Weekly Newsletter: Happy New Year
Reflecting on The Burleson Buzz's first calendar-year in business
Happy New Year.
2024 is here. With that, the first calendar-year of The Burleson Buzz is officially over.
I published The Burleson Buzz’s first article May 4. 212 people read it. Eight people liked it enough that they decided to subscribe to the newsletter to receive future articles in their emails.
Some of the first eight subscribers and the first 212 readers were family and friends — not all of them though. Some of the readers were complete strangers who found the article in their Facebook feed. When those strangers subscribed to the newsletter, it felt surreal.
It still feels surreal today. Knowing so many people tune in to what I publish, not just to support me but to find out what’s going on in their community, makes me feel like I’m doing something important that people appreciate. And ultimately that’s what I want in a career.
It was hard to know what a realistic outlook was for The Burleson Buzz in 2023. I set a goal to gain 100 subscribers by August 1 because that seemed reasonable, approximately three months after I published the first article. As of today, 514 people subscribe.
It’s been quite the experience covering and reporting local news for my community. It’s kept me pretty busy and left me with little time to reflect and share with my readers what the experience has been like.
With today being the first day of the new year and not a lot of news to report on, I thought this would be a good opportunity to share with readers some personal highlights in coverage from 2023.
Thanks so much for your support.
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Reluctant reporting leads to growth: Everyone wanted to read what I didn’t want to report
My most-viewed article in 2023 was the one on the explosion in Vinewood. I gained a lot from reporting on this.
While I gained the most subscribers from a single article on this, and it was my most-viewed article of 2023, the most important thing I gained was journalistic experience. I wouldn’t have gained anything if it weren’t for my wife encouraging me to cover the explosion in the first place.
It was in the evening when I thought I was home for the night. I had already worked my full-time job that day and been out with my wife when I heard about the explosion. When I said I was tired, my wife, who normally wants me at home with her when we get back from dates, encouraged me to go get the story.
I was at the crime scene in Vinewood talking to firefighters and neighbors about what happened, taking notes and pictures and publishing my findings in real time. I felt like a real journalist.
This wasn’t the only piece of coverage from The Burleson Buzz that I needed my wife’s encouragement for. When I said on Mr. Allard’s Neighborhood recently that my wife is my biggest supporter, I meant it. Without her support, I simply wouldn’t be able to do this.
Unexpected engagement: Turns out people get fired up about libraries
When I heard the Burleson Library Board presented concepts for a new $52 million 60,000-square-foot library, I wasn’t sure if it was worth reporting on. It hadn’t been presented to City Council and it’s not in the city’s five-year plan, so it wasn’t clear to me that it was newsworthy.
My wife insisted people would be interested. Boy, was she right.
I published an article on the library board’s proposed new build December 11, six days after the board presented the proposal, and people were quick to share their thoughts.
“We can't give the police department the space they need in their new building but we can build a library that will be new and larger than the police station?” Jacque Jones commented on the article-link shared in the Burleson Residents Talking Facebook group. “I'm for a new library but not this big and not this expensive. And I like the library in downtown.”
“Why would we need a new library?” Kylie Rae commented. “When libraries are closing down. Don’t get me wrong — books are awesome and should remain around. But the building is fine and has worked for many years. A simple face lift would be better than a whole big building. I feel that this would be a waste of money that could go towards cleaning up the town or fixing some of those terrible roads.”
“Another waste of funds,” Heather Harris commented.
Some people liked the idea of the new library though.
“I hope this is true,” Laura Moore Smith commented. “All who actually visit the library know how this would be a wonderful addition to Burleson. The current library is busy and crowded as it provides so many free resources to our residents. We need larger meeting spaces for activities, more shelving space for books, more computers/tech spaces as these are always full, and more comfortable seating throughout.”
“This is so exciting,” Melissa Johnson commented. “Burleson’s growth over the past 20-plus years makes this well overdue. Libraries provide resources well beyond just checking out books that aren’t readily available elsewhere for everyone. I was initially shocked when I saw all the negative comments on this post, then I remembered it’s Burleson.”
Melissa’s got a point about this post and similar posts about Burleson receiving opposing comments. I think that’s a good thing though because it shows Burlesonians really want what’s best for their community.
With the city having the population it does, the citizens aren’t always going to see eye-to-eye on what’s best for Burleson. I think that’s how it’s supposed to be.
Finding facts in opinions: CAD Board acting in spite or following protocol?
The first person I spoke to about the Johnson County Central Appraisal District Board extending chief appraiser Jim Hudspeth’s contract was someone who didn’t support the extension. I had seen how important the CAD-Board election was to some people at Burleson City Council meetings, so I knew this contract could be controversial. I learned it may not have been a very big deal at all.
It makes perfect sense to me that a board of directors with a majority being replaced after losing their elections would do whatever they could to ensure said board continues running how they’d like. If that means explicitly ignoring the incoming board members’ request and extend Hudspeth’s contract longer than the electees preferred, so be it.
What also makes perfect sense to me is that the board’s decision to extend the chief appraiser’s contract had nothing to do with who was going to be on the board over the duration of the contract and was just the standard protocol.
The Johnson County CAD Board extends the chief appraiser’s contract three years, if the board believes he’s due an extension, in December every year the contract is expiring. Hudspeth’s contract was set to expire December 31.
The board extended Hudspeth’s contract three years, increased his pay 8% and increased his severance to 12 months from six months because the members believe he’s done a fantastic job, board chairman Toby Ford said. Vice chairman Don Beeson added that it wouldn’t have been fair to offer Hudspeth a shorter extension.
Cleburne property tax-reform proponent Craig Hundley, who advocated for electees Amy Lingo, John Wood and Duane Goulding before the election, didn’t seem to believe the board was operating business as usual. He believed the board awarded Hudspeth this contract to make it harder for the electees to make changes to the board when they take office, Hundley said.
Knowing there were more opinions about this contract extension, I enjoyed talking to the right people and publishing what I learned.
Once the article was published, my mom asked me if what the board did was good or bad. As someone who prioritizes objectivity and not being opinionated, I was glad my mom, and hopefully other readers, didn’t know whether I thought the situation was good or bad.
A family of sports reporters: When my dad and brother covered the Elks’ first win
Covering Burleson and Centennial high school football in 2023 was awesome. It was a return to my roots. My first job, and really my only job outside The Burleson Buzz, in journalism was covering high school football. With me naturally loving sports, I loved being paid to go to games and report on them.
Doing it for The Burleson Buzz was different though. With it being for my own publication, I was more invested in the performance of the coverage. It was also cool to sit in the press box at the stadium I used to sit in the bleachers at. But the best part about covering the Elks’ and Spartans’ football seasons was doing it with my dad.
By the time the Elks’ sixth game of the season came around and I was driving to Port Aransas for a family-reunion on my wife’s side, my dad had helped me cover the games enough that he felt comfortable recapping the game himself with my older brother’s help. It turned out to be the Elks’ first win and (in my opinion) the most exciting game of the season.
I love how my dad wrote the story of the game. A couple weeks into helping me cover football games, he suggested I use more narrative-style language in my recaps to make them more pleasing to read. I ultimately ignored that advice to execute easy-to-read rather than enjoyable-to-read information.
My dad took his own advice when he recapped this game. Just look at the lead:
Tre Cushionberry scored two touchdowns as the Burleson Elks (1-5) earned their first victory of 2023 with a soul-searing 36-32 comeback win over the Corsicana Tigers (2-4) Friday at Burleson ISD Stadium in a Homecoming game for the ages.
“Soul-searing?” “For the ages?” Terms I’d never use to describe the events of a game in a news article, but I think I might be wrong in that sentiment.
Reading how my dad recapped the game, I was reminded what an emotional affect sports can have on people. My dad’s the biggest sports fan I know, so of course he’d be more emotionally-invested in the games. Who else is emotionally-invested in those games are the people reading the articles — people who live in Burleson with kids on the teams or going to the schools the teams play for or who used to play on the teams or go to the schools themselves.
Ultimately, I was really happy that my dad and brother were able to cover the game for me, and I was glad it turned out to be a good one that people were interested to read about.
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