The Pressbox

Sports editor pushes the refresh button

I rebooted the first week of July with a much-need vacation. July 1 was my year anniversary as sports editor of the Newton Daily News.

As much as I enjoy my new community and my job — to quote one of my favorite movies — “There’s no place like home.” That seems to be apropos since I’m from Kansas.

I spent most of the week at my favorite place in the world — my family’s pond. Now, this is no ordinary farm pond. It was built in the woods of my family’s farm. It is about three acres, spring-fed and stocked with channel catfish, bass and blue gill. The only side not having areas of shade is the the dam on the south end.

I could make up some great fish stories for you. It was a few days of me drowning worms and feeding fish. I did snag a small bass and a blue gill, then threw them back in. Dad didn’t have much more luck that week.

Fishing, for me, is not all about catching fish. I fish with my father and it’s a time for us to have quality time doing something we both enjoy. A lot of time at the pond is spent talking or just relaxing. Even on the hottest summer days, there’s usually a breeze and there’s shade.

While relaxing, I also did some reflecting on my first year in Newton as the sports editor. I evaluated what I did, deciding what went well and what didn’t, what I could do better for the newspaper and its readers.

My parents told us to wake up each morning ready to learn something new. Learning doesn’t stop when you leave school. We learn each and every day of our lives.

I left my comfort zone of southeast Kansas, where I spent 34 years working as a journalist — five years with a weekly and the rest on a small-town daily as sports editor. Learning to say ‘so long’ to friends and family is tough, but you welcome the new challenges.

There have been challenges here in Iowa. I’m still learning about high school sports here, which are governed and classified differently than in Kansas. I’m doing better after a year, but still have to ask questions and seek information.

NASCAR and IndyCar racing were new. I’ve had great people directing me on the ins-and-outs of the racing worlds. Iowa Speedway personnel have been tremendous with this rookie.

As a community journalist, investing in the community you live and work in, plus the surrounding communities you cover is a must. Newton and the smaller communities in the area are worth investing in.

I’ve made mistakes along the way this past year. One thing I pride myself in is that I’ve followed my parents’ lead — investing in the youth of the communities. As my mom once told me, kids are kids no matter where you are. You expect the best from them and that’s what you get.

In March, the Daily News had a sports writer depart leaving me to forge by myself. My first spring sports season was a bit overwhelming for me here and several things fell through the cracks. One is a daily sports calendar for the Daily News and in our two weekly papers — The Jasper County Tribune and The Prairie City News. Starting this fall, those will be back.

Ben Schuff, a Cedar Rapids native, joined our sports staff in May. He graduated from the University of Iowa in 2012 then worked a year and a half at a weekly in Oklahoma. Schuff is a great addition to our staff and helping me continue to improve the newspaper’s sports pages.

Toward the end of July, I went full circle here — I was back to the Iowa state softball tournament with Lynnville-Sully. That was the first state competition I experienced in 2013. 

Since that time, I’ve been to the state swimming meets, the state track meet, state golf tournaments, the state wrestling tournament and a state basketball tournament. I’ve covered student-athletes reaching the state bowling tournament and the state cross country meet, although I did not go to those state competitions.

Last weekend wrapped up the first full season of racing at Iowa Speedway. I worked three race weekends in 2013 after arriving in July.

Monday signals the start of my second full school sports year. Fall sports practices begin.

Please contact me with any suggestions or story ideas. We’re always looking for local stories of young and old participating sports at all levels.

Contact Sports Editor Jocelyn Sheets at (641) 792-3121 Ext. 6535 or jsheets@newtondailynews.com.