I was hired to work for the Oxford Citizen before I graduated from Ole Miss.
For the majority of my school career at the University of Mississippi, I was enrolled in 18 hours and was juggling at least three jobs to pay the bills and get some experience under my belt. I worked for Daily Mississippian for a bit, worked a stringer for local publications, managed and edited a satirical newspaper and worked as the communications intern at the Ole Miss School of Education.
I did a lot. I was hungry. I wanted my name printed in as many places as possible. I knew no one would care about my degree. I had to have the bylines to back it up, to show that I could actually do this.
As graduation approached in December of 2015, I put in job applications like it was my day job. Within a month and a half, I had applied for 170 jobs across the United States and a few abroad. I kept a list. I can show it to you.
But I eventually got a call from the Daily Journal and they were interested in my application and called me in for an interview. And it went well. And they made me an offer and I took it.
I spent the next three years putting in the work. Learning how the business worked, getting out and meeting local leaders. I made my rounds through city hall and sat down with Mayor Pat Patterson. I spoke with community leaders and elected officials and everyone I could find until they all knew me by name. It was these personal relationships I was able to build with the community members I was serving and the government officials I was observing in meetings that helped me succeed in what I was doing.
My bosses pushed me. John Davis and Sarah Brooke Bishop pushed me for more stories and deeper coverage and more words and before I knew it, I was churning out 10 stories a week. And it was rough, at first. Eventually I got into a rhythm and adapted and I was able to learn how to accurately report on a variety of topics while working within a limited timeframe.
I loved it. I loved everything about my job.
Every story I wrote, interview I did, lead I chased down – it all lead me to form closer relationships with the people and community I was serving. And that made me a better journalist.
The stress, the gray hairs before 25, late nights and early mornings and insane workloads have all made me a better person, and I’m always gonna be grateful for that.
And you, readers, we at the Citizen owe all of our success to you. Your willingness to engage with our stories and ask questions about our reporting and your enthusiastic support of our advertisers made all of this possible. It made it a reality.
So thanks, y’all. The overwhelming amount of support you have show me as a person and the Citizen as a paper allowed me to turn my passion for community journalism into my day job for a few years and that’s something I will never be able to repay you for.
Thanks for staying with me through all the typos, deadlines and buckets of coffee I consumed while sitting at that one spot in Uptown Coffee.
I’ll see you around.