Winds of change (or other cliché titles)

When I was 15, I attended a youth leadership conference in Louisville as part of the media team.

And that was it — I was hooked on telling stories and covering events not everyone could attend or understand.

My parents gave me a DSLR for my 16th birthday, I joined the high school newspaper as a photographer my junior year and was editor my senior year. I took the broadcast class, worked hand-in-hand with the yearbook editor and settled on studying photojournalism at Western Kentucky University in 2009. A quick switch to news and editorial journalism in 2011 was followed by a design internship in Nashville and then a move to Seneca, S.C., where I happily started my official journalism career.

I say all that to say this — I’m jumping ship.

The thought is completely terrifying and simultaneously so exciting.

Wednesday will be my last day in the news production world, and Monday I begin my career in the world of real estate and marketing. It’s an opportunity that honestly kinda landed at my feet — leaving The Journal hadn’t really crossed my mind until this position was presented to me earlier this summer. An accidental networking event lead to me being asked to take this position before it was truly even open. I’m so glad I decided to branch out and try out for a play back in January — it meant my meeting my future employer.

Taking on the role of what is initially “listing coordinator” for the Les Walden Real Estate Team — whose office is literally four minutes from my house — means normal hours (read, I have to become a morning person. Insert tears here) and regular holidays, which translates to more time with my family. It also means I get to take pictures of houses, write about them and pretend my life is one giant episode of House Hunters. I’ll get to help people find the home where they’ll first live as a married couple, bring home their new baby or spend their retirement living out their golden years, and that plus HGTV is right up my alley.

In debating whether or not it was worth it to leave journalism — essentially what I’d focused on for the last eight years — my focus remained on my family. Unless God is hiding the man of my dreams somewhere in Seneca and I’m supposed to start a family of my own here … my family is too dad gum far away.

I don’t think I’m walking away from journalism forever. I’ve made two trips to DC specifically to visit Newseum, for crying out loud. But I feel God placed this opportunity in my lap and it’d be crazy not to take it. It puts another career field in my path and ultimately makes me a bigger asset for any job I want to apply for on down the line — and those jobs will be closer to my family.

I think I’m trying to convey what a difficult decision this was for me, and I also think I’m not doing a great. It doesn’t really feel like it’s truly happening yet, and I’m worried when I get home Wednesday I’ll have the biggest meltdown yet.

But that’s ok, because when I wake up (at the butt crack of dawn) Monday, I’ll be ready to tackle a new office, a new adventure and a new career.

And, of course, the task of choosing which pictures of Cooper and Millie will decorate my desk.

In true stress-baker fashion, I turned in a resignation cake. That’s right. Not a letter … a cake.

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Telling a storyteller’s story

Today was a long day at work. This week, though it’s only Wednesday, has been a long week. When I got home around 10 tonight, I crawled straight into bed after a rare 12-hour day. 

I was reading the Humans of New York page on Facebook and getting really excited about my next story series on agriculture. Monday morning I was on a small cattle farm with a man who runs the place himself and knows the cows personally. Though it’s not the point of the story, it’s such a fun part that I wanted to start transcribing while I had the storytelling bug and could remember details — how he wears shorts in waist-high grass, keeps his socks folded just above his boots and puts his hands on his hips when he’s thinking about the next task. 

Out of no where, Claws jumped straight up on my laptop. To be fair, I haven’t used my laptop as much in the last year, but I don’t think he’s pulled this stunt since our time on the Hill. But he decided he’d had enough of this working business and needed some cuddles. 

At that point, while frantically trying to hit command+S through layers of fur and fat, it occurred to me that nobody really tells the stories of the storytellers. I doubt anyone who knows my cat would question his behavior … but even I question why it brought my thoughts here. 

I love telling the stories of the people in our area, and finding a good one here and there makes it so worth the extra hours. I can’t wait to try to convey what it’s like to run a cattle farm to people who’ve never walked in the same field as livestock. But man, some days at work are such struggles.

We need breaking news, we need a human interest piece, we need good art, we need to be in three places at once, we need more space, we need to follow up on a meeting and we need to do it all right now. It’s hard.

We’re a small staff with a large coverage area and the slow days speed up at the drop of a hat. Nothing is expected, but nothing is unexpected. So when I want to find out what it’s like to be a cattle farmer and find a guy who will happily spend his retirement counting cows and looking for calves hidden in the grass, it’s an unexpected happy. 

When someone remembers a story I wrote last year about a bone marrow drive for a toddler who passed away last week from a rare leukemia, it’s unexpected. It was also probably unexpected when I started crying in the middle of the phone call. 

It’s expected that we’ll take pictures of a wreck that happens right outside the office. But taking a phone —  with a freshly busted screen — from a man who is shaking, whose first language is not English, so I can talk to a frantic stranger on the other end of the line? Probably not. 

Today was just so unexpected in so many ways. An ambulance happened to be driving by stoped and the EMTs examined the patients. A woman from our office broke out her old policing skills and directed traffic. Someone scrambled to find umbrellas to provide shade for the EMTs and drivers.

People are amazing. I get so caught up in finding the right way to word things so the important nuances don’t go unnoticed. What pulled me into journalism in the first place was the opportunity to tell other people’s stories. 

But, as Claws reminded me tonight, it’s best to put down the notepad and occasionally write your own. 

  

What do you DO?

One time, I moved from Kentucky to South Carolina for a job. Cool story, right?
So what exactly am I doing down here in Seneca, you might ask.
Well, copy and design is what it’s typically called, but since I work at a small paper with a reporting staff under 10, I get to do a lot more.
My actual duties include placing content on-page for the C section of our paper — Lifestyles — and D as well. Typically my section includes the front-page story and photos, maybe a local column, the obituaries, submitted entries of honor roll, officer elections of local organizations, somebody graduating from Basic Training or anything along those lines. The Lifestyles section is also home to “Tell Willie,” which is a very local thing. I can’t say I know the entire history, but it originated with an employee of the paper giving the community a sounding board for their rants, raves, praises and other peculiar comments. People from the area call in and leave a message with Willie, email it in or sometimes send snail mail (What’s that?) and Willie will respond once our crew types them up and sends them to him.
Y’all, I go through 5-10 of these every day and we almost NEVER come close to running out. We get complaints about the sheriff, questions about how to get rid of squirrels, comments on Obamacare and shout outs to the nice lady at Walmart who returned somebody’s wallet. The entire thing is anonymous and HILARIOUS. Willie, being the sassy old southern gent that he is, will applaud things that deserve it and tell people to use some common sense when they seem to have forgotten how.
It’s fantastic.
Anyway, so that’s the main chunk of my job — putting stories on page, editing them and proofing submitted items before they go to press.
The D section is the World and Nation section and comes almost exclusively from the Associated Press wire. I get to pull stories and art for that front page, pick which briefs need to run and place the stock reports. It doesn’t sound super exciting, but to me, it is. It’s like a giant puzzle, but you don’t know if the pieces actually fit together, hah.
I also occasionally get to shoot or write stories, so I’m actually putting my education to good use, no worries. I have also recently earned the title of “graphics diva” since I volunteered to make a chart ONE TIME and now we have one probably once a week. In my mind, they’re so super sub-par it’s ridiculous, but most of our audience isn’t familiar with them, so they’re super great.
My hours are typically from 1-9ish, depending on how large my section is. Some nights I’ll be done by 7, some nights I’m there until 10 and other nights I work 1-4 then come back from 7-9. It’s a matter of how many ads there are, how many pages are in my sections, if I have a story to write and a few other little things.
The staff is pretty cool.
And there’s free ice cream. So that’s one of the biggest job perks I’ve ever found.

To find out latest publications, click this link.

So now you (sort of) know what I do on a daily basis and get to see some of the final products! :)

-Cat