James Cimburek

With those in charge of our “Her Voice/His Voice” magazine deciding to do profiles on our staff, I knew that I would be on the list. Since they went by seniority, I was very high on that list.

Instead of forcing one of my coworkers to have to interview me, I decided that it would be more interesting for you to take you through my day … with some commentary, along the way.

First off, if you don’t know me, I have been the sports editor of the Press & Dakotan since 1996, and have been a member of its staff since 1992. I started as a part-timer while I was a student at Mount Marty College, went full time the Monday after I graduated in December of 1994 and was promoted to sports editor a year later, a few months after Kelly Hertz (last issue’s profile subject) was promoted from SE to managing editor.

I am a 1990 graduate of Veblen High School. For those of you who don’t know (which is most of you), Veblen is located in the northeast corner of South Dakota, 24 miles north and west of Sisseton. In high school, I ran cross country and track, and played basketball. (Not well, mind you, but I was out.)

I originally went to MMC with the intent of becoming a teacher and coach. I was turned on to journalism by my freshman composition teacher, who suggested I help with the student newspaper. Two years later, I accepted an offer to join the P&D sports staff and, six months later, I changed my major to mass communications.

The rest, as they say, is history.

9:45 a.m. – Out Of Bed

When you have had your work day finish around midnight for your entire adult life, you tend not to be an early riser. I am not incapable of getting up early but, unless I need to for an assignment or a personal appointment, I try not to make a habit of it.

My early morning usually involves a peek at my emails, and at social media. If I’m not in a rush, I’ll normally do that while watching “The Price Is Right” with my wife, Kari.

On this day, I’m just a little rushed, as I am meeting with MMC softball coach Tate Bruckner for a season preview on the Lancers.

11:30 a.m. — Keeping The Balance

One of the things about my job is keeping the balance. For most papers, most of the resources would go towards the Division I school, the University of South Dakota. But our market is unique: the D-I school is 20 miles down the road, and we have a NAIA school (MMC) and a big high school here in Yankton. We also cover over 30 high schools in two states.

Besides the school-related sports, Yankton is home to the National Field Archery Association headquarters and the Easton Archery Center, drawing some of the top talent in the world to Yankton. (Yes, I said “world.” Yankton was playing host to the World Archery Indoor Championships on the “day” that I chronicalled.)

We also are in a town with three different radio ownership groups — believe me, you don’t know how rare that is in a town Yankton’s size — as well as a weekly publication.

It’s a different market, and it requires a different balance of coverage.

Noon — Lunch With My Wife

As you can imagine, my schedule doesn’t allow for a lot of free evenings or weekends, so I do my best to make time for my wife, Kari, when I can. Often that means lunch before I go to work.

I try to make lunch with her a regular occurence. Unfortunately — especially this time of year — that does not always happen.

There is no way I would be able to handle it without my support system: yes, Jeremy, Ben and Bryce Ladwig (the new guy), but especially my wife. Kari came into my life nearly 19 years ago, and we will celebrate our 16th wedding anniversary later this year. Sometimes my long hours frustrate her, but she also understands that I’m doing what I love.

We talk a little bit about what’s going on, as well as my upcoming schedule. I typically try to have my schedule posted on the board by our door, but haven’t kept that up recently because of a malfunctioning home computer.

1:30 p.m. — Staff Meeting

When you work at a small newspaper, the sports department is asked to join in on the daily newsroom staff meetings. Actually, on the rare occasion that Kelly takes a day off, I run those meetings.

We go over what is coming up and add to the story “budget,” the list of stories for a given day. Both Jeremy and I try to contribute to the conversation, suggesting story ideas.

Our newsroom itself has an interesting dynamic. Of the seven of us, three have over 20 years of experience. (Kelly is over 30 years. Randy Dockendorf, our regional editor, was hired less than a year after me and will celebrate his 25th year later this year.) Jeremy has been here for over 10 years. The rest have been here less than five.

This week has been particularly exciting, with the World Indoor Archery Championships taking place in Yankton. Jeremy has been wrapped up in that coverage, with some assistance from our news staff.

5:30 p.m. — Catching Up

On this day, one of the many good friends I have made through my job happens to be in town. Mike Henriksen, who hosts “Sportsmax” and co-hosts “Calling All Sports,” two statewide radio shows based out of Sioux Falls, was in town to sell his new book.

I have had the pleasure of getting to meet a lot of great men and women who, like me, make their living covering sports. It’s part of what makes the “grind” of covering big events fun, getting to see and catch up with friends.

One that made the most impact was one I worked most closely with early in my career, the late great Howard “Hod” Nielsen. Those who grew up in Yankton from the 1950s through the 1990s and played sports will likely have known Hod. His knowledge of Yankton and regional sports was unrivaled, as was his ability to connect with people.

For a young sports writer/editor, there was no greater resource.

When I broke in during the 1990s, several South Dakota papers had their version of Hod. In Mitchell, it was Dean Minder. Rapid City had Ron Wood and Roger Toland. Aberdeen had — and still has — John Papendick and Dave Vilhauer, though Papendick is semi-retired and Vilhauer has jumped to the radio side. Though he retired before I started in Yankton, Sioux Falls had John Egan.

These days, I am probably closer to the “old guard” than I care to admit. Hopefully I do as much for the “next generation” of South Dakota sportswriters as those gentlemen did for me.

Anyway, back to catching up: The establishment hosting Mike was also hosting a Mount Marty alumni event that night, allowing me to catch up with a few fellow Lancers. I didn’t get to partake in any refreshments, though, as my day was not done.

7 p.m. — Late-Season Hoops

When Yankton, MMC and USD are all off or out of town, we like to take the opportunity to try to hit as many area programs as possible.

While the Sub-District C2-5 final between Crofton and Hartington Cedar Catholic might have been a great option, its location (Wayne) meant we opted for a closer game geographically.

With our deadline — pages out by 10:30 p.m. — we don’t always get out as much or as far as we might like. We try to compensate by hitting some of the holiday and Saturday classics and tournaments hard. For example, when the Tri-Valley Conference girls’ basketball Classic was at MMC, I shot eight games (six high school and two MMC) and wrote a “notebook” story, while Ben Hegge, one of the two college students currently on our staff, wrote game stories on the two MMC games.

On this night, I shot a half of the girls’ game between Freeman and Gayville-Volin, then shot a quarter of the boys’ game before hustling back to the office. In between, I had a good long conversation with one of our longtime area coaches regarding the upcoming track season, as well as a few other things.

8:45 p.m. — The Rush Hits

Once I returned from Gayville, it was time to put everything together. After selecting photos from the basketball game and choosing which of Jeremy’s archery photos to use, I started putting items on the page. In the meantime, Jeremy was grabbing games stats out of my email and typing up game reports.

A lot of things have changed since I was hired to do just that — take game calls.

First off, most games don’t come by phone anymore. Most are reported by email, with a few coming to us by fax.

Second, the timeline has changed. My first year at the paper was actually when the Press & Dakotan was an afternoon paper, with the exception of the Saturday edition. There wasn’t a ton of pressure to get games typed up at night, other than Friday.

Covering games, of course, has changed as well. Early on I had to return to the office to write my game stories because, first off, we didn’t have email. When we finally got a “laptop,” it was little more than a word processor, and we had to plug a phone line into it to send back to the office.

Sending photos was even more of a hassle. The first time I did something other than meet a coworker halfway in between or bring the film back to the office, I had to bring a huge flatbed scanner with me. I would take a couple rolls of film to a 1-hour photo place, get prints made, then scan in the couple that I wanted to send back.

My, how times have changed.

Now I can post photos, video and a story from my phone, and have done all three.

10:30 p.m. — Done … But Not Really

Pages are out, sent off to Sioux Falls to be printed. But that doesn’t mean that it’s time to go home.

Once the paper is “put to bed,” it’s time to do the same for the website. Some stories, especially breaking news, are posted during the day, but game recaps, scoreboards, and other items are posted at the end of the night. If any games came in late, those get typed before the recap gets loaded.

With that done, it’s time to turn a little attention to social media. Besides tweeting out some of the stories I just loaded, I pull a few photos to load to my phone, which allows me to post them on Instagram.

11:45 p.m. — Home

The cross-town drive home is all of 2.3 miles, usually enough time to hear one song on the radio before I pull into the parking lot.

Then it’s upstairs, and seeing my wife Kari for the first time since lunch. We ask about each other’s day before winding down and heading to bed.

That’s about it — a day in the life of a small-town sports editor. Even though I couldn’t have imagined doing this when I started college, I can’t imagine myself doing anything else at this point.