This week, I accepted my first full-time journalism job at a daily newspaper in Lenoir, North Carolina. I’ll move forty minutes down the mountain when I graduate; til then I’m commuting.
I’ve been studying journalism for five years. This was the point. This is why I worked and gave up sleep and chased down interviews. I had one goal: A chance to find news and tell stories and string words together for a living.
I knew in the first five minutes of my interview that this was the perfect place for me to start my career. I get to dig in and be a reporter again — a daily reporter for the first time — and that’s exactly what I need. I need deadlines and sourcing and shoeleather; I need to be better at the fundamentals.
I also have an opportunity to do some social media work, and I’m so grateful for that. I think it’s going to be a fun challenge, figuring out who in this little community is using social media for news and how we can get them to do that, if they’re not.
I am so, so excited. And I’m terrified.
I keep thinking, over and over, I don’t know how to do this. I know how to report, and I know how to write, and I know how to build a social presence. But I know how to do all that for college students. I don’t know how to be a professional reporter. I don’t know what stories matter to an older demographic in rural North Carolina and I certainly don’t know how to reach them on the web. I’m used to doing most of my sourcing through social media and I’m realizing that probably won’t work for this audience. I don’t even know what I’m supposed to cover and what falls to someone else.
I am so used to living in a town I’ve memorized and a newspaper whose organizational rhythms I’ve mastered. Writing about Boone, North Carolina is second nature. I know all the Twitter accounts to follow and the Google alerts to set and which meetings are actually worth attending and which AppalCART routes are best for eavesdropping. I could probably write a book about the delicate, bordering-on-contentious relationship between Boone Town Council and the Watauga County Commissioners.
But I didn’t know any of that when I started. And the only way I learned it was getting out there and getting uncomfortable. I know Boone because I made cold calls and scanned bulletin boards in coffee shops and eavesdropped on the bus.
One day, I will know how to write for and about Lenoir. And hopefully, I’ll be a better reporter for it. But I’ll know because I put myself on call and listened, 24/7. I’ll know because I put myself in situations that weren’t easy, because I wanted to know the truth more than I wanted to be comfortable. I’ll know because I got out there and did the job.
I have a lot of learning left to do. But I’m ready to dig in.