This is my 35th year at the Journal-News and I cover Middletown and Monroe, restaurants/bars and write a Sunday column that focuses on the people behind the stories in Butler County. I started here in 1987 as a sports writer when a legend, longtime Middletown Journal Sports Editor Jerry Nardiello, hired me from the Dayton Daily News where I had worked since 1980.
I’m thankful for Nardiello and for all the other great journalists who have crafted my career. During my years at the Dayton Daily News/Journal Herald, I worked with three men who were inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, Si Burick, Ritter Collett and Hal McCoy. Dayton has three HOFers and the Cincinnati media has zero.
There have been plenty of other men and women who took me under their wings and showed me the importance of accuracy over being the first to report the news. The media, now more than ever, is hated, so sometimes our hardest job is gaining the trust of our readers and sources. You can’t burn bridges in this business.
On a personal note, I’m thankful for the years I spent with my mother-in-law who died this year from cancer. I never took her for granted and for that, I have no regrets.
I’m also thankful that for the last 30 years, I was founder and chairman of the McCrabb Open, a charity golf tournament that granted wishes for children with cancer. This was our 30th and final year of playing the McCrabb Open, though we will continue to grant wishes.
Michael D. Clark, education reporter
I’m in my 37th year as a journalist and among the many things I’m grateful for this Thanksgiving is being the area’s only still-active daily newspaper reporter to have worked for the three major newspapers in the Greater Cincinnati area with stints at the Cincinnati Post, the Cincinnati Enquirer ― and since 2015 ― the Journal-News.
And not by chance has almost all of my newspaper career been spent reporting on education. Nearly every important issue in America travels at some point through schools or permeates the operations of those schools and their communities.
If you suffer, as I do, from life-long curiosity about the ways of the world, then the K-12 and higher education beat is damn good medicine.
And it’s the people and their work in schools - with whom I’ve had the privilege to report on ― that matter the most to readers and it’s an honor to cover such an important news beat.
My respect for good educators was further refined in the 1990s when I did the single, most important interview among the thousands I’ve done so far. I interviewed a bright, beautiful and big-hearted Cincinnati teacher who later said “yes” to the idea of marrying me.
Together we have helped raise our beloved mentee Shannice Clark, owner of a master’s degree from the University of Cincinnati, along with enjoying the many blessings of helping with the upbringing of seven loving nieces and nephews.
I am thankful for my wife Cherese, who has re-written this reporter’s life into a much richer story in countless ways I could have never imagined before her. This Thanksgiving ― and every other day ― I thank The Lord for her.
Denise G. Callahan, Butler County government reporter
I have been a reporter for Cox since 2006 but have been a reporter for 35 years. I am responsible for covering Butler County including all elected office holders, departments and independent boards; Ross and West Chester townships and occasionally some of the smaller jurisdictions countywide. I also keep track of civil lawsuits involving Butler County jurisdictions.
Believe it or not, when I graduated from Marquette University’s Journalism School I never wanted to be a reporter, I was going to write commercials. Then our first son J.P. was born and we didn’t want someone else raising him so I quit my full-time job and started working part-time as a stringer for suburban community newspapers in Chicago. I would write on my old typewriter at our kitchen table and load the kids in the car and drive my copy to the newspaper for years.
We moved from Chicago to Atlanta to Carmel, Indiana and settled here in Miami Twp. in Clermont County in 2003. Along the way I worked for various newspapers and magazines — much of the time part-time while our boys were young — some of them include the Daily Herald, Topics newspapers, The Indiana Lawyer, Indianapolis Star, Michigan and Ohio Lawyers Weekly and now the Journal-News.
I am so grateful this profession allowed me to do what I love and be a full-time mom to our three sons: J.P. who is in his final year at the University of Chicago Law School after serving as an officer in the U.S. Army for 11 years. He already has a job at one of the top Chicago law firms; Nicholas who has a master’s degree in business engineering from Duke University and an MBA from Florida State and is a successful project manager in Raleigh, N.C. and Bryan who earned a degree from Ohio Northern University in project management and played football. He is also a successful project manager for DeBra-Kuempel and part-time high school football coach in Columbus. We also have three beautiful, smart and talented daughters-in-law Taylor, Hannah and Michaela. Proud mom? You bet. God has truly blessed me with a wonderful husband Jimmy and our beautiful family.
I am also thankful to work with a great group of journalism professionals and cover important topics and public servants who truly care about their community and work hard every day to make their residents’ lives better.
Michael D. Pitman, Hamilton and Fairfield reporter
I’ve been covering local government and community news in southwest Ohio for more than 23 years, all with Cox First Media. I grew up in Wyoming in Hamilton County and now live on the west side of Cincinnati with my wife, Christy, and daughters, Emma and Sophia (and our two dogs, Indy and Anna ― both named for Indiana Jones, a favorite movie with my family).
Reflecting on my career and my lifelong residency in southwest Ohio, I’m really thankful for the things in my life. First, my family, and the pride I have for them. They inspire me to be a better person. My wife, Christy, is a loving teacher in Norwood and an inspiration to the children she instructs. My oldest daughter, Emma, is a freshman in an honors program at Xavier University and really grew up way too fast. My youngest, Sophia, a sixth-grader and excellent dancer, and like her sister, is growing up way too fast.
My journalism career started in college, when I transferred from the University of Cincinnati as a criminal justice major to a communication arts major at the College of Mount St. Joseph. I transferred mainly because I wanted to continue my wrestling career, which ended after I tore my ACL. My first journalism job was with the Mason Pulse-Journal, which was eventually purchased by the owners of the Journal-News some nine months after I started. I worked for a number of the products of the newspaper group.
I’m thankful for a lot, including new friends and old friends, and especially thankful for my career, which over the years, has inspired me to really study the art of writing. I started to write creatively on the side, and eventually found a group of writer friends in Central Cincinnati who I don’t think I would have found without this job. They, like my family, have inspired me to be better. And that’s what I try to do. Be better every day.
Lauren Pack, courts and crime reporter
I grew up in Kettering and graduated from Ohio University with a degree in journalism in 1982. I worked in Louisville, Ky. reporting for three years after college, and moved to Preble County in 1986 where I was editor and writer of the local newspaper.
I began covering courts and crime in Butler and Warren counties in 1994. My beat includes all police and sheriff activities in the region.
Avery Kreemer, enterprise reporter
There are some professions where, if you talk to a random person inside of it, you get the sense that they are a perfect ambassador for it — either in the aspect that brought them to the profession or the aspect that keeps them there. Reporting, for me, had been my goal for nearly a decade before I got my position at the Journal-News this past summer, at the ripe age of 24.
And, in the time that I’ve spent working with and alongside my colleagues, I’ve found the above adage to be true. The folks here and at our sister papers believe sharing the stories of our communities is integral; and I’m grateful to be a part of that.
I started as an intern with the Dayton Daily News, where I helped cover the aftermath of a tornado ripping through Montgomery County in 2019. Now I’m here in Butler and Warren counties, where some of my focus has been health care, affordable housing and utilities as well as following important data that informs us all.
I consider myself lucky to have been blessed, not only with opportunity, but with friends, family, a loving partner and good health.
Nick Graham, photojournalist
I have been photographing people and events in Butler and Warren counties over the last 20 years. I spent a few years freelancing for The Middletown Journal before landing a staff job 17 years ago with a great group of photographers.
From my time in the Ohio University Visual Communication program to today, I have had the opportunity to document everything from high school, college and professional sports to breaking news to Presidents and more seeing many smiles, laughter and tears along the way. I have seen people on the worst days of their life covering tragedy and people on their best days.
I am happy to live and work in the community I grew up in. I am grateful for my family who puts up with my crazy hours. I am grateful to have learned from and worked with some amazing photographers, reporters and editors over the years and I am grateful for all the people I have met and friends I have made while photographing the community I know and love.
Amy Burzynski, editorial support specialist
I began working at the Journal-News part time in 2005 as the editorial assistant. After a couple years, I applied for a full time position as my kids got older and were in school. I continue to do that same job today. Looking back, I realized I did get my start in newspapers earlier in life. I was a staff writer on our high school newspaper for two years.
I am responsible for filling the inside local pages, including Local Focus, crime reports, school briefs, and weekly calendars. I take that content and use it to publish stories online. I help identify possible stories submitted by readers through email and phone calls. I respond to callers who need help finding information or getting copies of past newspapers. I create photo galleries for various events and school projects. I enjoy learning new and exciting things about the media business.
I am thankful for my family. My husband, children and grandchildren are the greatest blessings I have ever received.
Mandy Gambrell, Journal-News managing editor
I am a life-long Hamilton resident and my job is to manage the editorial operations of the Journal-News. I lead our journalists through their coverage and make decisions on what publishes. It was a long journey getting to this position.
As a journalism student at Miami University in 2002, I decided to walk into the Journal-News office on Court Street in Hamilton and ask then-managing editor Lisa Warren for a job. “I just want to read through it and help find errors,” I told her. She was impressed I had come in there, so she walked me out of her office and over to the copy desk chief to ask what I can do with them. That desk of people taught me to design news pages, the importance of Associated Press style, and really how to know what your readers expect. I got way more experience there than I did in college.
Lisa died in 2010, but I think she watches over me and helps me get that gut feeling about whether something should publish.
I am so thankful for the chance she took on me, and the previous roles within journalism that led me to this point. Once I left the copy desk I moved into editing various news sections, then I became an editor at Cox First Media’s weekly newspapers and business magazine. Eventually I helped lead a breaking news team for all of Cox, at our Dayton location, when we were combined with newspapers, radio, television and digital. It was great experience. But I always wanted to be with the Journal-News, my hometown news outlet. I love this region and am happy to be part of telling its stories.
Get a hold of us