Looking back: Reporter discusses successes, shortcomings on the job

By David Talley | Published Saturday, October 21, 2017

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When something ends, you always think about the words you didn’t say.

I’m leaving the Messenger, bound for somewhere new, and my departure has definitely caused me to think about the questions I didn’t ask and the columns and stories I didn’t write.

David Talley

David Talley

I didn’t confront enough political issues, for instance. Reporting for the Messenger, I had the chance to cover several politicians and candidates visiting Wise County. I was impressed by some, like Democratic Congressman Beto O’Rourke, who stumped during the lunch rush in a downtown Decatur restaurant, deep in a region of the state that voted overwhelmingly for President Donald Trump. Whether you agree with O’Rourke’s message or not, that took guts.

I was less impressed with Congresswoman Kay Granger. She’s largely stayed away from public and town hall-style meetings, but attended a Wise Republicans event earlier this year. When asked about the president’s planned education budget, which would cut a proposed $9.2 billion from the department, she told me, “The budget in that department just doesn’t mean much to me.” To a high ranking congresswoman on a defense committee, it may not seem like a lot, but I cover school boards that examine every invoice for a chance to save $10 here and there. That’s a ridiculous thing for anyone to say, especially a former teacher like Granger. Both of these interactions really deserved their own opinion columns.

A few months back, I wrote a column about responding to comments on the Messenger’s Facebook page. In the column, I detailed how, even though they can’t control (and shouldn’t delete) what people comment, it’s important for media outlets to set the record straight if someone says something that’s blatantly false by replying to that person. I wish I’d written it sooner.

I also wrote an opinion column about getting chased by local dogs while riding my bicycle. Of everything I’ve written, it’s one of just a few pieces that have earned negative commentary from readers. I stand by it. Put your dogs on a leash or behind a fence, people. They shouldn’t be in the road.

Outside of that, I really enjoyed getting to report on local cities and schools. While public meetings can get tiresome, they’re also some of the best chances to interact with the people that care the most about the places they live. Those are the people that belong in the news.

I also took some time Friday to look up the first article I wrote for the Messenger. I interned here during the summer of 2014 and got to cover Sonflower Camp that month, visiting with organizers and participants. It was a great first assignment because I really feel like it set the job parameters for me early. The annual event for individuals with special needs is held over the course of a week at Joe Wheeler Park. While most in Wise County are aware of the camp, not everyone has volunteered or even knows someone who attends.

Most stories are like this. It’s rare that I covered something that affects every person in the county, but for those in attendance at Sonflower Camp, especially the campers, that’s the biggest thing going on that week.

I was proud to get to cover it for them then, and I’ve been proud to get to cover every story I’ve done because whether an issue or event matters to one person or 100,000, it still matters.

David Talley is a Messenger reporter.

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