Looking back on a career filled with interesting people, experiences

pdonohue@beaufortgazette.comAugust 8, 2013 

It's hard to know where to start this column other than to state the obvious, which is that I'll no longer be writing it.

After more than five exhausting, exhilarating, frustrating and fulfilling years at The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette, I'm leaving to pursue a new career and a new life in Chicago.

While that prospect is exciting for all the reasons you would expect -- great sports, great food, four distinct seasons and Lollapalooza -- this transition does bring with it more than its fair share of anxiety and melancholy, especially today, my last day at this newspaper.

And likely, my last day at any newspaper.

I won't romanticize this business or attempt to invoke images of the bustling, smoke-filled newsrooms of Murrow or Woodward and Bernstein as those environments differed wildly from the one in which I've worked the last five years.

There are, no doubt, things I will miss about being a journalist, about working in a field that has provided me so much creative fulfillment over the past five years and provided me access to people and experiences that will stay with me the rest of my life.

There was also free food. And a lot of it.

On a short-lived Bravo reality TV show called "Tabloid Wars," which chronicled life at the New York Daily News, one of the reporters quipped that journalists may not get paid very much but we get to experience life in a way few people do.

That has absolutely been true of my experience here.

I've had the opportunity to interview some of my favorite bands, including The Lone Bellow and, most recently, Barenaked Ladies, whose music provided the soundtrack of my adolescence.

I've covered the military, an experience that left an indelible mark on me, professionally and personally.

Nothing makes one feel quite so good about being an American as being at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island on a graduation Friday and seeing parents, friends and loved ones beaming with pride as they walk beside their new Marines, some of whom lacked the discipline to make their regularly before stepping into those famous yellow footprints.

Good luck choking back when you see Marines return home from yearlong deployments to dangerous faraway places to teary-eyed spouses and children, some of whom they are meeting for the first time on the tarmac at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.

Covering the military in Beaufort County is a special beat.

I was also given the opportunity to share my feelings about the recent death of my brother with our readers, an experience, while agonizing, helped me cope with still inescapable pain of his loss. The response I received from those same readers, some of whom I had incensed with my musings on country music or dog ownership, moved me, often to tears.

I could certain rattle on and make some trite list of my favorite stories or columns that I've written since joining the Gazette staff in 2008 but they seem almost too private to share.

Those interviews and the invaluable time I spent with editors fine-tuning and tweaking the language of those particular narratives feel as much a part of my time here as anything I could fit in the carton that contains the contains of my desk and cubicle.

Those memories are mine and I will cherish them wherever I go and whatever line of work I happen to find myself in.

For the past five years, I've lived on deadline and come to work each morning knowing that the work of the day was irrelevant. It was, though barely 24 hours old, anciety history.

The clock had reset.

But that's the job. And I've done it to the best of my ability for the past 1,800 days.

That part of my life ends today.

Regardless of what people may think of reporters, I'm proud to have worked in this business and to have participated in an exercise so vital to the health and survival of our republic.

It's something I will tell my kids and my grandkids about.

This week's playlist is simple, it comprises eight of my favorite songs of all time. And no, it doesn't include Boyz II Men's "End of the Road." This isn't an eighth grade semi-formal.

Thank you for reading.

  • Jim Croce, "I Got a Name" -- Wrote one of my first columns ever about my love of Jim Croce and it seems fitting to start this playlist with one of my favorite of his songs. An all-time classic now immortalized in director Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained."

  • Martin Sexton, "Glory Bound" -- One of the truly great singer/songwriters of all-time. Yes, really.

  • Coldplay, "Amsterdam" -- A classic Coldplay song. Pretty and restrained then epic-sounding. My favorite band ever.

  • The Shins, "It's Only Life" -- A song with a message we can all relate to from time to time.

  • The Head and the Heart, "Ghosts" -- Here's hoping this band's sophomore record, due out in October, was as good as their debut.

  • The Black Keys, "I'll Be Your Man" -- One of the truly great rock n' roll bands in the world right now.

  • Cold War Kids, "Finally Begin" -- Another of my favorite bands ever. Tragically slept-on by a lot of indie music fans and critics.

  • The Killers, "When You Were Young" -- A band that never seems to get enough credit for writing truly great rock songs. Every record has at least a handful of true gems.


    "A few of the people you'll meet at the gym ... pants not optional"

    "This year's 'Song of the Summer' declaration might bring much-deserved attention to worthwhile artists"

    "Look beyond the gimmicky and offensive to find rap music that actually has a soul"

    "When did people start bringing their living rooms to the beach?"

    "A eulogy that came way too soon"

    "Is Darius Rucker's country music career a serious thing or is he mocking his fans?"

    "Once you experience loss, you'll never forget the real reason behind Memorial Day"

    "There are many things I don't understand, including barefoot running shoes"

    "Are you one of the five people we'll meet on Facebook?"

    "What's so great about dogs? No really ... what?"

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