THINKING BACK to the past four days of conferencing in the town of Prattville, Alabama, I have to review several dozen pages of handwritten notes, printed hand-outs, and at least 18 blurry iPhone images I took of a large projection screen with Powerpoint slides.

This sounds like a rant comparable with “Office Space.”

It’s not.

Aside from my family at home and in my local newsroom where I work, there’s a bigger family I belong to. We only get to see each other in person once every year (or every other year.) Only around 500 people hold the same job I have as a News Director and 60 of them work for Raycom Media, my company.

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There’s Scott Saxton over there from Wilmington.

Then there’s Pat Brink from Ottumwa and Dennis from Charlotte. My old friend, James, who’s in Wichita Falls. Erik was once in Lubbock (I often forget he’s not anymore), but he’s in Tucson now. Greg in Memphis. Jayne in Shreveport. Schaefer’s in New Orleans. Ashley from Myrtle Beach. Mark in Jackson. Brad from Biloxi. There’s plenty more.

There’s Scott from Montgomery.  He’s not actually from Montgomery, but it’s been his home now for 12 years. Out of the dozens of my “family,” Scott Duff is one of those who makes you feel like you’re the only one in the room when he’s talking to you.  Throughout the year when there’s tragedy or celebrations, there’s almost always an email or a phone call from Scott. I hope his flock of journalists in his newsroom know how fortunate they are to have someone like him at the helm. Scott’s passion and love for his craft is evident every day when you watch WSFA-TV.

There’s Joe from Tyler.  I first met him when I was 12 years old in New Boston, Texas. It was the ribbon cutting for a new state prison, one of my first news story assignments for a little radio station. I was a big fan of his then, as I am today. He told that story of our meeting at the conference.

Joe’s former executive producer Michael received a much-deserved promotion to lead a newsroom in Midland, Texas last year.  Michael was there in Prattville too.  He and I go back to our days in a small newsroom in Sherman, Texas.  I hope too, his newsroom staff knows how lucky they are to have such a passionate person at the front of the boat.

I often think of them all.

At the end of each conference, I make it a point to look around the room from a distance at each colleague. I know some of us won’t make it to the next one. This year, there were 13 new faces. Some of those who were here before are gone due to promotion (I’m looking at you, Hatton Weeks). Others have moved on to other stations and companies. One of us though moved on from this world. Much has been said and written about our dear friend, Kenny Boles.  His absence was felt throughout. His presence was felt just as much though. I wrote about Kenny in his 2013 dispatch after another Raycom conference.

I hope he knew how much he meant to me.  I hope those still with us in the “family” know how much they mean to me.

If I did as well as Scott Duff about expressing it, then I know they probably all do.

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