Nice Article, Rookie

Nice Article, Rookie

Gamel_potrait_JPEG_150by Steve Gamel

Normally, I only need to worry about my own writing and whether or not I’m doing a good enough job of grabbing a reader’s attention. But now, I have a rookie writer under my wing.

I was recently asked by my boss at the Denton Record-Chronicle to mentor a new addition to our team, a young guy who would handle the sports beat for one of our newer high schools. I’ve known this kid for a couple of years now, and even though he had previously only been utilized here and there, the one thing that stood out to me – besides his decent writing skills – was his energy and willingness to learn.

Most of the other writers in the office continue to mistake that excess energy for goofiness, and to be perfectly honest, he is a goofy son of a gun. To this day, he celebrates each published article as if he hit an off-balance jumper in the lane with no time left on the clock in Game 7 of the NBA Finals.

He tweets links to those articles all over Twitter and Facebook, just like we do with our own stories to gain extra traction and readership, but his are usually followed by the hashtags #blessed and #humbled. And don’t get me started on the picture his dad took from the stands as he interviewed an area coach. He is as green and wide-eyed as any rookie writer can be. He’s fresh out of college, it’s his first opportunity to take over his own beat, and there’s a ton for him to learn.

He’s goofy, but how can I blame him. I was the exact same way. And it has yet to cross my mind that he can’t be a good writer. I’m just trying not to fail him.

So to say my focus has changed over the last few months would be an understatement. I went from obsessing over my own articles and having the singular focus of trying to be the best writer I can possibly be to having the dual responsibility of making sure this young buck continues to grow as an effective writer while at the same time feeding his passion for quality journalism.

The journey has had its share of struggles.

For a while there, it seemed like everything I preached early on went in one ear and out the other. I’d harp on an issue with his writing four or five times and he’d just do it again. I’d give him an assignment, and rather than dazzle me with a picture-perfect article, I’d find myself rewriting the entire thing while he sat there watching every keystroke. It was a difficult time for the both of us.

Then came the breakthrough. An article that made up for all the others. Not only did he nail it, but he told me he could hear me in his head as he wrote. Of course, he meant that in the most sincere and respectful way possible. And I was touched.

When I told him, “Nice article, rookie,” I meant it.

It sounds cheesy, but I truly hope what I’m doing for him will help him in the future. There will be bumps in the road, and he will continue to make mistakes. But the fact that he is getting better and carving his own path – through his own hard work and my constant mentoring – has given me a new sense of purpose.

I don’t want to simply be the best writer I can be. I want him to be just as successful.

Even if he is a little goofy.

Until next time, I’ll see you on the sidelines.


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