I knew I would become a journalist when I was in the third grade. This realization came through a tragedy – the Oklahoma City bombing.
I remember that day well, as do many of my fellow Oklahomans and Americans. I was taking a makeup test I had missed during recess. Mrs. Shirley and I were the only two people in the classroom. Suddenly, the sign language aide who assisted one of my deaf classmates rushed in and asked Mrs. Shirley if she had heard about the bombing.
We spent the rest of the day watching a fuzzy picture on a television set tuned to the local news. No one understood what was happening. There was so much chaos in downtown Oklahoma City. Police and fire crews obviously had important work to do trying to rescue people, but I was drawn to the reporters on the scene. They were tasked with trying to make sense of what was unfolding. All the adults in my life, people who I looked up to for guidance, were looking to those reporters for information about this tragedy. That’s when I realized how important reporters are.
Of course 22 years later, I’ve learned a lot more about this profession. First, I’ve learned it’s not a profession in the traditional sense. It’s a lifestyle. Whatever is unfolding in the world or in your community, you must be there, telling the first draft of history. But it requires much more than waiting for news to come to you. A good reporter digs, doesn’t take “no” or “I can’t give you that information” for an answer.
Over the last decade, I’ve been fortunate to work in newsrooms, big and small.
I spent a couple of summers working at a tiny newspaper in Hinton, Oklahoma. In fact, there were only two employees. I was the only one who worked full-time. There wasn’t much news to cover, but it taught me the fundamentals of journalism.
I picked up a video camera while attending the University of Central Oklahoma and learned the craft of television journalism. The university’s student-run television station, along with my internship at KOCO in Oklahoma City prepared me for my first “big boy” job in 2009, when I was hired as a multimedia journalist in Lake Charles, Louisiana.
Lake Charles afforded me the opportunity to experience the daily grind of TV news, which seemed to be on steroids, given the fact that journalists were now expected to do it all: write, shoot, edit, and post to social media. I learned more in four months than I did in four years of school.
In 2011, I moved to Tulsa, a much bigger market that moved at a much quicker pace. After three years reporting in Tulsa, I moved to Kansas City. Both Tulsa and Kansas City molded me into the reporter I am today.
After a couple of years in Kansas City, I decided to pursue an avenue I had always been interested in, anchoring. I was hired as an anchor/reporter in Southern Illinois, where I am today. Anchoring is a treat because each day I get to deliver dozens of stories to people, instead of just one. And I hope I make a connection with them through the TV screen.
But reporting will always remain my first love. And digging for the truth is more important than ever.