Editors/writers/podcasters/tweeters possess wandering eyes. Observation, after all, represents an important part of the job.
“Show, don’t just tell the reader!!!” shouted an upperclass mentor upon reading one of my early efforts as a freshman covering the Indiana University women’s volleyball beat for the Indiana Daily Student. That guidance stuck.
Sadly, the newspaper, like many others, no longer prints daily. Thanks to upperclassmen who found time to develop young writers, lessons absorbed in the former Ernie Pyle Hall newsroom endure.
Whenever I arrive at an event such as the 25th New England Regional Turfgrass Conference & Show, held last month in Providence, Rhode Island, the eyes wander before the mouth opens. The Wednesday golf education started with a presentation about ABW monitoring and management led by Dr. Albrecht Koppenhöfer of Rutgers University. I found a seat near the front of Ballroom A to ensure the subjects of conference photos appear larger than … well … ABW when posted on social media. Sometimes those of us lacking front-of-the-room personalities must sit in the front of the room to best execute our jobs.
Less than five minutes into the presentation, I scanned the section to my right and noticed Tim Moraghan, the author of our popular “Outside the Ropes” column. I then scanned the section to my left and noticed Terry Buchen, the author of our popular “Travels with Terry” feature. Tim and Terry own around 100 years of combined industry experience and I knew they were attending the conference. But I didn’t expect to see them sitting near the front of a giant ballroom and listening intently to the first session of the general education program.
I should have known better.
Tim and Terry have built successful and sustained consulting businesses — which is much tougher than just slapping your name on a business card — for many reasons, ranging from diverse experiences to lifelong zests for golf and turfgrass. They visit bucket-list destinations monthly and have instant access to hundreds of industry influencers. Their words and thoughts shape the industry. Their desire to learn and grow remains vast, thus their enormous success and longevity in a cutthroat profession, thus the reason they still listen more than they speak at events such as the wonderful one staged by the New England Regional Turfgrass Foundation each March.
The return of in-person conferences and shows offers opportunities to listen to speakers and examine products. The 2022 New England Regional Turfgrass Conference & Show attracted more than 1,600 attendees and 135 exhibitors, according to NERTF executive director Gary Sykes. The foundation has funded more than $2.5 million of turf research since 1998. New England superintendents and turf managers are fortunate to attend a preseason event tailored to their learning needs. They are also fortunate that the foundation staging the event invests in research to handle potential problems in a complex region to maintain high-quality turfgrass.
Other fabulous organizations exist in other regions. They are designed to link professionals and help make demanding jobs a bit more tolerable. They only remain viable if they receive ample participation. Observing a few successful people at one of their events — in last month’s case, Tim and Terry — leads to understanding the value of learning through participation.
Our columnists, Tim, Terry, Henry DeLozier, Bradley Klein and Matthew Wharton are current versions of the upperclassmen who guided me through the early stages of my journalism career. I listen to every word when they speak. More important, I observe how they handle themselves when I see them in person.
We’re fortunate in the turf industry that mentors fill the seats and aisles of reoccurring events. Their presence and actions show us what can be achieved by treating your 50th year in the business like your first.
Wandering eyes and an appreciative attitude can be the terrific learning tools.