I was halfway through a Subway sandwich which my now-wife had brought to me at the office of the local newspaper on the day Billy Liggett rang my desk phone and asked me to come downstairs real quick.
That was late February or early March of 2010. Billy did a pretty admirable job as my executioner, letting me know gently, but without beating around the bush, that my employment as the crime and government reporter at the paper was being, uh, canceled.
There were probably more important questions in that moment than “can I go back upstairs and get my sandwich,” but, hey, that was my lunch. It was one of those flatbread sandwiches Subway does so well, and I’m pretty sure I was working on a bag of Sun Chips too. Those things are delicious! Don’t tell me you’ve never turned a mostly-empty bag upside down so you can shake whatever stragglers remain into your open mouth. Every calorie matters.
But so anyway, it was a question that proved awkward. They usually want you off the premises pretty immediately in situations like that. So I walked out of the building that day more annoyed that I didn’t get to finish lunch than anything else.
So how in the Seven Kingdoms did I find myself nearly a decade later co-owning a media outlet made up of a website and a monthly print product?
I stayed friendly with Billy despite his sandwich denial, as well as my colleague Jon Owens, because we always got along and there really wasn’t any reason not to. We even kept doing the Rant, which was then a radio show. But it definitely wasn’t in my plans to get another newspaper job. It just didn’t seem very appealing.
So I spent the next several years doing other things. But the majority of them – working on political campaigns, freelance writing, doing grants for a nonprofit – employed the skills I’d learned in my eight years on the beat. When the three of us turned The Rant into a news website in 2014 (mostly as a hobby), nosing out stories and racing to publish them first came back pretty naturally.
So frankly, this next step — which is the result of a lot of deliberation undertaken when we looked up and realized we had an audience — is actually pretty exciting.
I don’t have to tell you that you’re reading something just a little different than your average daily newspaper. But we’ve been lucky enough to develop our own voice while doing this online, and we expect that voice to be all over this print product. We expect to keep breaking local news online and follow it up with more in depth reporting in print. We expect to talk about Lee County in a way that reflects all the positive transformations that have occurred in the last few years. We expect to let you know when people stand in the way of those positive things. We expect to cover your local government in a way that focuses on how it impacts your life rather than what people said in a meeting. We expect you to figure out where we stand on things, and even to disagree with our conclusions – but not with our facts.
So look. You never really know where things are gonna take you. I’d have laughed in your face if you told me in 2010 that this is what I’d be doing nine years later. But never let a good sandwich out of your sight. You may be able to go home again, but it doesn’t mean someone hasn’t thrown away your lunch.
Gordon Anderson is one-third of The Rant and an avocado blogger by night. We are sad to inform him via “author bio” that this will be his last column with The Rant and he will need to leave the premises immediately.