A burro is an ass

I’ve had larger offices in my career. At Charles Drew University in Los Angeles, the director’s office had a gargantuan desk, a 10-seat conference table, and enough extra space to host a kiddie-league soccer match, with a concession stand in the corner.

But no office has ever felt quite so big as this one — the news editor’s office at Hoch Publishing.

It’s an office haunted by the kindly ghosts of editors past who left their indelible marks on the newspaper, the community, and Kansas journalism. Three of them — Edward W. Hoch, Wharton Hoch, and Bill Meyer — are in the Kansas Journalism Hall of Fame. I feel like a rookie baseball player taking a spot on the bench in old Yankees Stadium, where Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Joe DiMaggio once sat.

It was Bill who talked me into being an intern at the paper my senior year at Marion High School, hired me for a couple of subsequent summers, and kept me on as sports editor in the fall of 1978. Among the things Bill had to say about me when I headed back to college was this:

“He’s also learned that burrow is a hole in the ground and burro is an ass — every good reporter is expected to know the difference. Dave does.”

Bill was my mentor, and had a genuine knack for teaching. Bill taught me about more than burros. He taught me what good community journalism is all about. Perhaps he taught me too well, for I found journalism school in college too boring and negative, and abandoned it for a major in education.

Now, after more than a quarter-century in education, I’m back, excited with my new career direction as news editor of our three publications and eager to bring you the stories and pictures that tell the tale of community life in our remarkable Midwest county. That’s tale as in story, vs. tail on the end of a burro.

Twenty years ago, a kid by the name of Derek Jeter took a spot on the Yankee bench, and he’s carved out a place alongside Ruth, Gehrig, and DiMaggio in Bronx Bomber lore. He embraced the legacy but made his own mark.

I’m not a journalist the likes of a Hoch or Meyer, but I understand and embrace the legacy of community journalism they established that’s served the people of this county well for more than 140 years.

Now it’s my turn to burrow in at the plate and start swinging. And if I’m lucky, I won’t make a burro out of myself while doing it.

— DAVID COLBURN

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