Mike’s last column for The Citizen


[Editor’s note: Last week, we here at The Citizen said goodbye to one of our family members, Michael Boylan. He is taking over responsibility for producing the content of several local magazines stretching across north Georgia. This is Mike’s last column for The Citizen.]

To the new guy at my (very big) desk:

Over the past week and a half I have been trying to tell you everything I learned in my 14 years at The Citizen.

It was a necessity as I am moving on to another job and you are, as dozens of people have told you since you signed on, trying to fill really big shoes (They are only size 12 by the way. I’m not Shaq).

We’ve covered the basics: How we get photos worked for the paper, how to handle calendar of events and how to try and stay on top of a never-ending wave of emails, phone calls, stories to write, pages to edit, etc.

There may have been some things that have slipped through the cracks though, particularly what this job can be for you and specifically what The Citizen can mean to you.

Persistence got me this job and it kept me in it. Prior to getting a desk at The Citizen I was living with an abusive couple in Athens and working in the Housewares department of Rich’s. Life was not great.

My mom saw that The Citizen was looking for a sports reporter and said, “Well, you like sports.” I needed to come home and I wanted a job where I could write.

I applied and then hounded Cal (the publisher of The Citizen) daily. I called to ask if he had made a decision yet. I called to remind him that I was still available. I called to let him know that I would be out of town for the weekend but I would be back and was still very interested in the job. He said they would give me a try for 90 days.

I stayed at The Citizen for 14 years (with the exception of one month where I tried something new that we no longer speak of).

You’ve got the persistence. You knew you wanted a job in newspapers and you have been talking to people in the industry for years. It was only a matter of time before you got your chance and things couldn’t have worked out better for you.

As a graduate of Fayette County schools, you know how special this place is. Sure, like everybody else you were probably non-plussed growing up, rolling your eyes and remarking how bored you were. And then you got to that college out in the middle of nowhere and really saw what bored looked like.

Fayette County is an awesome community. There are brilliant and talented people all around you. They are friendly, helpful and caring. You will never run out of ideas for Names and Faces stories because all you have to do is ask one person in the county, anybody you run into, really, who around here impresses you?

Local newspapers like The Citizen are able to focus on the good news more so than any other type of publication and there is so much good news here it will be hard to find a day that something doesn’t make you smile.

As a former student athlete, you also know how good the athletic teams are around here. That hasn’t changed since you graduated from Starr’s Mill. In fact, it got even better.

In my time at The Citizen, local teams played for and won state championships in almost every sport (I think only golf fell a little short). The coaches are helpful, the players are (mostly) good sports and the fans (especially the ones from Starr’s Mill) are passionate if sometimes a little too much so (Sorry, Maniacs, didn’t care for the dollar bill thing at the last basketball game at McIntosh).

And you never know which player you watch today will end up with an Olympic Gold Medal or on the cover of Madden a few years down the line.

The one thing I hope you did get to see in that whirlwind of training I whisked you through was what a special company you were joining.

The people at this paper are amazing. You became part of the family this week and, man, you are so lucky. I grew up at The Citizen and I know that everyone there shared in my triumphs and sorrows. They were beaming with pride when I got married and my wife and I had kids and they were with me when some of my loved ones passed away. They are, and always will be, my friends.

Now for the last bits of advice …

First of all, you will make mistakes. It has happened to all of us at one point or another. Learn from them and move on. Once the paper is on the streets, it is done. There is another one you need to be working on.

Secondly, you cannot be everywhere. There are nights, especially in the spring, where there are 12 local sporting events you could be covering. You can’t get to them all. Take as many photos as you can, show up for a little bit at several of them, and ask for help from parents, students, team boosters, and anyone else you can find. If people really want to see things in the paper, they’ll help you out.

Last, but not least, take care of the people you work with. Talk to them every day.

There will be a lot of things I miss as I transition into a job that has me working from home but I know I will miss making the rounds and checking in with people in all of the departments at The Citizen.

Part of your job is to keep your finger on the pulse of numerous different beats in the county but I think it is just as important to keep your finger on the pulse of The Citizen. You’ll know who is having a good day or a bad one, who is busy or who has time to help you. When you take an interest in their lives, they will take an interest in yours.

This job that you have, this position that you are inheriting, that (massive, awesome) super desk that I built is so rewarding.

Everything that I learned at The Citizen, both industry-wise and life-wise, led me to this incredible opportunity that I have now.

Soak it all in. Enjoy it. Have fun. Fall in love with The Citizen. They are going to love you back so good.

[Michael Boylan is now the former sports and features editor at The Citizen. We miss him and we welcome his hand-picked successor, Horace Holloman III.]