A fresh start for an old vet

Editor’s note: This week, the Courier is proud to introduce a column from Ben Robinson, an award-winning local newspaper veteran. A Dacusville native and 1981 Pickens High graduate, Robinson has worked in the newspaper business in Pickens County for more than 25 years. We are grateful to have Ben as a part of the county’s only locally owned and operated newspaper.

Hi everybody.
Some of you may recognize my name. After all, for the past 26 years I have been writing for — here it goes — another weekly newspaper in Pickens County.
I worked there until Jan. 10, 2012. Why did I leave?
Well, it would be nice to be able to tell you that “creative differences” caused the separation, but honestly, I was fired. The management felt I just wasn’t getting the job done, which amazed me because each issue of the paper featured my byline many times. But if the folks signing your paychecks do not want you there, you’re not going to last very long.
This is typically where fired employees lash out at their former employer, but I’m not going to do that. I don’t believe in carrying bitterness with me — the only person that hurts is me.
Frankly, if people enjoy “that publication,” they’re going to continue reading it regardless of whether I write for it. If people enjoy the foolishness I write, they will read my columns and stories, regardless of where they appear. It’s up to me to make my stories as interesting and entertaining as possible, regardless of where they appear.
Jan. 11, 2012, was an odd day for me. I woke up and had nowhere to go. For the first time in more than a quarter of a century, I had no deadlines. I was lost.
I did not like it.
Fortunately we have the Pickens County Courier now, and its publisher is Rocky Nimmons, my longtime friend and rival from Pickens. We worked together officially for a brief time in the mid-2000s and against each other at rival newspapers for many years. Over the years I came to appreciate the integrity Rocky possesses. If for some reason I missed a photo for my paper, I could call Rocky and he would send me his copy to use in our paper. And I would do the same for him.
The county newspapers do not exchange copy like this anymore, which is sad. At one point both entities realized their first responsibility was to the readers. Perhaps we can get there again at some point.
Rocky had always told me that if I ever needed a job to be sure to ask him first before accepting any offer. So I did.
January is a tough time for newspapers, as many advertisers spend more than their budget for December and need time to get their finances back in line. I know this, because I’ve worked in newspapers for a quarter of a century. So Rocky honestly told me he could not afford to take on an extra salary at this time.
He did offer me the chance to write for The Courier freelance until the economy picks up and the paper may be able to afford to hire me.
I appreciate Rocky’s honesty, and the opportunity to continue writing. While this falls short of my goal of securing a full-time job, it will help, plus allow me to keep my creative juices flowing. It is more than I expected, and honestly more than I deserved.
I will also get the chance to work with Zack Mauldin, whom I’ve known for a few years. I’m familiar with several other members of the Courier team, and look forward to working with them, but we won’t list everyone in his column. Hopefully we will have time for that later.
One of the things both Rocky and Zack were interested in was the revival of my humor column. I was fortunate when I first started around 27 years ago to take over a sports column that had been started by the person I replaced. I was nervous writing about sports, so I wrote what I knew — humor.
The column was popular with readers, and I was very fortunate to receive much support for it. Eventually it was moved to the commentary page, where it became very popular. Eventually an incident resulted in my former employers pulling columns from all newspapers they owned.
So Zack and Rocky have told me that they want me to try the column again.
It will be good to get back into the groove of writing a humor column. Life is too short to waste time trying not to laugh.
When I wrote my first column some 27 years ago, I compared it to my first dates, when you’re really trying to get to know each other.
I’m not sure if this column will last 27 years, 27 days or 27 issues. All I ask is that you take time to have a little fun with me each week.