When Nick Drake joined the Transcript-Bulletin as sports editor in 1984 he was a freshly minted USU grad far from his native Zanesville, Ohio — an outsider who faced the daunting task of covering tightly knit and often insular rural communities that were fanatic about their local sports. Almost a quarter century later, Nick is an institution in Tooele County. You can’t walk into a restaurant or store in the county with Nick without being waylaid by his friends. He has covered generations of athletes and coaches, and his presence at fields and courts from Wendover to Tooele has reassured countless spectators that their local paper is paying attention.
Nick couldn’t have known he’d enjoy such a long run with the paper when he started back in ’84. In those days, the Transcript editorial staff was a three-man band comprised of Editor Charlie Roberts, reporter Dave Bern and Nick. Dugway had a football team then and a typical assignment for Nick would be to cover a game in Dugway, drive back through Johnson’s Pass late at night, bang the article out on a manual typewriter, then help cut it out, wax it and paste it to the boards for the next issue.
It was during this time when Nick developed the night-owl habits that carried through his career. These were partially formed by the need to interview coaches after games, but partially by the writer’s need for a quiet space in which to write. Co-workers got used to seeing Nick either looking preternaturally lively at 10 p.m. or bleary-eyed at 5 a.m. In those quiet hours in between, he often wrote anywhere from 6 to 10 stories himself, filling up the night with breathless accounts of epic battles and underdog victories that would delight readers the following afternoon.
I have known many journalists from many countries, and each of them had a different motivation for the work they do. Some love the reporting with the joy of an archeologist digging out deeper layers. Others love the writing, stitching words together. Some are on fire to see justice done, some want to thumb their nose at authority, and some would simply feel mute without the “second voice” their publication gives them.
For 23 years, Nick’s motivation was simply to please the kids he wrote about. He had a vision of community journalism that was all about positive coverage and getting kids names into the paper. He loved to shine the spotlight where it usually didn’t go — on offensive linemen, rebounding power forwards or discus throwers. In a Nick Drake sports story, even the most lopsided defeat has a silver lining.
Perhaps the biggest mark he has left on the paper has been the way he has diversified its sports coverage. When Nick started, the Transcript was mainly about the Big Three of football, boys basketball and baseball — all with a heavy Tooele emphasis. Over the years, Nick changed that, devoting more space to girls sports and sports that were then considered “minor,” like golf, volleyball and track. He expanded coverage of Grantsville, Dugway and Wendover high schools. That was a product of the way he, as an newcomer, saw the county — not in terms of loyalty to the town he’d grown up in but rather in terms of loyalty to all the towns he’d gotten to know at the same time. Nick has lived in Tooele, Stansbury Park and Grantsville, worked weekends as a radio sports announcer in Wendover, and owns property in Stockton, where he may yet settle.
Nick’s contribution to Tooele County sports will live on in the generations of kids he’s covered. I was one of those kids, a “prep of the week” back in 1987, as was Transcript-Bulletin photo editor Troy Boman. In fact, Nick has covered the kids of kids he covered more than two decades ago. He’s given generations of fairly ordinary athletes like myself a clipping that we can pull out to show how fit and talented we once were.
He’s also been recognized statewide for his work, winning numerous awards from the Utah Press Association. In 2000-2001 he was given the Utah High School Activities Association’s Distinguished Service Award for his contributions to high school athletics in the state.
Today’s edition of the Transcript-Bulletin is the last of more than 2,500 editions to carry Nick’s byline as sports editor. He’s leaving us to pursue other opportunities, and while we wish him well, we’re sad to see him go. We’re losing perhaps the most well-known journalist the paper has ever had — and a terrific colleague, friend and mentor to the entire newsroom staff.
Grantsville native and veteran Transcript-Bulletin reporter Mark Watson will be taking over as sports editor. Mark has a wealth of experience, including having served as sports editor for the Davis County Clipper. He’s looking forward to diving into the county sports scene — a scene that’s been made considerably richer by the 23-year contribution of Nick Drake.