Four Questions with Leader-Tribune news editor Victor Kulkosky

GHSF Daily is expanding its Four Questions feature this season beyond head coaches to other voices in high school football. Today's interviewee is Victor Kulkosky, news editor of The Leader-Tribune newspaper in Fort Valley. Kulkosky grew up in New York City and moved to Georgia in 1990. It took some years, but he eventually took to Southern-fried high school football in a big way. He has been covering Peach County for eight seasons, or until injured on the sidelines during a game on Sept. 14.

Victor Kulkosky, news editor, The Leader-Tribune 

1. First of all, what happened on the sidelines? "It was in the fourth quarter of the Peach County-Mary Persons game. A play ran out of bounds, and somebody ran into me full speed, probably from M.P., but it's not clear, as attention wasn't on me. I was put on a board, head contraption and all that stuff, and wheeled off while giving a thumbs up to the cheering crowd. I was taken to Navicent Health in Macon and diagnosed with a broken joint between the hip and the femur. Also a broken rib, now healed. Surgeons replaced the joint and put in a plate and screws. I've been in rehab for a few weeks now. I confess to feeling kind of lost on Friday nights. Doctors don't want me on the field, and getting to the press box is too hard right now. There's nothing like that Friday Night Lights experience, however, and I want to get back to it, despite the risks."

2. What's your background, and how did you wind up at the Leader-Tribune? "Born in New Jersey, raised in New York City. After some early missteps in early adulthood, I wound up working at a financial technology magazine downtown. The last place I worked was 2 World Trade Center. I joined the Baha'i Faith along the way. A mutual friend introduced me to my wife-to-be (all Baha'is), who lived in Bonaire [a small town in Houston County]. I wound up moving down here in 1990 in preparation for marriage. After a few not very fruitful years of freelancing, I went back to school at Fort Valley State to earn a formal degree in journalism. I actually saw my first live football game at FVSU. I got my first, part-time newspaper job at The Leader-Tribune. The job didn't include sports. My wife got the opportunity to return to UGA for a doctorate, with support from FVSU, where she taught social work. While there I wound up enrolling as well to get an M.A. in mass communications. Sports still wasn't a big thing in my life. As an American male, I of course paid some attention to sports and followed my teams, but I wasn't yet crazy about it. Years earlier, my wife Terri was a flag girl in the Redcoat Band and one of the group of African-American students to integrate the band, yet we didn't attend any games in four years there. Between two people working on advanced degrees and raising a child, there wasn't much time for sports. When we returned to FVSU, I went back to The Leader-Tribune, but it was still several years before I got into sports. We had a sports correspondent at the time and stringers who took photos. Eventually, around 2010, I decided to try taking football photos. When A.W., our sports correspondent, took ill and later passed away, I added sports to my portfolio. I read other newspapers to get a sense of how to do it, and I got hooked. I also cover other sports - basketball, softball, soccer, baseball and, just recently, volleyball, a new sport at Peach County. I make a point of giving attention to the girls' sports, something which has earned me a lot of appreciation in the community."

3. Newspapers have changed, mostly struggled, since you entered the business as the Internet and even social media provide the news much quicker. What's the value of high school sports now for middle- to smaller-town newspapers? "Sports is one of the best read sections of the paper. While TV stations and bigger papers such as the Macon Telegraph will give some attention to high school sports, they can't give the kind of personal attention that I can as the local guy. Also, sports really does transcend differences of politics, race and class. Everybody comes out on Friday night, and we're all united for those few hours. And for the other sports, only the local paper, me in particular, comes out regularly except around playoff time. On our Facebook page, sports posts consistently get more views than most other posts."

4. Why have you come to like high school football so much, and to what extent was that influenced by Peach County football? "It gets into the blood. You step onto the field and smell the grass (if it's real) and the grill smoke, and hear the coaches shouting and the players grunting and chanting. The band starts rocking, the chants echo through the field, the captains march out and meet at midfield, the coin is tossed, the team rips through the banner and charges onto the field to the roars of the crowd. Anybody who can resist all of that is probably not human. It helps that Peach County has been a winning program for a long time; that makes it easier. On the other six nights a week, I'm lucky to keep my eyes open past 9 p.m., but on Football Friday Night, I'm wired past midnight. To add perspective: My wife Terri was seriously ill for a few years, to the point where I had to cut back on covering sports to spend more time with her. Terri insisted I keep going to football games because of the joy I got out of it. I kept covering football until the last few weeks. When my wife was in hospice, the week of the title game, Coach [Chad] Campbell told me, "We'll bring it home for you." They would have, but don't get me started on that. So yes, P.C. football is special for me. If I could get paid decent money to only cover high school sports, I'd gladly drop politics, crime and all that other stuff." [Dr. Terri Kulkosky, former chair of the department of behavioral sciences at Fort Valley State University, passed away on Dec. 7, her 61st birthday.]

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