A few years ago, I moved to a new town and took a new job, which eventually morphed into a new career.
That town was Sweetwater and the job was working as a staff writer here at the Reporter.
I had always written as a hobby, but I had never worked in the newspaper business prior to my time here. Heck, I wasn't even a journalism major, having studied psychology at a college in upstate New York, where I was born and raised.
But as fate would have it, I landed in West Texas and after applying for a position I was decidedly unqualified for, I was hired on full-time. (Obviously a move made out of pure desperation on the Sweetwater Reporter's part.)
It didn't take long, however, before I realized I had found my proverbial calling. I was green, but I was eager to learn. And learn I did. Though Sweetwater may be a far cry from the bustling metropolises and the giant newspapers serving them, I received quite an education here.
I quickly became a virtual expert on wind energy, thanks to the endless rows of turbines strategically placed in and around Nolan County, making it the epicenter of America's green energy push.
Coal-fired energy sources became a hot topic around town just as I was settling into my role as a news writer, after I witnessed a heated exchange during a county commission meeting regarding a tax abatement for Omaha-based energy company Tenaska. I was soon thrust into the role of learning the ins and outs of coal plants as a source of energy.
I covered drug busts, criminal trials and worked closely with Nolan County and Sweetwater law enforcement officers whenever possible. Same with the fire departments in the area, which always cooperated with me, even if I was trying to get a little too close to the flames for that perfect, front-page photo.
When I left the Reporter nearly two years after I was hired, I began writing for a larger newspaper, but my experience from my time in Sweetwater was invaluable. Because I worked as a small town news writer, I was well-versed in almost every area of the news. I didn't have a specific beat to cover; the entire county and just about all the goings on within it were my beat. There wasn't a story I couldn't (or wouldn't) cover, so long as it was relevant to the community.
Not to mention, I made some great friends here (and maybe just a couple of enemies), which I wasn't in a hurry to leave behind.
I have worked for several other publications either as an employee or a freelancer during my hiatus from Sweetwater, but I always had a fond appreciation for my time spent in here and the people I worked alongside at the office and while on assignment.
Well, fate is a funny thing.
I am now back in the very newsroom my career as a journalist began, punching out this column just a few feet from the desk I wrote my very first published article at.
This time around, I bring not the hunger of a twenty-something cutting his teeth, but the experience of a thirty-something who has learned the ropes after a few years of keeping my finger on the pulse of news originating in West Texas.
Mistakes have been made on my part, lessons have been learned and hopefully, my talents have been refined. I'll leave that for you to decide.
Perhaps I am not a Pulitzer Prize winner. Yet.
What I can offer is the dedication of a serious newsman. Someone who won't shy away from the big stories, someone who won't be afraid to ask tough questions when the need arises. I can offer you my passion; a passion which was awakened here several years ago, and a passion which hasn't wavered a bit since I saw my byline in the Sweetwater Reporter for the first time.
I look forward to becoming reacquainted with those of you I've met before, working with those I haven't and providing quality journalism to all of you.
Brian McCormack is a staff writer at the Sweetwater Reporter. Comments about this column may be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.