I’d never given much thought to what ink smelled like.

At least not until I walked into 610 Phoenix St. in Greenwood for the first time, looking for a job. That smell — the ink— was unforgettable. Intoxicating, even. It evoked the sense of something serious, like the idea of ink and words on paper.

Unlike the digital ephemera of the internet, there was, and remains, a certain authority that comes from the printed newspaper. It’s a hard copy of history, even if it is stubbornly imperfect. A moment in time, captured on deadline.

I knew from the moment I entered the door that I wanted to be a part of it.

This time of year brings a couple of newspaper anniversaries for me. July 30 marked my sixth anniversary as a staff writer at Columbia’s Free Times. Working there has admittedly been a bit of wish fulfillment, as I grew up picking up copies of the brash, at-times irreverent alt-weekly whenever I visited the Capital City. When we moved to the Midlands in 2014, I felt extraordinarily fortunate to land a regular writing gig there, even if I didn’t quite feel “cool” enough for the task. I still don’t feel cool enough, if you want to know the truth, but I’ve managed to fool them so far.

August, meanwhile, brings my other newspaper anniversary, as it marks 16 years that I’ve been writing for the Index-Journal, in one way or another. I worked full time at 610 Phoenix for a decade, until 2014, and have continued to pen this Sunday column in the six years since. Keeping company with you on these Sunday mornings — as you eat your Honey Nut Cheerios while the Sunday news shows play in the background, or maybe as you peruse the column on your smartphone on the way to church — has been one of the foremost privileges of my life, and one I don’t take lightly.

Being a newspaper reporter and columnist is sort of like smoking cigarettes. It’s bad for your health, hard on your wallet and your parents warned you against it. It’s also ruthlessly addictive and nearly impossible to give up. In the same way smoke gets in your lungs, ink gets in your blood. Before you know it, you’re hooked.

To be certain, being a newspaperman across this past decade-and-a-half has been a particular challenge. It’s no secret that our industry has gone through massive changes as readers have shifted from print to online. In fact, the numbers are quite stark: According to Pew Research, newspaper newsroom employment across the nation fell precipitously in the last decade, from 71,000 employees in 2008 to 35,000 employees in 2019. I contend that if this happened in another industry, people would be screaming bloody murder. But not when it happens to newspapers. But that’s another column for another day. As it is, it sort of feels like we’re playing the world’s longest game of “Survivor.”

But the benefits have far outweighed the challenges, at least for me. Being associated with newspapers in South Carolina has afforded me opportunities I likely never would have otherwise had.

I’ve covered the South Carolina-Clemson football game from the sidelines. Interviewed governors and countless state legislators. Covered speeches and appearances of multiple U.S. presidents.

I’ve reported on the plight of the homeless, written about the effects of food insecurity in impoverished neighborhoods, and documented a mother’s tears as she wrapped her arms around a soldier who just stepped off a plane from a tour in Iraq. I’ve watched a firefighter carry the body of a toddler out of a burning house, been on a ride-along with the cops when they responded to a scene where more than three dozen gunshots were fired, and smuggled a digital recorder into the bond hearing of an indicted county councilman. I’ve spent a day making corn dogs at the State Fair and turned it into a column, and documented a shift working as a zombie in a haunted house. I’ve filed stories from newsrooms, from my home, from hotel rooms, from banquet halls and from the parking lot of the Huddle House. There have been late nights and early mornings and calls and texts from sources at all hours.

I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world. I’m not sure when this train is going to stop, but I’m hoping to ride for a little while longer. There are still stories to tell.

Chris Trainor is a contributing columnist for the Index-Journal. Contact him at ChrisTrainorSC@yahoo.com. You can follow him on Twitter @ChrisTrainorSC. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper’s opinion.