Opinion

LAST-MINUTE MUSINGS: Not kicking and screaming anymore

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

I donít know that I ever set out to become a journalist, let alone an editor.

And yet here I sit, writing my first Banner Graphic column under the byline ďJared Jernagan, Editor.Ē

I guess you could say thereís been a bit of kicking and screaming along the way.

I signed up for yearbook staff my junior year of high school out of a sense of obligation when our sponsor ó whose staffs won awards upon awards each year ó went out of her way to recruit me.

I figured if Jackie Fehrenbach was asking me to join her staff, Iíd be an idiot to say no. (Iíll also admit I was relieved that she wasnít approaching me in the hallway that particular day to express her disappointment over some trouble Iíd gotten into recently. But thatís a story for another day.)

A year later it was more of the same. I would have been content to continue in the sports section, but was called upon to be editor-in-chief. So I did it, despite some misgivings. I must say it was worth it.

College was a different story. I gained so much at Wabash that I use on a daily basis -- critical thinking, a desire to tackle any challenge, a voracious love of learning -- but none of it could be classified as journalism.

I didnít want to be a journalist, I thought. Too many hours. Too few dollars. Find something else, I thought.

So I went the big corporation route, starting a career -- or so I thought -- at UPS. While I loaded trucks to begin with, I got exposed to a little bit of every function at the tiny Crawfordsville facility. I was soon supervising the evening sort and even interviewed for a full-time position at one point.

It was a great learning experience. The most important lesson was that I hated it. I needed to get out and talk to people, tell their stories.

I was kicking and screaming again, though this time at the career I wanted to leave.

So I went to my momís boss at our tiny hometown paper and offered to work for free. I needed the chance to write, I said. I wanted to help out, even if I didnít make a dime on it.

Fortunately, he would hear nothing of me working for free, offering me a stringer position that soon turned into into a full-time staff writer position for three small weeklies. This allowed me to send UPS packing.

Then when the editor left for a higher position in the company, I found myself editor of all three papers. (And technically my momís boss.)

It was a great experience for a 25-year-old and one I might have stuck with, but I got a little stir-crazy in my hometown. When the chance to work in sports at a daily paper came along, I jumped at it, venturing into the enemy territory of a Wabash man like me.

It was a wonderful experience, covering sports on a daily basis and doing it with Caine Gardner as my partner in crime.

But the news world called again, and I found myself promoted to assistant editor after less than two years on the job.

In my mind, I was kicking and screaming again, but when the editor said she wanted me as assistant, it was hard to say no.

In more than 11 years since that promotion, a few things have changed. Eric Bernsee returned as editor -- which did amazing things for morale in the newsroom. Weíve been through some ups and downs in that time -- changes in staffing levels and publication dates while dozens of co-workers have come and gone.

Over the years, people would ask when I was going to be editor and Iíd get a knot in my stomach.

Had the call come even two years ago, Iím not sure what I would have said.

But the call didnít come Ö until we all started to realize I was already doing a lot of what an editor would be called upon to do.

The last year -- with Eric often out of the office dealing with his health -- has been a whirlwind of often working short-handed, watching Brand Selviaís development as a young reporter, adjusting to what a worldwide pandemic means to our business, trying to continue to be a good husband and dad.

And did I mention worrying about the health of my boss and good friend?

(I also have to recognize Joey Bennett for being a steady hand in the sports department, meaning that was one area I rarely had to worry about.)

And then a week or so ago, the call finally came.

You are our new editor.

The words would have made me squirm in my chair at one time Ö or perhaps caused me to run screaming from the office.

This time I certainly had questions, but it felt right. Iíve had two or three dress rehearsals over the years, the most recent basically lasting a year.

If Iíve learned anything from those 12 months, itís that the time is right. Iím as ready as Iíll ever be.

Iím calm.

Iím excited.

Iím happy.

Iím especially pleased that Iíll still have Eric here on staff -- the calm, reassuring voice of reason heís been as long as Iíve known him.

And if I ever worry that it might be awkward being the boss of the man Iíve called ďBossĒ countless times in the last nine years, Iíll just remind myself that I was once my motherís boss. That was never a problem.

Donít look for huge changes just because our titles are changing. Eric and I have been a great team and I plan for that to continue.

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

Pete Townshendís words -- delivered by bandmate Roger Daltrey -- ring true at the Banner Graphic today. Of course, in vowing not to get fooled again, the boys in The Who werenít exactly looking forward to the new bossís regime.

But I am Ö and I invite you all on the journey with me.

Iím ready to be your editor, Putnam County. Thank you for your trust. Letís do this.

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  • A local newspaper is so very important to communities. I am confident that you will do a great job keeping our community informed and therefore more involved in making Putnam County a better place to live.

    -- Posted by Rockypenguin on Tue, Jun 16, 2020, at 12:17 AM
  • Congratulations! I know you will fight to keep the paper going and with Eric's help it will be a great paper!

    -- Posted by small town fan on Tue, Jun 16, 2020, at 7:51 AM
  • *

    Your attachment to music will serve you well and steady the mind and hand... Love your family... You will do well...

    Makani Ďoluíolu e kai malie

    -- Posted by ridgerunner54 on Tue, Jun 16, 2020, at 10:17 AM
  • Congratulations Jared. Great article

    -- Posted by Nit on Tue, Jun 16, 2020, at 2:31 PM
  • It is so great to see you be rewarded for all of your hard work! What a deserved promotion - even if it is to a Wabash man.... Congrats!

    -- Posted by infiremanemt on Wed, Jun 17, 2020, at 10:53 AM
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