Who is it that said, “You can’t go home again?”
Actually the oft-used saying is the title of a book by Thomas Wolfe, published more than 70 years ago following the writer’s death.
This week, this journalist, in a sense, comes home again.
Nearly 35 years ago, while still a student at the University of Kentucky, this aspiring young writer waltzed into the office of The State Journal and begged for an assignment – any assignment.
Out of the goodness of their hearts, because they really didn’t need any help, Publisher Al Dix and Editor Carl West threw me a bone. I was allowed to gather some courthouse news and pick up police reports. I was sort of an unpaid intern, and I loved every minute of it.
Because of my love for horse racing, I covered some major races at Keeneland and was allowed to attend the Kentucky Derby as a credentialed member of the media.
Those freelance assignments led to my first full-time position in the field, writing sports and features at The State Journal, where I learned much under the watchful eyes of Phil Case, then and now editor of both sections, and Mark Marraccini, who previously doubled as sports editor and chief photographer before concentrating on photography.
When a news reporter position opened up, I waited a day before informing West I would like to be considered for the position. “What took you so long?” I remember him saying. I moved desks across the newsroom, mentored by West and then City Editor Ron Herron (today the paper’s opinion editor) until leaving in May 1984 for the Daily Racing Form.
It was Dix who, having witnessed my passion for racing, counseled me to leave.
“Did they offer you more money?” Dix asked.
“Fifty percent more,” I said.
“Tell them you will start Monday,” he said, smiling.
It was great advice. I spent more than 25 years in equine journalism, at Daily Racing Form, The Racing Times and The Blood-Horse, at the latter rising to editor-in-chief.
Several others mentored me during those years, most notably Logan Bailey, who headed Daily Racing Form’s midwest bureau. Bailey and I have something in common, both being raised in Frankfort, though I graduated from Franklin County High School while he is an alum of Frankfort High. Bailey’s father, the late Clay Wade Bailey, was a legendary Capitol beat reporter for The Kentucky Post.
My run with equine publications ended in the spring of 2010, but thankfully my career in journalism is not finished. Tomorrow, after three decades as a reporter, columnist, manager and editor, I come home again. West announced his retirement in late November, and effective Monday, I will take the reins as this paper’s editor.
Since the 1960s, the Dix family has owned The State Journal, and, until now, there have been only two publishers and two editors. Publisher Ann Dix Maenza, daughter of the late Al Dix, today oversees the paper. The late S.C Van Curon preceded West in the editor’s chair.
Under the Dix family, The State Journal has shown an extraordinary commitment to community journalism. This has especially been true lately, at a time when publications of all sizes are under considerable economic pressures.
The paper has a talented group of reporters, photographers and editors, dedicated to serving Frankfort, Franklin County and the surrounding area. It is an honor and a privilege to lead that dedicated group of journalists as the paper’s new editor.
As I have said kiddingly to friends over the past few weeks, “From intern to editor in only 30 short years.”
You can come home again.
Dan Liebman can be reached at 227-4556, ext. 263 and at email@example.com.