It was 20 years ago today that my byline first appeared in the pages of the San Mateo Daily Journal. The story was about the San Mateo Rugby Club and its financial struggles despite on-field success.
Since then, I’ve written thousands of stories, been to thousands of games, stood through the playing of the national anthem thousands of times. While it can be monotonous, it’s never boring.
To be honest, I never expected to be here for 20 years. But then again, I never planned not to be here for two decades. I just rolled with it. I had never heard of the San Mateo Daily Journal before I saw the online ad looking for a sports editor. Then again, the newspaper was less than a year old when I came on board in May of 2001.
In 2001, I was 31 and my wife and I were in our third year of marriage. I got laid off from my copywriting job for a marketing company, writing copy about things I knew nothing about. Just before being laid off, we had decided to sell our condominium, which sold about the same time my job ended.
We moved in with my parents as we hunted for our new home and with a windfall of cash from the condo sale, decided to take a Las Vegas trip — the first time for both of us. When we get, back, I said, I’ll start looking for a new job.
It didn’t take long. I found the sports editor listing on an online job board literally the day after we got back from Vegas. I sent in my resume and within a couple of weeks walked into the office of the Daily Journal in the heart of downtown San Mateo — just as the battle for the movie theater was heating up.
It was khakis and a polo shirt that first day, feeling decidedly overdressed. I figured I’d test things right away and Day 2 featured me in shorts and T-shirt — and no one blinked. So far, so good. That continues to be my uniform on most days.
Those first few years downtown were ones spent looking for parking and change for parking meters. Every now and then, I’d chance it — park without feeding the meter. Got away with it some times, but not all the time.
I didn’t think the paper would last this long. We had an editor in chief who, let’s say, was interesting. The same could be said of the then-ownership group. There was also the fact in the early to mid-2000s, there was a newspaper war on the Peninsula, with five other publications all vying for the same stories, same eyeballs and same advertising money.
The ownership group changed, as did the editor in chief and, well, guess who is left standing?
Since starting at the Daily Journal in 2001, my wife and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary in 2018 and in December, it will be 20 years in our home. “Baby Lounge” came into the world in 2003 and is graduating high school next week.
The world has changed a lot in the last 20 years — from 9/11 to the Trump presidency, the San Francisco Giants and Golden State Warriors winning multiple championships — and the Daily Journal keeps plugging along as the leading local news provider on the Peninsula.
I’d like to say it’s been a great 20-year run, but that would seem to imply that I’m wrapping up my career. Far from it — although I did ask my financial advisor recently if I could afford to retire yet. The short answer is no.
I couldn’t have gotten this far, however, without having some outstanding right-hand men to work alongside over the years. Mark DeVaughn, Emanuel Lee, Julio Lara and, for the last seven years, Terry Bernal, have been right there with me, furiously typing on Friday night deadline, crisscrossing the county — and beyond — to bring you the best San Mateo County has to offer. Without their help, the Daily Journal local sports section is not what it has become.
I think the reason I have stayed so long are the people with whom I work — not only in the Daily Journal offices, where we are a lean, mean journalism machine where we have developed an “us-against-the-world” mentality as well as a family feel — but also the coaches and athletes that I’ve dealt with over the last two decades. I’ve never been about “gotcha” journalism. I didn’t think that was the right approach to take covering high school sports and I think that has allowed me to foster relationships with coaches and administrators who may otherwise have looked at me side-eyed, wondering what my angle was.
Here’s my angle — to watch high school sports and report on them; to highlight the play of kids in the community and to trumpet their accomplishments. A lot has changed in the world of local sports since 2001. Once a staple of local newspapers, many publications barely even run high school sports anymore. Some don’t have sports at all. Others just focus on the big names in the region, concentrating on those high school teams at the top of the rankings.
That’s all fine and good, but the kids on the last-place teams deserve coverage as well. They work just as hard as those athletes who will continue playing in college — and some beyond. Those teams and athletes have their own stories to tell and they deserved to be heard as much as teams vying for league, section and state championships and I will continue to bring you their stories and all the best the Peninsula has to offer.
So, here’s to the next 20 years. Well, maybe 15. I did get past the first question my advisor asked me about retirement.