Why Do I Stay In Yankton?

People often ask me why I stay in Yankton and work at a small daily newspaper.

I think that’s a common question many Midwesterners in small communities are asked (often by one another): Why do you stay in x to do y? Why not go to a bigger x and do a different y in a cooler place?

Well,  I had the pleasure of reading an interview today with Ken Ward Jr., a long-time journalist at The Charleston Gazette who covers the coal industry. My answer to the above question would be somewhat similar to his. Unlike Ward, I do get my fair share of assignments (like the annual Black Friday sales story, which I dread because it is inevitably the same thing every year), but I also get a lot of freedom to do what I want. Autonomy is a big deal.

If you have a few minutes, it’s well worth your time to read the whole interview with Ward. Here is the relevant excerpt for this discussion:

Working at a paper the size of the Gazette in this economy is not the most fun thing in the world all the time, and on days when it’s not very much fun, it’s like, “God, why did I do this, am I crazy?” I don’t want to wake up in twenty years and think I missed some great opportunities. I’ve had chances to go to other places—bigger newspapers, a lot more money, more readers. I remember one interview, I went in asking this editor a bunch of questions, trying to see if she would convince me that this was a move I should make. I said, “Let me describe to you what I do now. I set my own agenda for what I’m going to do each day. I don’t get assignments, or very seldom get assignments; my editors trust me to sort out what’s important. So basically, I do what I want. Can you offer me a job doing that?” And of course they all say, “Wellll…” And I say, “Okay, when you can offer me that, call me.” I don’t get too many calls like that. I know people who work at bigger places that essentially get to do that; they get a year to work on one story so they can try to win another Pulitzer, or turn it into their next book. And that’s great, and there are people that do that whose work I admire a lot, and who have been great mentors to me. But I also know the kind of fights they have at bigger places, with layer after layer of editors or bureaucracy and, you know, the six months’ worth of investigative work they did gets hacked in half at the whim of some editor who may or may not know anything about the subject matter. That doesn’t appeal to me. My wife would say I’m too bullheaded and don’t like anybody telling me what to do, and she’s probably right. West Virginia’s my home. I’ve never lived anyplace else. It is impossibly rich with things for a reporter to cover. Right now I’m focusing on coal. I’ve written about a lot of other things, and I have a huge list of things I still want to write about. And I can’t think of many places that are in need of good journalism more than West Virginia is, or what higher calling journalists have than to try to write stories that make their home a better place.

Like my Grandpa Kayser always says, someone has to stay home and make it a place that those who left will want to come back to. Of course, we all hope to make it a better place than when they left. I like to think I do my own small part toward meeting that goal.

4 thoughts on “Why Do I Stay In Yankton?

  1. I have had the opportunity to leave the state many times for work. I have thought about leaving just because many times. My bride was offered jobs all over before choosing USD. I have had the opportunity to live in a large metro area (D.C.) and am from Colorado Springs. My Bride is from Minneapolis.
    We choose to stay here not just for family, but for the amazing living conditions. Lower costs for most services, sure lower wages but for the low crime, great education opportunities, 4 seasons and beautiful scenery I guess I’ll take South Dakota.
    I had a very heated argument with a “big city” friend about how small town/state residents couldn’t get the experiences of big city/metro/larger populated states could. I called bullshit on him. I played and excelled at MORE sports than he did (He was in fact intimidated to try out against 100 others by high school despite his love of football), I saw just as many if not more concerts than he with the Twin Cities and Omaha in my back yard (plus when I was coming up…I’m 43…the Arena used to actually get concerts), I traveled, I saw plays, I saw wonderful art, I met Presidents…all while living in a town of 2200 and growing up in Fly over country.
    Life is what you make of it. Your experiences are what you create, not what your location dictates.
    More than anything though we choose South Dakota, we choose Yankton for the people. There are still people here who understand what neighbor means, who realize that being decent still pays dividends, people who respect themselves, their neighbors and their land. It’s people who make the biggest impact and for my money there are none better than in the upper mid-west.

    ~Shane

    • Shane, I agree wholeheartedly that life is what you make of it.
      I’ve often had that discussion with friends who live in the city. They are often so caught up in the cost and struggle of living in the city that they never actually go to concerts, films, plays, etc. We laugh because I see more of that stuff living 2 1/2 hours from a major metro area than they do with it in their backyard.
      Yankton is a great place to be thanks to the people like you who populate it:)

  2. I like that quote from your grandpa. There are many reasons I like Yankton, but one is that I can get to most anywhere in under 5 minutes. And that is important to me while I juggle part time work and yoga classes.

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