Today’s #MediaMonday comes to us from the cool pines of Payson. The Payson Roundup is a weekly paper that is “the Rim Country’s news and information source.” I met the Roundup’s sports editor, Keith Morris, at a recent state high school baseball tournament game, which he was covering.
Keith, time to share:
I was born in northern Alabama and my family moved to Michigan when I was 2. I grew up in Flushing, Mich. I was the fastest kid in my neighborhood (no matter what Rick Carter says). I boxed for three years on the Flint (Mich.) Police Boxing Team and played slow-pitch softball with my buddies in my 20’s and 30’s.
I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life until I walked into professor Cy Leder’s Journalism 101 course at Mott Community College in Flint, Mich. Cy was one of the most influential people in my life. I knew what I wanted to do with my life after taking that class. I went on to graduate from Michigan State University with a journalism degree. Go Spartans!
I’ve always loved sports, so becoming a sports writer/editor was natural for me. I’ve worked for several publications in my 32-year career.
I spent a couple of years as a sports writer then editor at The Cullman (Ala.) Times, a small daily newspaper, and nearly 15 years at The Flint (Mich.) Journal, a large daily. But I really love working at a small community paper because it gives you a chance to really get to know people and share their stories.
As much as I love the Great Lakes, the Tigers and the Lions, I wanted to escape the harsh Michigan winters. Finally, 10 years ago, I moved to Show Low to work as a sports writer at the White Mountain Independent. I enjoyed my nearly seven years there but always thought Payson would be the ideal spot for me and I jumped at the chance to work at The Roundup when Max Foster retired as sports editor.
I’ve never been happier. Surrounded by the cool pines of Tonto National Forest, Payson is paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. I walk out my door and a minute later I’m hiking with my two dogs through the forest. Along with the scenic beauty and mild winters, Payson is located close enough to Phoenix to allow for regular day-trips whenever I get the urge.
The Payson Roundup is published each Tuesday and Friday by the White Mountain Publishing Co. We are the news source for the Mogollon Rim Country. We have a new Website we’re very proud of run by Pia Wyer. She’s part of a wonderfully talented staff, led by our editor, Peter Aleshire, a renowned writer who’s published several books and has been a mentor and a friend. He’s helped me improve as a writer.
Photography is another passion of mine and I love being able to shoot the games and events I cover.
Actually, I absolutely love every aspect of working as a sports editor at a community newspaper — writing stories, taking photos and videos and designing pages. I see the blank page as sort of a canvas just waiting for an artist. Sometimes it’s still waiting even after I’ve thrown my best ideas at it, but I get to try again in a couple of days.
I was part of the Flint Journal’s staff coverage of the PGA Tour’s Buick Open in Grand Blanc, Mich. for several years. While I enjoy covering the pros, it’s focusing on the high school and community sports that I truly love. A couple of stories I’ve had the opportunity to cover stand out for me because of the human emotion involved.
The first was when two Flint (Mich.) Northern High wrestlers battled each other for an individual state wrestling championship after a rule change allowed teams to enter multiple wrestlers in the same weight class. A powerhouse team that season, Northern had two standouts at the same weight. One had wrestled at a higher weight in team dual matches. They both reached the championship match setting up an emotional showdown for the state title. Neither wanted to wrestle the other with so much on the line and the winner cried as the final seconds ticked off the clock because he had to beat his best friend to claim the crown.
The other was Payson junior Arissa Paulson pitching against rival Winslow in the Division 3 state softball semifinals in 2015 with tears in her eyes from the pain she was in on every pitch because of an injury. She wound up hitting two home runs, including the game winner in the eighth inning that propelled the Longhorns to the state championship game. Her father was the team’s pitching coach and the head coach deferred to him as to whether she should be pitching or not. The coach said he was told she wouldn’t risk further damage by pitching. She wound up missing her senior season with an injury but the head coach said it was from a different injury. She’s at BYU on a softball scholarship playing with her older sister, so perhaps pitching that game and the next didn’t jeopardize her future. All I know is I’ve never seen a more courageous athlete or a more memorable performance as she kept going back to the circle and in clear pain and almost single-handedly carrying the Longhorns to the championship game.
And I was treated to another memorable story with this year’s Payson High baseball team. The Longhorns made a habit out of winning thrillers. They reeled off six consecutive comeback victories in power points games at one point. They scored a run in the bottom of the seventh to post a 3-2 win over Chinle in the first round of the 3A state tournament then rallied from a 2-0 deficit to beat rival Snowflake in the quarterfinals.
I was wondering what was in store over the final weekend. The best thing about my job is I got paid to find out. The Longhorns wound up losing to Safford in the semifinals.
I can’t wait for the next memorable story.