Arkansas Democrat-Gazette: A Journey of Outdoor Reporting for 19 Years

Being an outdoors editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for the past 19 years has been an incredible journey. Looking back, it’s hard to believe how time has flown by. I often reflect on the columns I wrote several years ago and when I revisit them in the archives, I realize that they were written a decade or more ago. It’s not so much a sign of aging, but rather a testament to the volume of work I have produced.

Since February 15, 2005, I have written approximately 1,950 columns, totaling around 1.5 million words. Additionally, I have penned 1,200 feature stories, amounting to 1.32 million words. These numbers don’t even include the countless fishing tournament game stories, Arkansas Big Buck Classic features, Arkansas Big Bass Bonanza gamers, and various news reporting. Nor do they account for the numerous stories, summaries, and spreads for our Travel section. In total, it’s safe to say that I have poured my heart and soul into this role.

When the opportunity to become the outdoors writer for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette arose, I was initially content in my position at the Missouri Department of Conservation. However, two unexpected invitations presented themselves simultaneously. One was to join Sid Evans as an assistant editor at Field & Stream in New York, and the other was an offer from Wally Hall to become “The last outdoors writer I will ever hire.” Although New York seemed appealing, my roots, family, and heart were firmly rooted in Arkansas.

Over the years, the media landscape has significantly changed. Social media platforms have come and gone, and technological advancements have reshaped the way we consume news. However, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette has remained strong. Unlike others, we have continued to deliver the stories of Arkansas people, places, and issues with vivid colors and comprehensive context.

When I embarked on this journey on February 15, 2005, my goal was to establish the Democrat-Gazette’s outdoors section as the authoritative voice for the state’s outdoors culture and a meeting place for its community. I envisioned it as a platform where readers could share their experiences, find the latest information on gear and trends, stay informed about the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, and receive reliable news on wildlife and fisheries conservation.

During the pandemic, our role became even more significant. With limited options available, people turned to the outdoors for solace. We became a trusted source of information, guiding individuals on how to make the most of their outdoor adventures. Through our articles, we helped readers cope with the darkness by hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, and paddling.

One of the most rewarding aspects of my job is featuring the many photos we publish, particularly those of children and teenagers proudly showcasing their hunting and fishing achievements. It is heartwarming to witness how they grow over time, with some eventually sending us photos of their own children’s triumphs. These pictures often inspire full-feature stories, like the one about Emily Franks, a young teenager who caught a marlin in Mexico with her father. This story even motivated Emily to write about her own outdoor experiences for magazines. It is moments like these that make me appreciate the incredible journey I have been on.

I am immensely grateful to the publisher and management of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for their unwavering support of outdoor coverage. While many major newspapers have phased out dedicated outdoor writers, this publication continues to devote resources to this important beat. It is a testament to the unique nature of this publication and how it benefits our community.

As I continue to write, I always look back at my first column as a guiding compass. I made a promise then, and I have fulfilled it through three million words and counting. This is just the beginning, and I am excited for the road ahead, as there are still plenty more stories to tell.

FAQ:

Q: How long has the author been an outdoors editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette?
A: The author has been an outdoors editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for the past 19 years.

Q: How many columns has the author written?
A: Since February 15, 2005, the author has written approximately 1,950 columns.

Q: How many words have the author’s columns and feature stories totaled?
A: The author’s columns have totaled around 1.5 million words, and feature stories have amounted to 1.32 million words.

Q: What topics have the author covered besides columns and feature stories?
A: The author has also covered fishing tournament game stories, Arkansas Big Buck Classic features, Arkansas Big Bass Bonanza gamers, news reporting, and stories, summaries, and spreads for the Travel section.

Q: Why did the author choose to become the outdoors writer for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette?
A: The author chose to become the outdoors writer for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette because of their roots, family, and heart being firmly rooted in Arkansas.

Q: What was the author’s goal when starting the outdoors section of the Democrat-Gazette?
A: The author’s goal was to establish the Democrat-Gazette’s outdoors section as the authoritative voice for the state’s outdoors culture and a meeting place for its community.

Q: How did the author’s role become more significant during the pandemic?
A: During the pandemic, people turned to the outdoors for solace, and the author’s articles helped readers cope with the darkness by providing information on hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, and paddling.

Q: What is one of the most rewarding aspects of the author’s job?
A: One of the most rewarding aspects of the author’s job is featuring the many photos of children and teenagers showcasing their hunting and fishing achievements.

Definitions:

– Archives: Archives refers to a collection of records or historical documents.
– Beat: In this context, beat refers to a specific area of coverage or topic that a journalist focuses on.
– Outdoors culture: Outdoors culture refers to the lifestyle and activities associated with outdoor recreation and nature.
– Authoritative voice: Authoritative voice refers to being recognized as a trusted and reliable source of information.

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