A newsroom to me is what a concert is to a music junkie. I live for the phone calls, the chatter, the conversations, the work. It is seldom ever quiet, much like a concert. Between Luke and Denise’s witty banter with one another, Kim slicing away on pages, and Jane quietly laughing at the columns yet to be printed, the newsroom has its own sort of musical rhythm that I have greatly grown to appreciate over the past two months.
Someone said for the short time I have been here, I was leaving with years of memories to write about, and I couldn’t have said it better myself. There were many times spent talking with Jane about movies, invasive animals or anything else that crossed into our conversations. Kim and I now share a special bond over the love of tigers (and the bar jokes she told me along the way). The countless times Luke gave me a story lead and showed me the ropes of working as a small-town journalist. And any time that Denise got up from her desk to tell us something I just knew it was going to be good, and it always was!
Maybe what makes this paper special is the camaraderie between the people putting out the paper. Maybe it was because during my time here you had not one but two Davis R-XII Valedictorians (myself and Denise) writing and doing the news. It can be many things that make this paper special, but I think it’s the symphonic way that the news team works together to take stories and information and puts it in the hands of readers.
But like any concert, there are bound to be interludes where the music has stopped, but the ambiance is still fantastic. There is a certain quietness that comes over the newsroom after the paper goes to print. The hum of the heater. Keyboards quietly clacking away. An occasional gurgle of the coffee pot. The steady thump of the printer running on the floor below us, inking in the words, stories and images onto the pages that make up the news of our community. In these blissfully quiet moments, I often find myself reminiscing on how I ended up sitting at this desk.
As a son of this community it has felt like a story coming full circle. I first fell in love with writing at Davis R-XII Elementary School, just north of La Due. The earliest memory I have of writing something I felt proud of was in Mrs. Meyer’s first and second grade class where I wrote a short story about a dragon and a castle. I would later write many more pages (by hand mostly) for Ms. Henry, Ms. Mefford and the most impactful person on my writing, Mrs. Johnson. Mrs. Johnson required research papers that started with in depth research and ended with a polished final typed paper and a presentation to go with it. There are many similarities among reporting the news and doing a research paper; researching is a skill once received with much pre-teen eyerolling, and I now welcome it as an old friend for each story I work on.
One of the biggest influences on my writing and career path while at my high school alma mater, Montrose High School, was the business teacher and yearbook advisor I had. Mrs. Robyn Eckhoff gave me tools I needed to become the journalist I am today. I remember her getting out a red pen and absolutely shredding your page, “making it bleed” as we would say. She didn’t expect perfection, but she was going to get the very best work out of you. It makes me smile thinking of all the miles Mrs. Eckhoff spent driving me and my classmates to various conferences and meetings and the many antics we pulled while under her supervision.
After graduating from the University of Saint Mary in Leavenworth, Kansas in the spring of 2022 I plan on going to Mizzou to get my masters of Photojournalism. The dream is to take that knowledge and work for National Geographic or another photography heavy publication.
As a college student, studying journalism and communications, it has been a truly special experience to work for a real publication. As a writer and photographer, no matter how forward the world moves digitally, nothing beats the feeling of holding a tangible piece of your work in your hands. To work at the same place my great-grandmother Gertrude Keller, grandpa and grandma Gene and Doriene Swabby and papa Bob Steward once did was endearing in itself.
I once heard a quote that went something like this, “Journalists are recording the first draft of history.” After my time at the Democrat, I would say that is very true. The interviews I gave, the stories I wrote and the photos I took could one day be the history of this time. Small town news is not something that should be taken lightly. The stories of the business owners, substitute teachers, community members, and children of this area are just as important as the stories being told in national publications.
It cannot go without saying that I am immensely grateful for both the opportunity to intern at the Clinton Daily Democrat and for the warm welcome from the community members and readers. I wanted to extend my sincerest thanks to those who let me interview them and document about a piece of their life.
I also wanted to make sure to thank the staff at the Democrat for letting a fledgling journalist poke around their newsroom and take up column space each week. The many laughs, stories shared and musical renditions by Denise made even the slow days memorable.
And with this column, I am inking in the final song of this concert that was my internship. Happy to be able to be a member of the band that is the Clinton Daily Democrat instead of a groupie on the front row. Maybe one day you will read my work or see my images again in a different newspaper, magazine or media outlet. But until then readers, sit back and enjoy the music, for this is my final bow.
And thank you for the cake and goodies!