I’m Back!

In the not quite two decades since I last worked for this newspaper, I’ve published a website in California, done marketing for a TV network, earned my master’s, taught college, worked for a marketing firm, and continued to do freelance photography. “Picture-taking” of pretty places and faces is probably what I am most known for these days.

My love of photography and getting published started right here. Back then, we shot everything with film cameras. My passion for photography took off, and I loved that rush of seeing my images on the front page.

If you told me one day our mobile phones would take good enough photos for publication, I would have glanced at my flip-phone, then laughed in your face.

My boss at the marketing agency advised me to write things less like a news reporter and more like a marketer. Old habits die hard.

Despite racking up frequent flyer miles over the years, I never totally put DeKalb County in the rear view mirror because I have a daughter, Miranda, a senior at Fort Payne High School who turned 18 over the summer. I remember the crew from the Times-Journal calling me for updates on the day she was born.

How does the time go by so fast? We lose track while lacing up our shoes for a long series of seemingly unextraordinary Monday mornings.

I learned a lot under Patrick Graham when he was the paper’s managing editor. Trying to match his work ethic has served me well over the years.

I look forward to doing my part to contribute, along with the rest of this awesome staff. Publisher Tricia Clinton-Dunn’s energy and enthusiasm make me want to get out there and do the best job I possibly can.

There’s always some nervousness when starting a new job, trying to learn how things are done without asking twice. And I’m trying really hard not to say annoying things like “the way we used to do it…” The TJ was my first job out of college, and I’m not THAT old. I’m determined to let my past experiences inform me rather than define me.

Aside from Patrick, it’s great to see Linda Stiefel, who was an ad rep when I left, now department manager.

I was in this newsroom as the planes struck the twin towers. I spent that day localizing the story, getting reactions. I produced the “Man on the Street” when men named Bush started wars in the Middle East. One of my old articles, from the Feb. 19, 2003 edition, covered Sen. Richard Shelby’s comments at a Town Hall meeting. The headline read, “Shelby believes war will be short.”

Hey, I made some wrong calls myself.

Some of my own past columns are cringe-worthy examples of a young man saying things a wiser man with more life experience would have had the good sense to keep to himself.

I stood on the football fields of high schools across DeKalb County on many a chilly night, snapping photos of players who are probably now cheering on their kids.

There are “ghosts” in this building that no one else can sense. Past colleagues who brought you the news over the decades. They’re still here on all of the bylines on all of the pages of the bound editions that are archived.

Browsing through those archives, I saw the face of my younger self looking back at me with a confident smile. What a journey laid ahead of him. I hope he has a lot of miles left.

Like a old song provoking warm recollections, a flood of memories come back when I see those staffer names and remember conversations I had nearly forgotten. Too many to list.

Good times...

Thomas Wolfe was wrong. You can go home again. Thanks for indulging this little stroll down memory lane.

Now, let’s turn the page.

— Steven Stiefel is a staff writer at the Times-Journal. Email: news@times-journal.com.

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