Mike's call: Goodbye peninsula, and thank you

Posted: Sunday, September 26, 2010

Saturday concluded my employment at the Peninsula Clarion. I am trading in one peninsula for another -- in more than one way -- and heading south to Port Angeles, Wash. I will be living on the Olympic Peninsula and working as a copy editor for the Peninsula Daily News.

I won't forget my time in Alaska. For more than two years I lived in one of the most beautiful areas in the country, and got to write stories on topics I never thought I'd cover, and met characters that can't be fictionalized (most notably an ice-cream-inhaling hypochondriac who watched a "ridiculous" amount of football).

I'll miss passing the long, cold, dark winters with poker games that last until the early morning and skating three days a week with the guys from Rusty Blades. (Mills, it's up to you to carry on "the move." I'd say Fortney can use it, but who are we kidding? He averages a 10 percent success rate on breakaways.)

Inherently the most shocking -- and saddening -- stories come to mind as I think of my time at the Clarion. The November 2008 Central Peninsula Hospital shooting is one such example. While the tragedies can't be erased, the good times will be what's discussed when I speak of my stint in the Last Frontier: "Business meetings" with Mutto at the Pioneer, tackling Mount Marathon on no sleep and helping an ex-roommate through the ups and downs of romance. But enough with the inside stories. The job, too, will be memorable.

Accompanying a duck hunter at 5 a.m. in the pitch-black morning, witnessing cage fights at the Soldotna Sports Center, and covering every high school prep sport under the sun. Though serving as the chief sports reporter in a two-man department in a community overflowing with activities can be overwhelming, it's also fun. Sure, moral victories and cliche quotes are penned each week, and "the same team always wins," but every game is different. Scores change. Players change. And the way a team wins or loses changes. But the sports pages provide kids and parents with clips and get hundreds, if not thousands, of names in print throughout the year.

I've never seen such comprehensive sports coverage for high school athletes. I wish my paper in Pennsylvania where I grew up provided half of the coverage the Clarion does. And yeah, we miss things. We misspell names. But for just two people, we've done a darn good job.

Which brings me to my last point. Please go easy on Jeff Helminiak, Clarion sports editor. He's working to fill the position, but cut him some slack until the new sports reporter arrives.

He'll be a one-man show for a while, so naturally the coverage will suffer. Jeff's chained to his desk for the majority of his job, as he's responsible for designing the sports section at least four days a week. This makes covering events next to impossible.

Jeff has always been fair in divvying up coverage among the many sports and many schools. Please do him the same courtesy.

Thanks for reading. I won't forget the Kenai Peninsula or the Clarion.

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