As an Everett kid in the 1990s, I wanted to be the next Alex Rodriguez. Or at least Joey Cora.
But I couldn’t hit a curveball and my fielding wasn’t great, so I had to find another less lucrative and less glamorous career.
My dad spent four decades as a union drafter with Boeing. My mother stayed home with my two brothers and me.
I found my path thanks to the encouragement of teachers, a professor calling my bluff, and a lot of patient editors.
At Everett High School, after months of talking and being disruptive, ninth-grade honors English teacher Shirley Ferguson pulled me to the front of the class. She put my desk right next to hers. Instead of distracting my peers, I distracted her. Then we became friends. In hindsight, she was teaching me in spite of my bad habits.
By year’s end, she encouraged me to write for the student newspaper, The Kodak.
“That’s for dorks,” I told her.
The sophomore honors English teacher told me my inquisitive mind would be well suited to journalism. I had to ask what inquisitive meant.
I don’t know exactly how it happened, but I found myself writing for The Kodak. I suspect my parents or maybe teachers enrolled me in the program. Who knows? So much for being inquisitive.
Like everyone I have worked with in news writing, I fell in love.
Back then, I figured I’d write about rock stars. Or, if I couldn’t be on the beloved dirt and grass of Safeco Field tracking fly balls like Ken Griffey Jr. and striking out like Bret Boone, I could at least report on the boys of summer.
But when I got to college, I felt insecure about my writing. My first quarter at Seattle University I avoided working for the student newspaper.
One of my professors, former Seattle Times reporter Tomas Guillen, asked to speak with me in his office after class one day. He told me I had talent and asked why I wasn’t writing for the newspaper. I gave excuses. A journalism pro, he didn’t buy it.
Instead, he pushed me to apply.
In the basement of the dorm building where the Seattle University Spectator had office space, I floated story ideas that I’m sure were terrible, but it got me tasked to cover the Redhawks’ teams. It was a rush, and I was in love again. By my senior year, I was the sports and opinion editor, which earned me a nice stipend toward my tuition.
The joy of journalism struck again after a short post-graduation hiatus in construction, when I was hired at the South Whidbey Record to cover high school sports for almost $5 less than what I made cleaning up new homes. But it felt like what I was supposed to do, and was definitely what I wanted to do.
After several years there, I scored a job handling social media and managing other web work for The Daily Herald, which I grew up reading. My mom has read The Daily Herald every morning for as long as I can recall.
Now I write about the city where I was born and raised and author a weekly column about transportation.
My affinity for the work, and the people who make it possible by speaking with me, sharing their joy and pain, answering questions about their decisions as elected officials or public servants, has remained ever since. Even as the stress of life, editors, deadlines, a pandemic and pay that isn’t commensurate with any of it mounts, my love for reading, interviewing and writing remains intact.
Ever been to a parks board meeting? I have.
What about a planning commission session? I have.
That two-hour open house for a school district to learn what voters want? Been there.
I’ll sit through long presentations, rewind Everett City Council meetings, read public records, and follow up with phone calls.
I’ll listen to people mourn for children or siblings or parents lost, so I can tell those stories and offer at least a starting point for you to consider something about where you live and the people near you.
I love journalism and writing for the newspaper that showed up on my childhood doorstep every morning, even if my bosses move my desk to the front of the class.
Support Ben and the newsroom with a subscription or donation.