By Matt Mauney | Associate Editor
Working for a community newspaper is unique, because I really get to know the community much more closely than I would as a beat reporter for a large metro daily.
This means I often have opportunities to connect with the people I write about. And, there is also a better chance the stories I write will have a personal effect on me.
Although I’ve only been working in Plant City since June, there are several moments that stand out for me personally, as well as stories that have touched me.
One is the Brandon TOPSoccer program, which offers soccer for boys and girls with varying special needs. The story focused on Darius Way, a Plant City teenager diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome who has been involved with the TOPSoccer program for 11 years.
When I met Karen, Darius’ mother, she told me Darius did not know of his diagnosis. He only knew he enjoyed the soccer program and the friends he had made there. We published a story about him and the trophies he has won.
Karen told me she planned to use the article as a way to let 17-year-old Darius know about his condition.
It was something I wasn’t expecting, and I worked tirelessly on writing an article that met those high standards. I was happy when I received an email from Karen.
“The article you wrote about TOPSoccer and Darius was fantastic,” she said. “I was very pleased with it, and all of my family and friends just loved it. Thank you so much for featuring my No. 1 son. I hope, in some way, it will inspire other parents not to give up on their children, no matter what is said about them. Thank you so much for letting us have a voice.”
Whether it is successfully writing tough stories like that one or giving the proper coverage to all-star baseball teams or a historic run of a high school football team, they all are just a few examples of why this job is so rewarding.
As we enter a new year, it is my honor and privilege to keep providing you with this coverage.