Source: Knoxville News Sentinel | Brittany Crocker | August 8, 2017

KBJ column

Photo: Calvin Mattheis, Knoxville News Sentinel

The day he told me I would take over the Energy beat Frank Munger carved out more than 35 years ago, Jack McElroy, our executive editor, slid two handwritten letters to me across the round table in his office.

The letters, both from concerned readers, lamented Frank’s retirement and urged the News Sentinel to fill his position quickly.

It was immediately evident that I had a hard act to follow.

That wasn’t totally news to me. I grew up in Knoxville and attended summer camps in Oak Ridge. Even from Washington D.C., where I was living when I filed my first application for this position, I recalled the man who had become a household name.

Still, the gravity did not set in until the day I took over the beat.

At once, my carefully decorated cubicle walls were overwhelmed with flow charts, to-do lists and all-caps sticky notes reminding me which contractors handled which operations at which Energy Department site.

It probably doesn’t help that I’m only the second person here to try to figure it all out.

I started the only way I knew how. I called every office I could think of and introduced myself. I started scheduling tours: ORNL, TVA, Y-12 and the East Tennessee Technology Park were the obvious ones. Word got around fast though, and invitations to check out other outfits quickly deluged my inbox.

I think I’ve learned more in my first few months on the job than I did in two years of grad school. There’s really never a dull moment, or one in which I don’t have a question. The main thing right now is sorting out the best places to get answers–something that I’m sure just comes with time.