After 42 years of writing and reporting in Fort Wayne, local journalist Blake Sebring recollects 75 stories he covered throughout his career.
These stories are some of his personal favorites and were chosen to be featured in his new book, Fort Wayne Stories.
The book highlights important stories that Sebring feels should be brought back to the public eye — stories that need to be told again.
“If they had an impact on me,” he said, “they’ll have an impact on readers.”
Starting with the Komets
Sebring began work as a reporter for the The News-Sentinel while he was a freshman at Harding High School. The then 15-year-old Sebring, who had taken a handful of journalism classes, landed the job by asking Bill Scott of the local paper how to get into the reporting business. This interaction happened while Sebring was working as a ticket taker at a school volleyball game.
“I went up and sat down next to him at the game and said, ‘How do I get into this business?’ And he’s like, ‘Can you wait until after the game, while I’m not working, and we’ll talk about it?’
Two weeks later, Scott called Sebring and offered him a job.
During his career as a writer, Sebring also worked as a correspondent for Volleyball Magazine and did sports radio work on WOWO with local sports media stalwart Kent Horman.
He has given classroom lectures on writing and gave three Mather lectures on sports at the History Center in Fort Wayne.
In a unique claim to fame, a Komets’ hockey blog written by Sebring became Allen County’s most popular blog for several years. Sebring plans to release a book detailing the minor league team’s perfect 1993 playoff run in September.
In his career at The News-Sentinel, Sebring covered more than 1,500 Komets games across 28 seasons and is only one of four people to have covered the hockey team for the paper. Sebring’s talent and dedication to the sports writing field over the past several decades has found him inducted into five halls of fame for his hard work, including the Midwest Volleyball Hall of Fame.
Choosing the Stories
Sebring said that the most difficult part of writing the nearly 300-page long Fort Wayne Stories was selecting which pieces from his long career he would include.
“I tried to pick the ones that, when I wrote them, I was most excited for people to read in the paper because I thought this is really neat, you know, I mean this is really interesting, and man this person’s really got a story to tell that could really impact some people.”
In his writing and in his recently released collection, Sebring tries to focus on people rather than events. This is, in part, to appeal to a greater audience that might not be very engaged in sports media.
“If I write about a specific sport, everybody who loves that sport will read it, but I want the bigger audience,” he said. “I want somebody that maybe wouldn’t necessarily read about that sport. So I really stress and push for the human interest side.
“I really tried to stick to those human stories. One of them was about how girls sports got started in Indiana. We can never push that enough because kids today — they don’t have any concept of that, which really shows how successful they were and those pioneers.
“But the stuff they had to go through, the intimidation, the discrimination is just ridiculous. It really shows how far we’ve come as a society. Those were brave people.”
While his new book highlights 75 of his favorite stories over the years, Sebring indicated that, due to a number of great pieces that did not make the cut, perhaps Fort Wayne will see another Sebring collection of favorites hit the shelves in the future.
“The funny thing is, now that it’s out I keep thinking, ‘Oh I should have included that one,’ you know, so maybe there will be another one someday.”
Serving the Community
Now, Sebring is a freelancer for Fort Wayne’s The Journal Gazette, though he dedicates much of his time and passion to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Indiana. There he became a part of the organization’s public relations and marketing staff.
He had also been participating in the community for over a decade as a Big Brother himself.
“That was always something that I thought I would end up doing because I love the mission so much that I thought I could really help make an impact there.”
After more than four decades of writing, several books, and plenty of articles, Sebring continues to pursue the “whys” behind the stories he covers.
“I’ve been very blessed and very thankful for people who still read. It gets harder and harder to sell books, but it’s always neat to hear the feedback.
“The biggest thing I’m getting out of this book,” Sebring said, “is people who maybe never read The News-Sentinel are reading these stories for the first time and they’re like, ‘I know that person!’ They didn’t know that person had a story in the paper. And then they’re like, ‘Oh that was fun, I find all these details about someone I knew.’
“These stories are part of what makes Fort Wayne the city it is — because of the people, and because of how we continually overcome and persevere,” Sebring said. “We have so many great examples of people.
“I will always write, books or articles. It’s part of who I am.”
Finding the Book
Sebring’s Fort Wayne Stories is available online at Amazon.com, as well as at Hyde Brothers Booksellers, Blue Jacket Clothing, Coney Island, This & That, and Visit Fort Wayne.
This & That will host Sebring for a public book signing Saturday, July 17, from 10 a.m.-noon at 3209 N. Anthony Blvd. in Fort Wayne.