Jared Lankford: I've never written a story for the paper
For eight years of my life, I worked at a quick service restaurant.
With a jovial personality, I usually was pushed to the drive-thru or front counter.
I didn't mind the customer interaction at all. As a matter of fact, I had fun with my job. Generally, I would take 200 to 300 orders a shift, which meant that I could practice 300 individual greetings.
Staying so long in one spot, you become friends with the regular customers, and they begin to become a part of your life.
A gentleman named Dave Carlton changed my way of thinking with one simple piece of advice.
Dave was a retired detective for the Joplin Police Department, but he still served as an armed guard for the Missouri Department of Social Services Children's Division.
Some of the stories he would tell could make the most hardened of hearts weep.
One particular day, I asked Dave what it took to be a good detective.
In my mind, I thought the answer would gravitate toward being adept at crime scene room observation or being able to be a human lie detector.
It turns out that my preconceived notions were as close to being correct as Hillary Clinton is to voting for Donald Trump.
Carlton said in over 25 years of dealing with Joplin's criminal elements, he never once solved a case.
In my naive understanding, I asked how he kept his job.
Carlton said that he helped send many criminals to jail, but it wasn't just his efforts.
Dave said he was dependent upon people in the community giving him leads in order to find those responsible for the crimes. To Dave, being trustworthy, honest, reliable and approachable were the biggest keys to being a detective.
"If a person can't trust you enough to talk, then you'll almost never get a case solved," Carlton said.
This week, I celebrate my sixth anniversary at the Cassville Democrat.
I've often pondered what Carlton told me years ago.
When I took the sports editor job, I didn't know how to write a story. I was beyond green in the journalistic sense of the word, but in tweaking Dave's advice, I found a direction.
In six years, I have never written a story for the paper. All I have done is to take the words and life experiences of others and share them with my readers.
Just like Carlton's description of a good detective, I've tried to maintain my readers' and subjects' trust while being honest, reliable and approachable.
Without the leads provided by the coaches, players and various other sources, my pages would be dull, and I would most likely be employed elsewhere.
Six years has flown by, and I am now interviewing coaches that I used cover as athletes. I never thought I would be here long enough for that to occur.
All I can say is that it is still hard to consider my job work, and I am still waiting to write my first story.
Jared Lankford is the sports editor of the Cassville Democrat. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 417-847-2610.