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Rick Ryan LeMond

Those were the days: Staff writer Rick Ryan (right), then a reporter for the Asheville (N.C.) Citizen-Times, interviews cycling great Greg LeMond in 1994.

This is the end.

No, I’m not channeling my inner Jim Morrison, but I am walking through a door to another dimension … retirement.

Starting today, for the first time in nearly 44 years, I am no longer working full time at a daily newspaper. I’ve wrapped up more than 27½ years at the Gazette-Mail to go along with 12 years at The Intelligencer in Wheeling (1978-90) and 4½ years at the Citizen-Times in Asheville, North Carolina (1990-94).

A lot has changed since Feb. 2, 1978, my first day on the job in Wheeling.

Like the way you produce stories. Then, it was still on electric typewriters. You had to be at your desk to make a phone call, since there were no mobile phones. Cameras used film and were not always cooperative, especially if you weren’t quite sure what you were doing.

But for me, one thing hasn’t changed in all that time.

Then and now, every single thing I did — every story, every interview, every schedule, every tedious line in every tiny box score I typed, I had one thing in mind: What’s best for the reader?

That was the case back in 1978 when I was taking 45-minute phone calls typing in results of league track meets, and that’s still the case when I dutifully post links to Gazette-Mail stories on my Twitter account.

Don’t shortchange the readers. What would they want? That’s been my lone motto.

Because this job has never been about me. I’ve never craved to have my opinions heard, never used the newspaper as a personal sounding board, never trumpeted some sort of hidden agenda. I always peered through the lens of, hopefully, making things better for our subscribers.

If I was going to boast about anything, it would be having only two sick days in 44 years and giving at least eight hours each and every day to my job, even when it wasn’t always required.

Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean everyone enjoyed everything I wrote. Far from it. I’ve gotten my share of criticism — sometimes warranted — and have been hit with claims of favoritism, which were never accurate.

The way I look at it: If I’ve informed, infuriated and entertained readers throughout my career, then I’ve done my job as a journalist.

As for today, there’s no need to reminisce about some of the most memorable games, coaches or athletes I’ve come across because I did all that when COVID first hit last year, a long series dubbed “Total Recall: A Life on the Sidelines.” It’s still online, and you can look it up.

Through it all, I’ve worked with dozens and dozens of people, far too many to name, but I remember them all — including nine different sports editors. I like to think I’ve taken a little bit or left a little bit with each one of them.

I still intend to cover an occasional game, when they’ll let me, even though battling deadlines is often the least favorite part of the job. Because you write in haste what’s eventually read at leisure, and you can’t always shape the story as well as you want.

I’ve had dozens of deadline dreams through the years, and most of them weren’t exactly sweet dreams. But it’s the only job I know, so I live with it.

Yes, I might be a dinosaur in some respects, but I’m not extinct yet. At least, as far as I know.

Rick Ryan covered prep sports. For now, he can still be reached at 304-348-5175 or rickryan@hdmediallc.com. Follow @RickRyanWV on Twitter.