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New chapter: Looking back, moving forward

From the editor's desk

061621,,,R MACAFEE...Warren...06-16-21...Tribune Chronicle/Vindicator sports editor Greg Macafee...by R. Michael Semple

At times like this, I often look back at key moments in my journey and ask myself what got me here. What sparked my interest in journalism? What gave me the belief I could succeed in this field?

Several moments lead me back to sports, as it has taken up a majority of my journalism career. But there is one moment I look back to fondly, and it always reminds me I was born to work in this field.

During my first semester of journalism classes at Slippery Rock University, I remember sitting across from a senior investigator for a community narcotics enforcement team in my hometown newsroom. His team had recently executed “Operation Lucky Day,” nabbing 11 people on drug-related charges, including marijuana, methamphetamines, prescriptions, morphine and heroin. I was assigned to write about it for a class assignment.

My head was full of questions. It was my first real interview and it was a story I was extremely excited to tell. Not only that, but I wanted to prove to myself I could succeed in this field.

So, as soon as we sat down, I fired off one question that contained about three.

The investigator smiled, looked at a former baseball coach of mine, who was the editor of the newspaper and had helped set up the interview, and then back at me.

“Now, slow down a little bit here,” he said.

I laughed, apologized profusely and we started over. From there, we settled into the interview and everything was natural and free-flowing. I was living out my dream and taking advantage of an opportunity presented to me.

Before writing this column, I went through my files to find that assignment. I’ve come a long way since then.

This is just one of many stories I’m sure I’ll get to tell while I sit in this editor’s chair. However, I think it’s one of importance because, in more ways than one, it describes exactly who I am as a person and a journalist.

My enthusiasm and passion for journalism are two things I take great pride in. There’s not a day that goes by where I’m not intrigued by a story one of our reporters is working on or where my ears perk up when I hear a great story idea or a solid news tip.

Ironically enough, my wife noticed me listening to a side conversation over the weekend and knew exactly what was going on.

This stems from the importance of community journalism. I’ve understood that from a young age. It’s something this newspaper has valued throughout its history and it’s the type of legacy I hope to continue while I am at this newspaper.

Secondly, I am greatly determined to produce the best possible product I can, day in and day out, no matter the circumstances. When I received that class assignment, I wanted to write the best story I could. So I utilized my connections to go above and beyond.

My former baseball coach was open to speaking over the phone, but when he presented the idea of interviewing the investigator, I jumped in the car after class on a Friday and drove the 3.5 hours to my hometown. I knew how vital that interview was for my story.

Lastly, I’m someone who is both personable and humble. It’s truly why I enjoy this job so much. I love talking with people about anything and everything and I’m surely not afraid to show my true self, so if you see me on the street or out in the community, please say hello.

This newspaper has gone through big changes in recent weeks, but change brings opportunity. While I hope to continue its legacy, I also plan to put my stamp on its history throughout this next chapter.

I’ve learned from several great journalists during my time here, my predecessor being one of them. They all instilled in me what this newspaper is about, what the community is about, and what this area is about. I believe my values and personality align directly with that. I’ve never felt more at home.

The future is bright here in the Mahoning Valley, now let’s go make it brighter.

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