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It’s official. I’m old.

I never thought at the ripe old age of 21, I’d be admitting it, but it’s true.

A couple of years ago, I could party it up and hang with the best of them EVERY NIGHT OF THE WEEK. Now, I’m tired. I can’t do it.

I work insane hours Wednesday and Thursday and balance class with it all. When Friday afternoon rolls around, I sleep. I woke up at 10 p.m. tonight. Ate some supper. Caught up on TV shows.

Now, I’m sitting on my couch controlling the party going on upstairs.

The guys up there are nice. Loud, but nice. They left their cell phone number for us to communicate when things get too loud. It’s worked. But I feel ridiculous.

What’s happened to me? I can’t let 19 year olds enjoy a party on a Friday night.

I’m old. And that’s OK. I’m mature. I’ve seen a lot of things and lost a lot of sleep.

Now, at 1:30 a.m. I’m going to go lay down. Granted, I won’t sleep because it sounds like 50 people are about to fall through my ceiling. But I’m going to let them party.

Yes, at one point in my life I was crazy. I’m still a little crazy every once in a while. But the truth is, no one kept me from enjoying myself and being crazy.

So to the guy’s upstairs, have a blast. Be crazy. But please, keep the bass down.

And when you’re not partying, keep the soccer playing to a minimum. I’m seriously not confident in the structure of this building.

And to the guy who lives directly above me, you’ve gotten really good at playing guitar. In the fall, it was miserable having to listen to you try to play. But today, you serenaded me to sleep. 

Kudos.

Have fun. Sooner or later you’ll be 21 and realize that you’re old like me.

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My boss wrote this in remembrance of Amy Dye’s death. It’s a heart-wrenching letter. And I agree with Ryan. This entire situation has changed me as a person and it all started with Amy. Like Ryan, I never met the little girl. But she has affected me more than any other person in my life. She’s made me understand the importance of journalism and the role of newspapers as public watchdogs. She’s made me understand the importance of justice and fighting for the betterment of our futures. Amy Dye, you’ve affected many of us. You’ve changed us. You’ve made us fighters. We may not see all of the results yet, but what has happened to you has changed the lives of many other children. I hate that you had to die, Amy. But you’ve kept many more kids from the same fate. Thank you, Amy. I think about you every day and always will. You’ve changed me.

A Letter for Amy Dye: The world is a better place because of you

By Ryan Craig
Editor, Todd County Standard Dear Amy: We never met. Oh, I’m sure we were in the same building at your school at the same time or passed each other in the hall.
Still, though I didn’t know you then, I feel like I know you now. I’m writing this letter on a warm, wet day, unlike the cold day you knew last Feb. 4. It has been one year since … Well, let me tell you a story. I was once at one of those church programs in Clarksville on Halloween where you walk through the building and they show you a bad thing that happened — this time it was a wreck — and then take you to room that looks like where the devil lives. It was a terrible, hot and dark place that seemed to take your breath away.   Then they take you across the hall and there is this beautiful garden and a small bridge across a little fake stream. It was cool. And I don’t know how they did it (it might have been because I just came from the other room), but I have never felt more comfortable in my life. Then a man dressed like Jesus, and I knew it wasn’t Jesus, and I knew that everything in the room was there just to prove a point about the afterlife, but when it came my turn to hug the man dressed like Jesus, I hugged him so hard. It was like I had come home. I wish I could ask you questions, Amy. I wish we could talk. I’d have so much to ask you about, but the first thing I would ask is, “How is the hug when you get there?” I would also ask what it was like to go into the darkness. Were you scared? And how quick did the light come? How soon did you know that everything would be OK? Amy, after you left us, there was a great disturbance back here. There was justice. There were questions asked in your name and the answers caused a shift all the way up to the governor of Kentucky. A lot has been said and a lot has been done in your name. And maybe, with your help and the help of the one who gave you that welcoming hug, no harm will come to little girls and boys anymore. Oh, I know that is a lot to ask, but changing the hearts and minds of people had to start somewhere and it started with you, Amy. It started with you. You wouldn’t know this, but you have changed me. I took up something because of you that has caused some very important people to squirm mightily. It has also caused a great number of people to look at what we can do about better protecting those who can’t protect themselves.      There was a great battle between the little newspaper in your hometown and the State of Kentucky, and eventually truth prevailed and we were able to put pressure on those who would not seek to help other boys and girls like you. I’ve said this before, but a little girl (that’s you) from a little place went on to cause great things to happen, things that have never happened before. Still, in the past year, I have often thought about you, Amy. I have thought about you when I see a great sunset. I thought about you when the spring came and the flowers bloomed and the birds really started to sing. I thought about you, Amy, when I saw children playing in the park. I thought about you when the leaves fell and the chill of fall came. I thought of you when I watched children try to build a snowman even though there wasn’t enough snow to make a decent one. I thought of you then and many times more, but as much sadness that I have for you not being able to see or do such wonderful things again, I’m also happy that even without you here, the world is better because of you. I’m also confident that all the confusion, all the fear, all the pain stopped and all things became new when you came to the garden and got your hug. So, take care and thank you for treading softly across my old hard heart.   Your friend, Ryan
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I just want to say as someone who formerly covered the Murray State Racers in their historic season in which they defeated Vanderbilt in the NCAA tournament I am so happy for Sophie McDonald. Sophie is our Sports Editor at The Murray State News and has had the honor of writing stories not only for our publication, but also the Associated Press. There are few things I could name in my 21 years of life that I would consider more exciting than watching Murray State climb up the rankings in this undefeated season. Sitting in a sold out CFSB Center was insane. I love my Racers and I love my school. I love that Sophie has been given this opportunity to have her writing picked up by ESPN, Sports Illustrated, the New York Times and the Washington Post. Her writing has been superb. Very proud of this staff member!

Murray State v. Tennessee Tech

Murray State v. Jacksonville State

Murray State v. Austin Peay

Murray State v. UT-Martin

Photo Set

This photo set has basically nothing to do with my career, minus the fact that my parents bought me an awesome camera and gifted it to me early. Now I just have to graduate in May to justify the present.

A journalist with a crappy camera isn’t worth much. I can write stories but, as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. Now I’m equipped to write my stories in more ways than one. Thanks, Mom and Dad!

I got out my camera and still trying to figure out all of the buttons, shutter speed and aperture settings, made my surroundings my playground. I was babysitting my cousins. The youngest one did some modeling. The oldest, wrapped up in her new iPod touch was uninterested, but I snapped her and her favorite Christmas present anyway. My dog, Sparky, is a rambunctious thing. I finally got him to sit still long enough for a quick photo.

My favorite photo encompasses one of the longest-running traditions in my immediate family. Each year we buy an ornament as a keepsake for that year. This ornament is the 2011 Johnson Family Ornament. This Christmas was a special one for my family. It’s the last one we may all get to spend together for a while as I hope to graduate and find a job. As the low man on the totem pole, I predict working most of the holidays next year.

Traditions are a wonderful thing. In addition to buying a family ornament, my mom has always been adamant that my brother and I pick out an ornament each year. While taking down the tree this year, there was an extra storage box, small compared to the others. It was mine. For my ornaments. For my tree. Sorting through the many Disney and Looney Tunes characters adorning the tree proved a fun task. My taste has definitely changed over the years. So now I have 20 ornaments to decorate my own tree. (My mom refused to give me the ornament from my first Christmas.)

So from me and my lovely new camera, I wish you a belated Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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Losing it late

You may or may not know, but I began my journalistic career in sports. Through a promotion to Editor-in-Chief at The Murray State News and two news-based internships, my writing’s focus has switched to primarily news. I miss my roots.

Fortunately for me, two of my best friends and former colleagues, make up the sports desk at the local Murray Ledger & Times. Occasionally when one of them is busy or there are too many games to be covered, I get a phone call with the proposal to string a story or two.

Covering high school sports is much different than college sports. In college, the reporter sits on press row, a photographer sits on the court, SIDs print out stat sheets and coaches and players convene for a post-game press conference. In high school, it’s a one-man (or woman) show. I take the notes, record the plays and stats, take the photos and chase down coaches and players for interviews.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy it. These athletes are playing because they love the sport. Being under those Friday night lights or in the gym is what they live for. They get nothing from playing except hometown fame and possibly a scholarship for the lucky ones.

The only real negative about covering high school? The parents! They’re crazy, and not necessarily in a bad way. I almost hope to be like them one day. Sitting in the stands yelling at the refs, yelling at the coach, yelling at other parents - all in defense of their kids, except in the cases in which the child is the one being yelled at.They love their kids and there kids’ team and if anything wrong or, more commonly, negative about one of the two is published - it’s war.

Luckily there was nothing wrong with this story … that I heard about.

The reason, however, I picked to highlight this story among others is it was a crazy night. I’m not from Murray-Calloway County so I don’t consider myself of either high school team, but it’s tough to not feel a little hope for the team I’m covering - even if it’s to make writing a story a bit more fun.

This game was probably one of the craziest I’ve seen - on any level. The energy was there the whole time. I got pummeled by two of the players while shooting photos in my little corner. But I am OK, and more importantly, my camera is unharmed.

Calloway, who was not favored to win the game, never let its opponent lead in regulation. Unfortunately, the team came back, forcing the game into double OT. I have never seen such perseverance, such energy, such yearning for a victory. Calloway couldn’t hold on and lost the game. It was heart-breaking to watch, but the story wrote itself.

Watching the defeat spread across the coaches’ and players’ faces was hard to take, but seeing that dedication is by far my favorite thing about covering high school athletics. They’re not playing for money. They’re not playing for themselves. They’re playing for glory. They’re playing for their team. They’re playing for their community.

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Well, I’m a terrible blogger. This semester has been a crazy one. Only one more left after my two remaining finals! I’ll be a free woman - out in the world, living the life, hopefully with a job.

So a lot of stuff has been going on. I’ll post some links so you can catch up on what I’ve been dealing with. I haven’t written all of these stories, but each of these topics are important to me.

The first is the re-indictment of Jerry Wayne Walker for charges related to the fatal 1998 dormitory fire at Murray State University’s Hester Hall. Walker, who is now married with children, works in the public school system and is a part-time minister. The case against Walker was dropped when a jury could not reach a unanimous decision in 2001. Now the Commonwealth’s Attorney is looking to prosecute Walker after revisiting the evidence in the cold case.

Here’s a link to all of the case stories we’ve ran in The Murray State News.

Also going on at Murray State is discussion of a new library. A proposed $62 million project, the University’s president is hoping to pay for the first phase of construction through student fees. However, with much controversy on campus, administrators are seeking other alternatives.

Here’s a link to all of the library stories we’ve ran in The Murray State News.

The biggest thing that’s been going on are the results of the Amy Dye murder case that I followed during my internship in Todd County, Ky., this summer. Garrett Dye, Amy’s older brother, pleaded guilty in October to murder among other charges. An Open Records Request and lawsuit against the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services revealed some inconsistencies in the state office. Files showed previous abuse of Amy Dye, which was handled inappropriately. The Todd County Standard does not have a website, however the Lexington Herald-Leader has picked up on the story now affecting the entire state.

Here are some links related to the Amy Dye case and follow-up.

Kentucky health cabinet official resigns

Beshear orders release of state records on child abuse, neglect deaths

Kentucky’s child protection system under scrutiny after girl’s murder

Judge: Social workers ignored reports of abuse before slaying of 9-year-old

Todd County judge sentence brother to 50 years in 9-year-old’s death

It’s been an honor to be a part in all three of these continuing news events. I promise I’ll post again soon.

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Sometimes the opportunity to capture something beautiful is unexpected. I was going to a local high school to cover the Homecoming events and basketball games that night. When I pulled in to the parking lot and got out of the car, I looked up and saw this. I thought it was gorgeous. I love nature and landscapes. And while this has never been published, I think it’s good for us to remember that we don’t only have to work for what is to be published and recognized. Sometimes it’s about capturing something for yourself or those close to you. 

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One of the most heart-breaking and interesting things I covered this summer was the trial of Garrett Dye. Dye is a 17-year-old charged with allegedly murdering his 9-year-old cousin and adopted sister Amy Dye in February. It’s alleged that she was beaten with the handle of a hydraulic jack handle and died of multiple blunt force trauma. 

I couldn’t believe that I got to cover this case over the course of my time there. It was such a learning experience: being in the courtroom, interviewing lawyers, sorting through case files and dealing with such a sensitive and high profile case.

This is the first story I wrote concerning Dye. It was a pre-trial hearing in which Dye’s lawyer filed motions for a change of venue and a suppression of Dye’s alleged confession.

A change of venue hearing for Garrett Dye was set for 9 a.m. on July 1 during a pre-trial hearing on June 22.

Dye, 17, is being charged as an adult for the murder of his cousin Amythz (Amy) Rayne Dye, 9, who his parents had adopted. He is currently being lodged in a juvenile facility. He will turn 18 on Oct. 2, 2011.

Amy Dye, a fourth grade student at South Todd Elementary, was reported missing on Feb. 4, 2011 by her family. She was found dead at approximately 12:21 a.m. the following day by a search party. Autopsy results determined her cause of death to be multiple, blunt force trauma.

Amy Dye was reportedly doing yard work, despite rain and temperatures in the upper-30s, as punishment for getting into trouble at school the day she went missing.

Garrett Dye was arrested on Feb. 6 on charges of murder and resisting arrest.

His attorney, Dennis Ritchie, said he is filing for a change of venue because, as he has stated in court before, he believes Dye cannot get a fair trial in Todd County.

“There’s too much publicity, too small of a place,” Ritchie said. “It doesn’t have anything to do with Todd County, the system not being fair. But because of the nature of the case, I just don’t think we can get a fair trial here.”

Ritchie said he plans to present several witnesses as evidence for the need of a change of venue.

“We have witnesses that we’ll call in open court testify what they’ve learned about opinions of the people of Todd County about this case,” Ritchie said.

Ritchie said he will defend the county to which he would like the case to be moved if Circuit Court Judge Tyler Gill decides to grant the motion. 

“We’ll argue about that on July 1,” Ritchie said.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Gail Guiling said upon further review of the filed motion to change venue, she will plan a defense to keep the trial in Todd County.

In addition, Ritchie filed a motion for a suppression hearing which Gill will also hear on July 1. Ritchie said the motion is in regards to the statement that Dye made following his arrest.

Gill also set Garrett Dye’s trial for Nov. 7.

This date should allow enough time for lab results to be completed on several items that are being DNA tested, Gill said. The lab results are due on Oct. 12, and the resolution deadline is Nov. 2.

Published June 22, 2011. Todd County Standard.

Photo Set

At the bottom is a photo I took with an old Canon and no attachable lens while covering Murray State’s run in the NCAA tournament in 2010. On the left is my photo cropped. On the right is a photo by the Getty Images guy who was sitting right next to me. Almost identical, right? Imagine my shock when I saw the photo on ESPN and thought it was mine. I was excited and furious that they had used my photo without permission. Unfortunately, a comparison of the ball in relation to the lights show that the photos are not one in the same.

This photo comes from probably the greatest moment of my journalism career. I’ve gotten to do a lot of things, but I don’t know if anything will ever match getting to fly to California to watch my friends and classmates defeat Vanderbilt and fall by two points to the tournament runner-up, Butler. 

It was the end of my year as Sports Editor for The Murray State News. The Racers had wrapped up an incredible regular season and won the OVC tournament for an automatic bid to the Big Dance. 

My assistant sports editor and I drove to Nashville, met up with a friend and caught the plane to San Jose. Our friend had previously worked with us at the newspaper, but left school to serve overseas. He had just returned and we told him that if he would pay his airfare and tickets to watch the games, we would let him crash with us and help cover the tournament.

We spent our days watching practices and games and our nights making posters for him to hold up, blogging, writing stories and shooting videos to post online. We spent off days and nights walking around the city. We took a bus to Santa Cruz for some beach action, stumbled into and quickly left a vegan restaurant (my assistant was a red meat sort of guy), ate the most expensive lunch of our lives, played beach volleyball with some random kids on spring break and met up with members of Racer Band for supper.

Covering the tournament was an amazing experience. My assistant sat on press row and I took to the sidelines to shoot the game. My allotted rectangle was next to those of Getty Images and Sports Illustrated. AMAZING!!!

Watching Murray State play in those games, seeing the passion of all of the coaches and athletes, feeling my heart race as Danero Thomas’ jump shot sailed through the air for a buzzer-beating win over Vandy and sharing the heartbreak of the loss to Butler are all emotions and images I’ll never forget.

I was 19 at the time, two years into a student journalism career and sitting on the sidelines of the NCAA tournament. Words cannot describe the experience.

We had to switch hotels to make from for family of Murray State’s coach at the time Billy Kennedy (good luck at Texas A&M). We took a media shuttle to and from HP Pavilion. We helped an AP reporter write her story because we knew everything there was to know about that Murray State team.

I have many years left in my career, but it will take an indescribable experience to match that of the 2010 NCAA tournament.

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Life as a journalist doesn’t always require sitting at a computer or attending some wacky event or boring meeting. This week I found myself shedding clothes to avoid getting them dirty for some sidewalk chalk drawing in a parking lot next to our office. We were working on a cover for our Back to School special section. It’s tradition at the Todd County Standard to make the cover look like a child did it. In the past we’ve used crayons and construction paper, but I wanted to do something different. Hence the sidewalk chalk. The final product is yet to come out, but there are some cute drawings outside. And I scorched my left palm. I guess that’s what I get for playing on asphalt on the first day of August.