Jamie Sizemore, who understands the news side of the news business better than most.

When I came here in the summer of 2012, I was on the rebound. I had lost my job as managing editor of my hometown daily, The Winchester Sun, a year before as part of a plan to “right size” management of four Kentucky papers — after I’d worked for the company for 10 years. It was disheartening.

I offset my unemployment checks by doing freelance work, but never made enough money to cover the cost of the computer or camera equipment I needed to do it. Then I got a job in the state Capitol working for the Associated Press, but it was only a temporary position, until the legislative session ended.

The same week my unemployment payments ran out, Jamie called me with an offer of another temp job. Bardstown was a long way from home, but if there was no long-term commitment, it would be ideal.

So I moved into the Parkview Motel and began what I thought of as a working vacation.

My first story was about Joe Logan getting his Purple Heart decades after his service in Vietnam. I photographed kids milking a life-sized ceramic cow at the Extension Office and designed an award-winning feature page. I did an in-depth analysis of how implementation of the Affordable Care Act would benefit Nelson County’s “1 in 6” uninsured, including a cancer patient who hadn’t been able to get coverage because of her pre-existing condition. One evening that summer, I covered Buttermilk Days, a concert by a Rolling Stones tribute band and the last annual fundraising picnic at the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, where I met some of the nicest women and enjoyed the best barbecue I’ve ever tasted.

That was only the beginning. The job became permanent, and over the years, I profiled a married Catholic priest (who had also been an Episcopal priest and a Baptist preacher), wrote about a community united in support of the family and fellow officers of a murdered police officer, covered a citizens’ fight against a natural gas liquids pipeline, and detailed the conflicts that brought down a mayor accused of abusing his power.

I’ve done the best work of my career here, and I’ve enjoyed telling people’s stories in my new Kentucky home.

So why would I want to leave? In a word, family.

My parents are in their late 70s, and I want to be close to them in their latter years and to my sister, who is my most loyal friend. My niece, who thinks of me as her other dad, will turn 17 next week. I can’t forget that when she was in sixth grade, I promised I would come home as soon as I could find work close to Winchester.

In five years, I’ve intervewed at a couple of places, but never found what I wanted where I wanted to be.

Then the job at the Register came open when Bill Robinson, a longtime editor and reporter there, announced his retirement.

At first it seemed like the right opportunity. The publisher, David Eldridge, was a friend and someone I had worked for twice. He’s great at what he does.

I had also worked with a couple of other people in the newsroom while at other papers, and had several old friends in the community I knew from my days there as a reporter. Most importantly, it was 25 miles from my family and hometown.

There were things about the job that worried me though, and I was never sure about it.

When I worked there before, the paper sold 9,000 copies a day and had a newsroom staff of 10-12 reporters, editors and photographers. Now there were half as many staff — for a county of 83,000 people with two cities bigger than Bardstown — and like many newspapers, its circulation had dwindled.

In his last column, Bill admitted he was worn out and burned out. I’m only 10 years younger, and I don’t want to get that way.

I’m also fundamentally conservative in how I look at things. I agree with the words attributed to Lord Falkland in the 17th century that “where it is not necessary to change, it is necessary not to change.”

I don’t like change. Ask anybody.

On the way to Bill’s retirement party last Wednesday, I talked with my dad, who is the first person I turn to for advice. What he told me was that if it doesn’t feel like “the right move at the right time,” it probably isn’t.

I had made a commitment. But Jamie, who had been on vacation when I accepted the job, said she wasn’t letting me go without a fight. Forrest also wanted me to stay, and so did John Nelson, our new regional editor, whom I had worked for in the past.

So they brainstormed and came up with a plan that I think will let me spend more time back home than if I had taken the job in Richmond and continue doing what I love here.

It was never about money; it was about something far more precious: time with my loved ones.

It hasn’t been an easy decision, but I’ve decided to stay — for now.

It feels good to be back even though I’ve never gone.