Not long ago, almost every Sedalia-area activity had one thing in common: Randy Kirby.
The managing editor/photographer for the Sedalia Weekly Observer (most remember it as the News Journal) was seemingly present at every local news event, community gathering and sports contest, snapping scores of photos for the weekly paper’s print edition and website. Then suddenly, in October, the paper ceased publication and Kirby stopped showing up at events.
In November, the Democrat’s Nicole Cooke reported: “The (Observer) has been owned by Chad Melton, son of original owner Greg Melton, since January 2014, but he left Sedalia abruptly in April to return to Nashville, Tenn. Both Kirby and (Pete) Daniels said Greg has been helping the paper since July, but Greg declined to comment to the Democrat, stating he is not associated with the paper and it is still owned by Chad.”
Kirby told me Greg Melton tried to keep the paper going after his son left.
“I was surprised, I wish (Chad) had kept it going, sold it to somebody who is able to run it and sell ads,” Kirby said. “It just kind of fell apart. I was the most upset out of anybody, because I just loved doing it.”
Susan Mergen, director of development at the Center for Human Services and a member of the Women’s Service League, said Kirby “seemed to be everywhere, and he was always on time. He very rarely missed an opportunity to cover an event.”
“I found him always to be very attentive to whatever event he was covering, whether it was a sporting event or Cupid’s Ball or a Children’s Therapy Center event,” Mergen added. “He covered what he could, and he always did a great job.”
Having started at the weekly in 1992, Kirby “could never envision the end of the road for the paper, I thought it would go on forever. I know that is unrealistic. I was pretty much a one-man band. … I just wish somebody had scooped it up and kept it going … But it didn’t happen, so I have to move on.”
Today, Kirby is still looking for full-time employment. He has done some freelance work for KSIS Radio’s website and in February a couple of his stories and photos are set to be published in Missouri Life magazine.
“Other than that, it has been really slow going,” he said.
Kirby has been keeping his skills sharp by shooting and editing performance videos for area bands, such as Sweetshot and Full Moon Band, then posting his work on YouTube and Facebook.
“I thought since I go see these bands live and in person, and I like their music so much, I would help promote them, record them and see what I could do for them visually,” he said. “I’ve been told it helps them get gigs … at other venues. I only go to the bands that I like to see, so it is a labor of love.”
That feeling is mutual from bands.
“Oh, they love it, they absolutely love it,” Kirby said. “They don’t mind me sticking the camera in their face if they know they are going to end up on YouTube and Facebook. It helps them, it helps me.”
Kirby has put in applications for various positions around town, but has yet to hear anything back in the way of employment. He wants to remain in Sedalia since his family and girlfriend live here, and he is hopeful his connections over the years and his tireless work ethic will keep the odds in his favor.
“Randy was always great to work with, very personable, and took a great shot,” Mergen said.
With his video production and continuing job hunt, Kirby is trying to keep himself busy until that next opportunity arises.
“I get bored if I’m not taking pictures or eating,” he said with a laugh.
Bob Satnan is the communications director for Sedalia School District 200.