By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Macho Madness Happy Trails
Placeholder Image
"When you come to a fork in the road, take it."

- Baseball great Yogi Berra

It's funny sometimes, how life works out.

Last spring I sent the editor of the Ripon Record a short news article about my son and some of his former Ripon High School classmates graduating from the University of California, Santa Barbara. As many regular readers of this column know, I live in Ripon, and with six RHS class of 2006 kids graduating together from UCSB, I thought it would make a neat story.

It was the type of article that runs in community newspapers throughout the country during the graduation season. We've had similar articles submitted to The Leader, Times, and News over the years, and gladly run them.

Except this time, the editor of the Ripon newspaper emailed me back.

With a rather interesting proposal.

It's a small community, the news reporter business. As a journalist, you tend to read other newspapers, and become familiar with the bylines and work of others.

It seems the Ripon editor would be leaving at the end of 2010, and he was wondering, since I was a local Ripon guy, if I would be interested in replacing him.

It being June at the time, I didn't put a lot of thought into a job change. But over the next few months I met with him a couple of times for coffee, asking him about the aspects of the position. This led to formal interviews with the general manager and owner of the Ripon Record, and earlier this month I was offered the job of editor.

It wasn't an easy decision.

Although I'm a long time Riponite, as we're called, I've really come to like the communities I cover, which are primarily Oakdale and Escalon. Those two towns, as well as Riverbank, are full of people who have a deep-rooted pride in their community; a sense of belonging, if you will, and an attachment that goes far deeper than simply an address.

Kind of like how I feel about Ripon.

But still, it was a decision that I waffled over for weeks.

I mostly cover Oakdale, concentrating on city hall, the Oak Valley Hospital District, and occasionally Oakdale High and Escalon High sports, and came to enjoy the relationships I had established over the years.

Who couldn't become enthusiastic about Oakdale High football and the program that Trent Merzon has built? Trent is so much more than simply a coach to his kids, and has carried on the Mustang tradition that as an outsider I envied, but really enjoyed writing about as a reporter.

Some of my fondest moments are of hanging out on the Oakdale sidelines with Mike House as he took game photos, talking high school football.

I also enjoyed covering a well-run city such as Oakdale. Even though city manager Steve Hallam and I were at odds at times, I came to appreciate his openness with the local media, as well as admire his expertise with development and budget issues. And I don't think I've ever met anyone, council member or not, with as much common sense as Oakdale city council member Katherine Morgan.

Then there were simply those who became good friends, such as former Oakdale Museum curator Glenn Burghardt and his wife, Laura.

I first met Glenn when I started as a reporter at the paper. During my first couple of weeks, I wandered over to the museum to try to learn a little bit about Oakdale and its history. Years later I find I still learn something new every time I talk with him.

I also met Richard Hall of Oakdale while covering a Veterans Day story a few years ago. Richard, a Vietnam combat vet, introduced to me his organization, Vets helping Vets, which focuses on local veterans and the hardships they and their families face on a daily basis.

I'm proud to call him a friend, and highly recommend his organization.

Taking the editor position would also mean leaving the outstanding staff we have here at the paper.

I was looking over some of my early columns and ran across one of my first, where I talked about being completely out of my element as a new reporter. Coming from a career in law enforcement, I was a fish out of water. This couldn't have been better illustrated than by the phone call I received on my way home during my first week.

My editor, Marg Jackson, called to tell me about an auto accident in Escalon she had heard dispatched over her scanner.

"You go through Escalon on the way home, don't you?" she asked.

We still laugh about my response, where I thanked her for giving me a heads up so I could take a different route home.

How could I know she wanted me to actually take a photo for the paper?

Marg was also instrumental in teaching me how to write as a journalist, not a cop.

Over the years, though, I found it remarkable how similar the job of a reporter is to that of a police detective. From developing sources to interviewing people, I found I could still use many of the skills I had attained in my previous life.

Which is what finally led me to decide to take the Ripon editor's job.

I'm always up for new challenges, and I wouldn't be able to beat the two-minute commute to the newspaper office. And I'm really looking forward to having dinner with my wife, Donnelle, every night.

And as many who live in Oakdale, Escalon, and Riverbank will understand, it's home.

But I'm going to miss everyone. From the Wednesday afternoon newsroom discussions with my colleagues to the great support provided by Marg and our general manager, Jennifer Marek, to all the wonderful people I've met over the years, I had found a place here.

But sometimes, as Yogi said, you have to take the fork...

Craig Macho is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. He may be reached at or by calling 847-3021.