I always tell people I grew up in the country because it sounds like much more fun than simply stating that I was raised in a “rural area.”
Being from the country, well, it tells much more of a story. And writing stories is what I like to do most. I’ve dedicated my life to it, starting at age 12 when I submitted my first newspaper story to a weekly in the small North Carolina foothills town where I lived the first 18 years of my life. It was about a Little League baseball game I actually played in – no conflict of interest there – but the kindly editor of the Danbury Reporter took the yellow legal sheet with barely legible handwriting and advised that if I kept writing, he would keep publishing.
And so I did.
That was the start of what turned into a 34-year career in newspaper writing, reporting, editing and managing.
Of course, it wasn’t really that simple because nothing is, not really. But growing up in Danbury, N.C., a town with a population of about 175, offered space for a young mind to dream. There wasn’t much to do but play outdoors, work every so often in farming to earn a dollar or two and think about the possibilities the larger world offered. Writing about sports and news – or reporting about it on TV – looked like a pretty good gig.
Getting there was the challenge.
Luckily, I was raised by encouraging parents and a mother who had dabbled in journalism as a career. I read everything I could get, watched sports on TV without end and imitated broadcasters on ACC basketball games into a tape recorder when local teams played. It was my goal to cover ACC Tournaments, World Series and Super Bowls.
I did become a sports writer for a small daily newspaper in Reidsville – once my college days were completed. I worked my way to another newspaper, this one in Burlington, N.C., where I did manage to cover an ACC Tournament. As age 30 drew closer, though, I began to look at life a little differently. I found myself drawn to doing a variety of things in newspapers, not simply sports. I wanted to write features about people, cover news events, comment on popular culture, politics, books, movies and music and take on more responsibility for how the newspaper looked in terms of page design.
The journey took me from Burlington to the North Carolina coast, covering the largest Marine Installation on the East Coast in Jacksonville, N.C. and finally back to Burlington in 2007, where I settled in as executive editor of the newspaper where I was once a sports reporter. After 34 years, I retired from the newspaper business in November of 2016 to seek new writing challenges. I’m now employed by Elon University as a writer.
Today I look back on my journalism career with no small amount of pride. We produced hundreds of memorable stories that made significant impacts on the communities we covered. We reported the good and bad, improved lives and kept readers informed. I led staffs that won dozens of awards from state press organizations and managed to take home more than a few individual honors for everything from sports reporting to commentary, humorous columns and book or film reviews. Many of those things I’ll continue writing on my blog.
At the moment I’m spending quality time with my spouse, Roselee Papandrea Taylor, and our cat, Typo, while looking for new freelance writing opportunities. I’m trying to have as much fun as I can while still telling stories and visiting the country every so often. You really can go home again.
Madison Taylor, Burlington, N.C.