As I sit here at my desk, staring out into the newsroom, part of me still just wants to laugh. After all, there is more history to my working here than most are aware of, and I think, certainly more than even the staff are aware of.
I didn’t always want to be a journalist. In fact, I was one of those rare kids who was quite steadfast in what I wanted to be from a young age, which was a teacher. I wanted to be an English teacher, who would write novels on the side. It wasn’t until the 8th grade, when a teacher commented that I would make a good reporter that the idea ever crossed my mind. Even then, I didn’t take it all that seriously.
Thank the Lord for my mother though. Whether she knew it or not at the time, she had put more merit into this short-lived idea of journalism than I did.
I was 14 when I was first introduced to the world of journalism. It was take your kids to work day, and my mom, knowing I had no interest in sitting around a doctor’s office or hanging out with my dad at the factory, approached one of our two local newspapers to ask if they would take me for the day. Much to my surprise, they said yes.
It was the first time I set foot in this building, and the newsroom looked a lot different back then. I spent part of the day helping to rewrite press releases, a craft I had never known existed, and then had the chance to shadow one of their reporters to an interview. She was meeting with a woman who had recently been reconnected with her long-lost and far estranged father. As we sat there, listening to her share her story of how she found him, the journey it took to get there, and the mixed feelings as she encountered him for the first time in her life, I fell in love.
It was just a spark — a glimpse of something I couldn’t quite comprehend then — but it rooted itself deep within my soul. Without fully consciously realizing it, I had discovered that I wanted to tell other people’s stories, to share them with the world. We went back to the newsroom, the dusty, dark and strange place that felt so foreign to me, and I was allowed to help write the story.
That week, I had my first by-line. It was shared of course, but it was still there, solid black against the gray of the newspaper.
Off and on throughout high school I began to do my research about journalism. It flickered in and out of the potential spectrum of post-secondary schooling, but even after graduating high school I wasn’t sure it was the better choice. I knew Teacher’s college would be a breeze, and I knew I would be good at it. Journalism was such a risky option. I knew nothing about it, and beyond that one by-line, I had never been published.
But I took the plunge, and much to my surprise, I did rather well. The harder it was, the more my passion flourished.
There was one minor problem however. For a short time, I was over-romanced by the fast-paced, larger-than-life experiences of the city journalists. I lost sight of why I had started down the path, instead fantasizing about living the dream in the big city.
It’s not surprising, as I’ve always been that way. As a child, I was so desperate to fit in that I would beg mom to buy me the pretty party dress, only to discover once I had it on that it was not me, and I was lost inside of it. I felt like wearing it was forcing me to conform into someone I could never be.
I didn’t even realize I had done that to myself until several years after graduation. I had been out of the field for three or four years due to lack of work, and had given up after a few failed attempts of trying to peddle myself as a freelancer. I didn’t want to work for a small town paper, where there would be nothing of interest to write about, and I certainly didn’t want to live in a small town where there was nothing to do.
Then within a few weeks of one another, both papers brought me on as a freelancer, and my heart set fire again. I found a renewed love of this town, and started realizing that the stories I could tell here were far more in line with my passions than the crazy news-oriented style of the city papers.
Eight months ago, the very same publication I had my first ‘newsroom’ encounter in brought me on as a full-time freelancer. Just over a month ago, a staff reporter. It’s still all a bit surreal.
So now, as I sit, staring out at the newsroom, only remembering it slightly as it was, I have to chuckle. Out of all the places, in all the world that I could have gone to with the education I received, here I am, back where it all started.
And I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t absolutely thrilled about that.