I've always considered myself to be very fortunate.
And this time of year is a great reminder of that.
Thanksgiving is just days away and, of course, that always makes us take inventory of the things things and people in our lives.
But this week is something else, something I celebrate every year.
This week marks five years spent working as a reporter.
It seems like such a small window of time — but also like a lifetime.
I remember the feeling of seeing my byline in print for the first time.
It was a crime story. It was above the fold. It had my name on it.
And I was hooked.
I remember buying something like eight copies of that particular issue, and making all of my friends and family do the same (you’re welcome, circulation department!).
While I no longer buy papers in bulk, I still smile every morning when I sit to read the newspaper.
My first day on the job was filled with colorful characters — something I've since learned make up every newsroom. (Have you guys met Tom?).
People were arguing about Oxford commas and two staffers nearly went to blows when a conversation about a particular news station got heated.
In my first week, one of the town's beloved matriarchs, Lucy Bell Shultz, came to welcome me, having seen a new name (mine) in print.
“Welcome to Pryor,” she said.
As politely as possible I told her, “I was actually born and raised here.”
“Oh, but you never really know a place until you work in their newspaper,” she said.
I knew I was exactly where I was meant to be. This was the career for me.
And now I'm getting the chance to get to know an entirely new place.
To this day, it very rarely feels like work.
Sometimes I laugh at just how bizarre the job can be.
My friends have received texts like “Busy. Got at thing with a llama," or “Ice cream. Congressman. Explain later.”
I’ve stressed editors out with messages like, “If a gang threatens to kill you, they’re probably bluffing, right?” and “I’m going to be late, my hair smells like house fire.”
I've conducted a phone interview with a U. S. congressman in the ice cream aisle of the grocery store and recently found myself sitting in the floor of my gym for a phone interview with a local senator.
(The fact that my gym buddies just patiently stepped over me and didn't question what I was doing, speaks volumes about the patience and understanding of the folks in my life.)
In this job there's good, bad, ugly —and a whole lot of weird.
I am thankful for every second of this weirdness.
Since my first day, a lot has changed.
I've changed, my writing has changed and my location has changed.
Our country has changed.
The word media has become an insult and there's a lot of news about fake news.
I'm thankful that when people say "media" they don't typically mean me.
More often I get called "Newspaper Girl" or "The gal from the Progress."
I'm thankful to work in communities that value local news as much as I do.
I’m thankful I get to follow my passion and do what I feel is important work.
In thinking about this column I came across some words of wisdom from a Journalism professor in Missouri.
He said —
"Every day in communities across the nation, reporters, editors, photographers and designers toil thanklessly to keep us informed. Reporters sit through interminable public meetings, keep watchful eye on school boards and city councils, water districts and non-profits. They ask difficult questions of people less than thrilled to answer them, challenge assumptions, scrutinize assertions and shine bright light into dark corners of society. In doing so they provide an indispensable service to the democracy, offering its citizens an opportunity to inform themselves about the events of the day in a way that brings them meaning."
And that’s it, really. That’s why I do what I do—why I love what I do.
Our job is also storytelling, chronicling a community’s history. From birth announcements to obituaries and all the memories in between, newspapers are there to capture it.
This Newspaper Girl is thankful for the opportunity to fill that role. I'm thankful for the mentors I've found along the way and the co-workers I've shared the experience with. I’m thankful for the words of kindness, and even for the criticism.
This week I am thankful for communities that value their local newspapers.
The two need each other, really.
A community needs a newspaper. And a newspaper is nothing without community support.
This girl is nothing without a newspaper.