Opinion Graphic

I remember my freshman year, walking down Normal Street to the buses with a herd of other freshmen, down to the buses that would take us to H4, the first step in my ill-fated Honors College career.

Somebody told me that day that the years would fly by, I wouldn’t be able to believe how fast they would go. I laughed them off. High school had felt like an eternity, and I had no expectation that time would speed up for college.

I finished both college and my career at the Herald today. The years flew by. I can’t believe how fast they went.

Somehow I didn’t make it to the Herald until my second semester at WKU. I got hired to be a news reporter, drawing a confidence boosting, "We like to give everyone a chance," from the interviewing editor. I got onto sports the next semester, pulling double duty on both staffs through my sophomore year.

My junior year, I covered football, and that’s where I found my stride covering sports.

The first game of the season was at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin. Me, Jeremy Chisenhall and Chris Kohley woke up early in the morning on gameday and drove the entire way, making it about an hour before kickoff.

When we sat down in the press box, I remembered a detail I had neglected to mention when applying for the position: I had never written a game story. Jeremy quickly explained the basics, and I managed to not screw up too much that night or any other.

That’s what’s crazy about the Herald. Who gets to learn the most basic sports journalism skill while covering a major college football game? It’s a unique thing.

The next few years led to more and more experiences like that, times when I looked up and couldn’t believe what I was getting to do. I remember sitting courtside at Diddle Arena, looking up at the clock and realizing that the Hilltoppers were about to beat No. 15 Wisconsin.

I can’t call myself a WKU fan per se — covering a team will do that to you — but as I walked out of the arena and into the press room, I knew I had seen something special and the story was going be great. I’m grateful that I was able to recognize that at the time.

Later on, both as sports editor and columnist, I received my share of criticism from fans saying I was too negative or stirring up controversy. I’ve never once done anything other than call it how I see it. If you’re upset by anything other than fawning coverage and think that sportswriters exist to promote the university, that’s your problem, not mine.

The Herald will continue to dig for good stories, interesting features that you want to read, financial stories that you might avoid, columns that tell the truth regardless of the blowback from people with Big Red as their profile picture.

I’m thankful for everyone who had a part in my time at the Herald. Evan Heichelbech hired me to sports, which was a life changing event. He also made me sports editor several semesters later, which forced me to become a little more responsible. He laid the groundwork to show us what a successful sports section looked like.

Jeremy Chisenhall did not fire me the time I forgot to cover volleyball media day. He also dragged me kicking and screaming from my very-comfortable seat as sports editor and threw me into a news editor position that was harder than anything I’ve ever done. I owe him for that.

That move also allowed me to become sports columnist, so please direct all complaints to @JSChisenhall.

To everyone else who edited me, thank you so much. You shot down my dumbest ideas and made me look like a better writer than I really am and I appreciate that more than you know.

To anyone who ever worked for me, thank you, I know I was demanding and sometimes you hated me, but I did everything to try and make you better. Remember that errors reflect on all of us, and there’s always a reason to make the extra phone call.

Also, one of you should find out the reason Ray Harper left and why the university works so hard to cover it up. Might be something the public should know.

I have more thanks for other members of the media in Bowling Green. Chad Bishop, Brad Stephens, Elliott Pratt, Mike Cleff, Jeff Nations and Jared MacDonald, among others, were incredibly kind and I learned so much from watching them. They were more patient then they ever should have been with a kid who started out with no idea what he was doing.

I’ll miss a lot about the Herald, from whirlwind production days to lazy afternoons arguing with Will Hoagland about LeBron James’ place in history (he’s the greatest of all time, regardless of recent Michael Jordan propaganda). Chuck Clark and Carrie Pratt were always there with advice when I needed it, even if I didn’t always want to hear it.

Their advice, as good as it often was, paled in comparison to what was given out in the front office by Sherry West and Tracy Newton, the people who really keep the place running.

It’s a newsroom that will get you settled into your comfort zone, then kick you out of it in a way that grows you as a journalist, a leader and a person.

WKU is a special place. Live it up while you’re here, even if that just means skipping class to go to Hilligans on a Wednesday afternoon. Lord knows I did.

That’s all I got. Contact me if you have a job opening, stay socially distanced and thanks again for reading. If you’re reading this and you’re a university higher-up, stop suing us please. Herald forever.

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Sports Columnist and Projects Editor Matt Stahl can be reached at matthew.stahl551@topper.wku.edu. Follow Matt on Twitter at @mattstahl97.

Projects Editor

Matt Stahl is the projects editor for the College Heights Herald. Matt previously worked as the news editor, sports editor, football beat reporter, and baseball beat reporter. He's also covered facilities, crime, and general news and sports.