EISEN: Three years in the books at MDN

Life is unpredictable and nobody truly knows what the future holds.

Rewind 1,095 days, or simply put three years ago to be a little less dramatic, and I was sitting in this exact same spot with my laptop open, staring at a blank page: unable to piece together my first feature story for the Minot Daily News.

Sentences and paragraphs struggled to fit together. As fearless as McKenzi Faul was racing around the dirt track at Nodak Speedway, I couldn’t find the right words to portray that.

Sitting in this seat, my mind went blank. One of the worst cases of writer’s block I have ever had.

Whether it was the commotion of a busy, unfamiliar newsroom or the anxiety of having sports editor Garrick Hodge sitting directly next to me, I wasn’t able to finish that article at this desk.

I texted Garrick the next day and asked if I could write the feature from my apartment, which still lacked living room furniture, and he surprisingly agreed.

Looking back, that was a rather strange request at the time. But, I needed the extra time and space to gather my thoughts.

At the end of the day, everything worked out. I finally got the feature done, Garrick critiqued it heavily regardless — as he should have — and I was on my way.

Every journey starts with a single step.

Hard to believe I have written hundreds of stories — well, probably close to a thousand, but who’s counting? — for the Minot Daily News sports section since then.

I’ve moved up from being the newbie sports reporter to becoming the sports editor in May 2018 when Garrick left to pursue a new opportunity to cover NCAA Division I athletics.

That brought in Justin Martinez to fulfill my old position. After a couple months of working with him, I had a gut feeling that he wasn’t going to be in Minot for very long.

His professionalism and charisma was going to open more doors for him to further his journalism career as well and, as a side note, I didn’t really want to see his Chevrolet Camaro suffer another North Dakota winter either.

Justin put in 10 months of solid, impressive work and found a warmer home with the Las Cruces Sun-News in Las Cruces, New Mexico. I’m proud of him and wish him all the best.

His departure left another vacancy to be filled. Luckily, we received interest from two qualified and motivated candidates prior to the state fair and the fall sports season getting into full swing.

I’ll let both of them introduce themselves in print when they arrive in the coming weeks. But, for now, I’m pleased to announce the addition of recent Butler University graduate Jimmy Lafakis as the newest sports reporter and former Los Angeles Daily News reporter Ethan Hanson as the next night reporter.

With Hanson joining our team, current night reporter Ashton Gerard will shift over and join the news staff full-time. She does a lot of the behind the scenes work for us and getting a quality sports section out every day wouldn’t be possible without her.

That said, Ashton still might get her byline in the sports section from time to time because I don’t think she is going to give up her coveted swimming and diving beat without a fight.

Housekeeping notes aside, I should probably wrap up this column.

Let’s end with this.

For those that aren’t aware, the turnover in this industry can be cruel. Jobs are hard to come by and stability isn’t guaranteed. Despite that, the Minot Daily News continues to be an ideal launching pad for sports journalists to develop their skills and advance in the field, if they choose to do so.

So, the fact that I’ve lived in Minot for three years now can be seen as a little bizarre. I guess the Magic City has a strong grip on me.

I was chatting with Minot Metros head coach Fred Nelson a few weeks ago and he brought up an interesting point of having to do interviews with an abundance of MDN sports reporters during his coaching career. He then added something along the lines of, “You must be the longest sports reporter they have had.”

I’m sure other coaches and players in the Minot area have thought the same thing. And, over the last decade, that observation probably holds some weight to it.

As I look around my desk, it’s hard to believe that three years have just flown by. I’ve certainly come a long way from being the newcomer who struggled to piece together his first story.

Whatever the future holds, I’m grateful that I made the difficult decision to pack everything up and move from Michigan to Minot.

Hopefully, Jimmy and Ethan will feel the same way when they get the chance to look back and reflect on their decisions to relocate.

This is the opinion of Alex Eisen. He covers Minot State athletics, the Minot Minotauros and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @AEisen13.