Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Somewhere down the road...

If I have a hero in this journalism bid'ness, it's Charles Kuralt.

Brief synopsis for those who don't know: Kuralt was a lovable CBS reporter whose "On the Road" segments, highlighting some quirky or inspiring tidbit from the American heartland, were a staple of the "CBS Evening News" for years. He also hosted my favorite weekly news show, "CBS News Sunday Morning," which is now in the capable hands of the velvet-voiced Charles Osgood.

The day Kuralt died (July 4, 1997), I found myself in the shadow of the Grand Tetons, in Jackson Hole, Wyo. My parents and siblings were going to spend the day with friends who lived in the area. But, I wanted to be by myself. I had bought Kuralt's autobiography and spent the day reading it.

I have tried to pattern my writing style and subject matter after Kuralt's. Others at my newspaper are experts at politics, government and gossip. Other than school board, I don't touch it.

My heart lies with the guy down the street who fiddles one day and fishes the next. Or with the woman who makes jams and jellies for the county fair. Or with two twin sisters who graduated valedictorian and salutatorian from their college class.

Such stories aren't hard news, but they say something more universal. They remind us that we are human beings, that life exists outside the Washington beltway and Manhattan cocktail parties. Such people built this country. We owe them much.

It's one reason why I hate losing Bill Landry and his "Heartland Series." Landry has been to Appalachia what Kuralt was to Backroads America -- its poet.

My dream is to get paid to travel around the great United States and tell these stories. Alas, modern realities and budget constraints most likely won't allow that.

So, my plan is to get out at least once a month beginning in September, pick destinations that are less than a day's drive, write about what I see, and stay in a cheap hotel if I can't make it back home before the sun sets. I don't think it will break the bank. Plus, I feel like it's some important work that will mesh well with my talent and mind-set. I've already got a couple of stories in mind.

Charles Kuralt is way out of my league. Always will be. But they say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I don't know.

Regardless, here's hoping you'll read this signoff before too many more moons slip away --

This is Jake Mabe, Shopper-News, somewhere down the road...

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