This move one worth waiting for

By By Austin Bishop / EMG Sports Director
Dec. 15, 2002
Sitting back and soaking in a sensational Sunday while sorting through the sports scene and wondering whatever became of Leon Bull' Durham…
Most of us deeply involved in sports have dreams.
To be honest, most of us have many dreams.
Some are about ourselves achieving certain accomplishments, others are about our children and even others are about our favorite teams winning championships.
There are all sorts of dreams.
Then, there are those of us who are blessed enough (although, admittedly, it doesn't always seem like a blessing) to make sports in some way or another part of our profession.
I am one of those people. And I am blessed.
Today, I am on vacation. Now that, my friends, is a blessing.
When I return to that familiar building on the ninth block of Meridian's 22nd Avenue on Monday, Dec. 29, my career will have a new, energized focus.
And I, for one, am pumped.
While I was driving to my youngest son's junior high basketball game the other day I was trying to recall how many times I have been placed in charge of The Meridian Star's sports section.
Quite frankly, I'm not sure.
The first time was July 20, 1984. The last time was late October of 2001. There have been at least three in between, but shoot-fire, who's counting anyway?
Before I took my first shot at being sports editor of The Meridian Star, I had already run the sports departments at the Laurel Leader-Call and the Natchez Democrat.
Since that first turn at the Star's sports helm, I have held so many jobs and titles inside The Meridian Star that I can't remember all of them. I think at one time or another I've been city editor, news editor, regional editor and assistant managing editor. I even came back once a few years ago to write business and cover the city government, which by the way really was a lot of fun at times, and quite interesting.
I've also been the sports editor of at least four weeklies (again, I think I'm remembering them all) The Choctaw Advocate, Clarke County Tribune, Neshoba Democrat, and Kosciusko Star-Herald, and one twice-weekly The Yazoo Herald. In fact, many of those jobs I held simultaneously.
I've also worked in either sports relations or public relations with both Meridian Community College and East Mississippi Community College. Most of my work in the last three years of the 20th century I spent as a self-employed journalist, juggling all sorts of jobs at once.
And you know what? It was a blast. In fact, my whole career has been a blast and a blessing.
I've also had the opportunities to do the radio play-by-play of football, basketball and baseball games including bring the Junior College World Series in Grand Junction, Colorado back to Meridian-area listeners on three occasions.
Even now, I still dabble in radio. Each Friday at noon Dennis Warren, Doug Amacker and myself crank out The Sports Buzz on the 93.5 The Buzz. As Dennis likes to say, it truly does seem like "the fastest hour in sports."
This week we had had live telephone interviews with two high school state championship football coaches (Marcus Boyles of Wayne County and Shannon White of Taylorsville), a NASCAR driver (Kerry Earnhardt), and the sports information director/associate athletic director at the University of Nebraska.
Is that cool or what?
But, this life just keeps on moving forward. And when the new year rolls around I will be facing the biggest challenge of my professional career. And although it will bring its share of trials and tribulations, It will likely also turn out to be my best and most fun job ever.
On the last Monday of December of 2002 I will be officially focusing 90 percent of my times and energies on what is going to become an incredible all-sports weekly that will be called the Sports Journal Plus.
I honestly don't know when or where the concept for this project originated, but I do know when it first had life breathed into it.
It was a Friday night in September of 2001. Central Hinds Academy was about to play Lamar School in football and I was making my way from my car to the radio booth to prepare myself to broadcast the game.
Between the concession stands and the home stands at Lamar's Grey Cobb Field, I almost literally bumped in to Paul Barrett, the publisher of The Meridian Star, who is also over several other publications in the area.
He had a big smile on his face. That happens a lot with Paul. It really does.
I knew the sports editor of The Meridian Star had just left and even before Paul began talking I began to shake my head from side to side, letting him know that I was not interested.
It's not that I don't love The Meridian Star sports section. In fact, I love it. Passionately. And that's part of the problem. It absolutely can never please me and that can make even a sane man a little crazy. And my sanity is always in question.
But as he began to talk he began to draw a picture of this regional weekly sports paper that would revolutionize how we do business.
And then he said he was looking for someone to step in and run it, develop it and make the dream their own.
When the 10-minute conversation ended, I left Paul with a very simple statement, "you have piqued my interest."
At that point I was hooked cleaner than a big mouth Bass swallowing a juicy worm. And Paul knew it. And in my heart, I knew it too.
So, for the past 15 months I have been directing The Meridian Star sports section and birth was given to our new publication, all the while waiting for the right time to step out of my bazillionth tour of duty with the Star sports department and into what I honestly believe will be my final and greatest job.
Well, the time has come.
This past fall we tinkered with our new product, introducing it as the EMG Prep Sports Journal and cranking out 15 issues. And while there have been growing pains, the response to the product from the readers has been positive.
The new Sports Journal Plus will bring with it the local coverage of its predecessor but will also have a fresher look that will cover many more bases.
Myself and Ruth Bryant, the newly named publisher for the product, have already began to lay out the groundwork for the paper, which we plan to always be at least 36 pages, but realize will likely be many more.
The first issue will hit the newsstands, as well as be delivered in your Meridian Star and Laurel Leader-Call on Thursday, Jan. 23.
So pick it up and enjoy a part of my dream.
It should be a wild one.

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