Carolina Panthers Retrospective
MY FINAL COLUMN: The right time for a new beginning E-mail
Written by Steve Reed   
Sunday, 23 October 2011 11:51

Reporter Steve Reed has covered every game in Panthers history, but will be leaving the Gaston Gazette and Carolina Growl today. (AP Photo)

   CHARLOTTE – Seventeen years and three months.
   That’s a long time for anyone to spend working with one company and, in my opinion, you must truly love what you do and the people you work with to sustain that long.
   At least that’s been my experience.
   Seventeen years and three months, that’s how long I’ve been working for the Gaston Gazette.
   But on Sunday night when I file my final Redskins-Panthers game story it will mark the end of an era in my life.
   It is with many mixed emotions that I’m leaving the Gazette (and Carolina Growl) after a truly remarkable run. I have accepted a position as a sports writer for the Associated Press' Charlotte bureau. I begin Monday.
   I’ll still be covering the Panthers, but my beats will also expand to the Charlotte Bobcats, UNC Charlotte, NASCAR, golf and anything else that happens sports-related in Charlotte. I feel blessed and humbled to be presented with such a great opportunity.
   It is, however, with great sadness that I will leave the Gazette.
   Don’t ever be fooled by this newspaper’s size as the editors, writers, photographers and graphic designers who work here are among the best and most professional in the business. The plaques and awards that line the walls as you walk into the Gazette newsroom are just a small testament to work that goes into putting out a newspaper on a daily basis.
   Although I’m rarely in the office, I’ve always felt a certain kinship with what is an experienced sports staff, one that has always taken personal pride in the work they’ve produced. Maybe it’s the little brother syndrome, but we’ve never let ourselves get pushed around by the bigger newspaper down the road and I feel like we’ve held our own, and then some, through the years on reporting on the news with everything ranging from the Bobcats to Panthers to NASCAR to prep sports.
   After Sunday’s game I will have covered all 342 Panthers games – home and away, regular season, postseason and preseason.
   I’m thankful to the Gazette for its continuing commitment to covering the Panthers during difficult economic times, even as other newspapers cut it from their budgets. When I started covering the Panthers in August of 1994, one year before the team took the field, there were 13 newspapers on the Panthers beat. This year there are two.
   I’ve broken stories and gotten beat on stories, had good days and bad days. Along the way I’ve tried to both entertain and inform our readers. Our motto has always been to “think like a reader” and it’s something I’ll carry with me forever. I’ve seen some great Panthers games, covered a handful of Super Bowls, a Pro Bowl, several NFL owners’ meetings and the Scouting Combines. I’ve seen a game in every NFL stadium, including Lambeau Field and Soldier Field. I’ve run the Golden Gate Bridge, touched the Liberty Bell and the Arch, walked South Beach and had a cocktail or two on Bourbon Street.
   The Carolina Growl site has been like my baby.
   I’ve posted all of the stories and headlines there, cropped and posted pictures and written blogs. It’s a site that I’ve taken personal pride in, investing late hours tweaking it time and time again so it looked good. Nobody will ever truly know how much time I put into it. But it was reflection on me and I wanted it to look great at all times.
   It’s funny because when word started to leak out that I was leaving one of the first questions I got was, “Will you still be writing for Carolina Growl?” They were surprised to learn it’s the newspaper’s website, not mine.
   When I came to Gastonia in 1994 I was dating, but still single.
   Now, I have a wonderful wife, two boys ages 11 and 9 and a big fat mortgage and an even bigger Great Dane. I’ve run two marathons, coached a ton of youth basketball and baseball games, met a lot of interesting people (and written about them) and donated a kidney.
   I’ve grown up, I imagine, although my wife tells me not that much as I think.
   Life has changed.
   Life, it seems, is always changing and you can’t ever be afraid to change with it. If you do, you’re missing out. So I’m looking forward to the next step in my career.
   Seventeen years and three months.
   It has been a great run.
   And I will miss you all.