Charting a new course

The last time I wrote, I described the end to my Master Plan.

But endings make for great beginnings, and I’m happy to write that this week I accepted a great opportunity to begin my (hopefully very long) career in journalism on the South Carolina coast.

In mid-August I’ll be moving east to become a reporter for The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette newspapers in Hilton Head, S.C. Once I’m settled into the new digs, I’ll be working the Beaufort County government beat for both papers.

Gorgeous coastal Carolina (the Lowcountry, it’s called) isn’t a bad place to start, either. My parents were a little worried about the move at first, but they’ve reconciled all their fears with their newfound excuse to visit the beach every year.


I couldn’t be happier about having a chance to pursue a career as a reporter. It’s surreal that I get to do something I’ve always wanted to do, and it’s an exciting time to be breaking into an industry that’s walked through fire to survive tough times.

We talked about that excitement at The Kansas City Star’s weekly intern lunch with two long-time newsroom veterans.

In summation: The people that are still around newsrooms really want to be there, and they’re some of the very best. These are the folks who made it through all the cuts and changes that news organizations have seen, and they live and breathe really good journalism.

That passion is contagious.

Besides, it’s hard not to be excited about this job. We get to tell stories for a living, and that’s a privilege, reporter Eric Adler told us.

“You’ll find the great literary themes in everybody’s life,” he said. “All you have to do is knock and say you’re interested.”

The end of summer

My time in Maine comes to and end this week and it’s impossible to believe that it’s passed me by so quickly.

I neglected my blog and scaled back some from my social networks (half-heartedly, at least) into the paradise that is downeast Maine in the summer. My mentor in Columbia, Liz Brixey, calls that “being present” and it’s been worth all of the withdrawal symptoms to enjoy things a bit.

But that’s not to say I haven’t been working. Just like someone has to take out the trash every week, some papers need reporters willing to hike Acadia National Park, tackle kayaking and sailing trips, tinker at the Telephone Museum and drink tea at FDR’s summer cottage.

Oh boy, I’ve gotta road trip all over again. Three days, 1,700 miles and an awful lot crummy radio stations.

So my colleague, Abby Eisenberg, and I spent the summer documenting some of the best places to visit and things to see on the Maine coast for The Ellsworth American’s special section, called Out & About.

In all seriousness, my time with The Ellsworth American has been 10 weeks of carefully crafting sentences and learning how to draw people into my stories in compelling ways. And in a complete leap of faith, I was handed a camera and told to be my own photographer.

The whole experience has been vastly different than my other reporting jobs and that’s been a blessing and a challenge.

The summer was a good retreat from my work covering higher education for the Columbia Missourian, but it won’t be much longer until UM System press releases are again flagged for my priority inbox.

Next week, I start my new gig as an Assistant City Editor at the Missourian and I’ll be returning to help lead the education coverage with Liz (like I said, mentor).

Along with tackling a capstone and a handful of other courses, I’m going to make an effort to publish more posts on this blog and hone my writing skills.

There’s plenty of work to be done, but first I have to tackle a 1,700 mile pilgrimage  to get back home to Columbia.

Road Trip Photo Gallery

Now that my trip is over, I thought I might share the pictures I took along the way.

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I’m no photographer, but I wish I was. There were a lot of awesome photo opportunities along the way to Maine but I didn’t take advantage of them the way I should have (or the way a well-rounded, talented journalist would).

Even though I’ve only got my iPhone for a camera, maybe this summer I’ll make more of an effort to take good photos.

Who knows, maybe I’ll post some more when The American sends me out to someplace beautiful.

And I will drive 2,000 miles and then I will stop in Ellsworth, Maine

**A version of this post was published for The Ellsworth American at**

There is no humidity, and it is glorious. One look at the weather from Missouri and I couldn’t be more excited to be 2,000 miles from the heat and humidity after my first night in Ellsworth following that crazy, exhausting four-day trip across half the country.

In all, we traveled approximately 2,000 miles with all of our stops and spent I’m-not-telling-because-it-makes-me-sad-how-much in gas. Of course, I owe a ton of the fun to my traveling partner and girlfriend, Beth, who helped me sneak into not one, but two elite universities (see “Another day, another town” and “To the class of ’87“) and gave me my first taste of Chicago.

The road trip was a great time and was as stressfully relaxing a vacation as I could have asked for, but now it’s on to the good stuff.

Tuesday I start work as an intern at The Ellsworth American and who knows what they’ll have me out doing by the end of the week. By Wednesday, I could be anywhere from the beautiful Acadia National Park to lost at sea in a tiny kayak — who knows, maybe I’ll just get to review all the lobster joints in town (note to Midwestern readers: up here, it’s colloquially referred to as “lawbstah”).

Even better, today’s not just Memorial Day, it’s my 21st birthday. So I’ll toast my first legal drink to the men and women who have put their lives on the line, whether it was 60 years ago in Korea or right now in the Middle East.

For now, the blog will slow down but I’ll continue to post about my stories from The American throughout the summer. As always, stick with me on Twitter for pictures and stories and notes from around town at @zach_murdock.

Oh, and the title — it’s an ode to the class How I Met Your Mother road trip episode. Check out the clip below:

To the class of ’87

**A version of this post was published for The Ellsworth American at**

Looking back on it, Beth and I probably should have made a toast to the class of 1987 last night. We wouldn’t have had much to say, but it would have made a great blog post, after our late Saturday evening tour of Yale University’s campus turned in to more than we originally hoped.

Hanging around old campus was cool, but crashing the various class reunion’s was even better. And it wasn’t long before we happened along the class of ’87s celebration.

I showed up for Yale’s class of ’87 reunion wearing my nicest Kansas City Royals t-shirt and new Nike tennis shoes. No, I wasn’t quite the best dressed.

We didn’t cause any trouble (like making that toast), but who would have thought I’d ever be able to say I’d attended a Yale class reunion? Before I forget, we got some of Frank Pepe’s famous thin crust, Connecticut pizza.

But with our stop in New Haven under our belts, Beth and I are off to Manchester, N.H., where Beth will board a plan for home and I’ll continue on up the beautiful coast to my cozy spot in Ellsworth. After four days in a car together we could use a couple months apart (I’m kidding, I’m kidding, I swear. The trip wouldn’t have been anywhere near as much without my partner in crime and on-the-road entertainment).

Of course, I’ll finish blogging the trip when I hit Maine and get settled in and I hope to keep blogging regularly throughout the summer with more adventures served with a little journalism on the side. Plus you can always follow the trip and my summer on Twitter at @zach_murdock.

Another day, another town

**A version of this post was published for The Ellsworth American at**

UPDATE: My buddy Zach Welch notes that, in fact, the Yankees game is in Oakland, Calif., and therefore shouldn’t cause many traffic issues in the Bronx (Oakland and the Bronx aren’t very close at all).

After day two, we’ve made it through two more states and need to make the big trip across Pennsylvania and through New York City today. Here are our driving stats from day two:

  • Two tanks of gas over more than 450 miles through three different states all afternoon and evening.

Plus, the trip gave us a chance to make a couple of cool stops, including South Bend, Ind., the home of the Fighting Irish. Of course, the University of Notre Dame is a private school, so it took a bit of accidental cheating to get around some security gates to make our personal little campus tour happen (no laws were broken in said visit, but we may or may not have violated a few campus parking rules).

During the few hours that Beth drove yesterday, I found myself plugged back into the world of the Missourian, catching up on press release emails and the most recent local issues. For two semesters I reported on higher education in Columbia, Mo., and I’ve found it hard to ween myself off of the constant news that’s come out of my regular beat.

Then by the time I’ve gone through it all, Beth’s already angry at me — she says I’m not nearly as entertaining a passenger as she is, and I’m an admittedly bad back seat driver. Eventually, we made it (almost) to the border of Ohio and Pennsylvania and camped out (in a Holiday Inn) before the big trip through New York City.

To what seems to be everyone-I’ve-talked-to’s horror, I’ve managed to time things just terribly so that Beth and I will be venturing through Bronx just as the Yankees are done beating up on the Oakland A’s. That means that we won’t just be dealing with Saturday night, Memorial Day weekend New York City traffic — we’ll get to add the flood of Yankees fans leaving the game to the mix too. Whoops.

If I make it through New York, I’ll be posting right here and you can follow the trip on my Twitter at @zach_murdock.

I mean, I don’t think we actually did anything wrong when we made it to campus. We just went the “creative” route.

One day down

Chicago was beautiful (I mean, just look at that skyline) and we had one helluva day.

**A version of this post was published for The Ellsworth American at**

What a first day on the road! Beth and I made it to Chicago in one piece and learned a few things about each other along the way — like Beth’s refusal to discriminate, she has a lead foot on both the gas and the brake. Here are our driving stats from the first day:

  • 1.5 tanks of gas for more than 550 miles through two states over seven hours. Not too shabby.

But that’s just the beginning, because once we got to Chicago it was a whirlwind of Beth’s family and a wee bit of tourism on the side (t’was my first time in Chicago). Here’s the lightning round version of what we saw/did in eight hours in Chicago:

We … saw Beth’s mom, toured her house, visited Beth’s grandma, saw her great aunt, fawned over how sweet they are, rode the L train, met Beth’s sister, drank tea with her sister, laughed with her sister, rode the L again, (deeeeeep breath) saw Millennium Park, saw Crown Fountain, tried to see Cloud Gate (aka The Bean), were stopped short of The Bean because they were filming a fashion commercial, finally walked around The Bean, (deeeeeep breath) visited the Chicago Cultural Center, walked down Michigan Avenue, craned our necks at the Tribune Tower AND made it back to the L and then the car all in time to make it to dinner across town at a beautiful restaurant with Beth’s other sister and parents. Phew, long day.

Then after a much-needed night’s sleep, we snagged some home-cooked breakfast before getting out the door to head east. I couldn’t have asked for a better first day, so here’s to hoping we can top all that today.

As often as I can, I’ll be posting right here and you can follow the trip on my Twitter at @zach_murdock.

We’re going east, the long way

**A version of this post was published for The Ellsworth American**

By the time you’re reading this, I’m already gone. Maybe somewhere in the middle of Illinois, but hopefully not stuck trying to change a flat on a lonely stretch of Interstate 55.

This summer I’ve packed my bags and I’m shipping out of my apartment in Columbia, Mo., at the Missouri School of Journalism for a (prettier, less humid) northeast summer.

My journey’s a long one. It’s starts from my home in the middle of Missouri and takes me through 10 states over four days to a finish line in beautiful Hancock County, where I’ll be living and working in Ellsworth, Maine, as an intern for The Ellsworth American.

This whole summer is one great big opportunity. In Ellsworth I’ll get to experience life in the northeast (which means loads of lobster for this land-locked Kansas City native) and I’ll get to continue developing as a journalist by putting the reporting tools I’ve learned at the University of Missouri to work for the American.

Plus, what better excuse to take my girlfriend Beth — another reporter and MU journalism student — on a road trip across the country, through cities and countryside neither of us have ever even considered passing through (I’m looking at you, rural Pennsylvania).

Our first stop will be to see Beth’s family Thursday night in her hometown of Chicago. Then Friday morning we’ll hit I-80 and won’t look back until we’re all the way to Pennsylvania.

I’ll be blogging my way across the country, so follow along right here and on Twitter at @zach_murdock to learn more about me and read stories from our cross-country adventure.

Much to my father’s dismay, my own 1999 Honda Odyssey minivan (fully equipped with VHS player) wouldn’t have the stamina to make the long trip out to Ellsworth. So with a knot in his stomach, he handed me the keys to his new Hyundai Santa Fe for the summer.

Preview: How do you get to Maine?

The answer is something along the lines of what you see above — or at least that’s what Beth and I will be doing. Each green point represents a stop we’ll be making on the way up to Maine.

Keep in mind, this is a four day road trip so the drives aren’t excruciatingly long. Plus, I’ll be blogging each night, so follow along right here and on Twitter at @zach_murdock to read stories and pictures from our cross-country adventure.

On to the next

After a week of wonderfully unplugged vacation and time with family and loved ones, it’s time to move on to the next one.

I’ve wrapped up my tenure as a higher education reporter at the Columbia Missourian after two great semesters with two great groups of reporters and my editor Liz Brixey, and now I’m headed east.

This summer I’ll be working in Ellsworth, Maine, at The Ellsworth American. I joke that it’s the Park City, Utah, (where I spent the summer after my freshman year) of the east and I couldn’t be more excited to get out there.

Maine will be a different kind of gig for me after two semesters of grinding out reporting and classes simultaneously. That’s not to say it wasn’t fun, I’ve done some very cool things and in the fall I get to return to the Missourian as an Assistant City Editor.

For now, though, it’s off to Maine which is one helluva drive. Such a drive, in fact, that I’ll be blogging the trip for The American and tweeting along the way. The first leg of the drive — and the first post — start first thing Thursday morning.

Follow the trip on this website and on Twitter at @zach_murdock.