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In our opinion: 'Community cooperation' is key to successful reporting

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BY AUDREY LEWIS | N-H Reporter

As an athlete and high school student taking college courses, time management is hands down one of the hardest skills to master, especially if you’re also trying to make some money while you’re at it. For that reason, I was thrilled to learn that News-Herald Editor Molly Haines had reached out to the high school in search of a student to cover Owen County sports around the start of my junior year.
The fall is easily my busiest time of the year with readjusting to school and volleyball season, so I waited until winter rolled around to contact Molly and let her know I was interested in covering boys and girls basketball. I was set to serve as the boy’s statistician for the season and had girls head coach Amy Wesselman in class, so writing was no trouble. After I started, I also began reporting not only on the games but on any awards or accomplishments local players received.
I decided to continue covering spring sports and broadened my writing even further, reporting on any notable events involving the schools, from successful students to safety protests. As the school year began winding down, Molly and I started discussing the potential of me becoming a part-time reporter for the summer. The job’s biggest appeal was flexible hours and work I was actually interested in. Now that my summer position is coming to an end, I am even more thankful that I decided to pursue this route before graduating high school.
On the surface, I consider myself a decent writer. I enjoy English classes, and I find it important to be involved in the community. There was no better opportunity than this for me to combine those two things.
I did worry about how I would handle an office job; it was never something I saw myself doing, but I figured I shouldn’t eliminate the option until I attempted it. I soon discovered that while a portion of the work had to be completed behind a desk, I got my share of activity in ways I had never considered before. I was constantly going out for interviews, hopping in the car and hurrying to a photo-op and even got to go on a tractor ride to photograph tobacco being set. I experienced an ideal combination of an adventurous job with just the right amount of stationary work.
Working in an office was also an important experience all its own. I hear people say all the time that everyone should have to work the drive-thru at least once in their life, and I believe the same can be said for an office. It makes you think twice about your people skills. There’s a lot of things to any job and life that you don’t learn in the classroom or could ever really prepare for; most of what you’ll do you have to make up as you go, there’s no rule book.
I gained an appreciation for the art of journalism and especially for Molly’s contributions to her job. Before I began, The News-Herald was a two-person office and will be that way again when I get back to school. Few things in the world are impossible, but to accurately portray an entire community in a numbered amount of pages by only a couple of people is one of them — even in a place as small as Owenton. It’s easy to sit at home and complain that something wasn’t included in the paper, but one person cannot be everywhere at once.
Community cooperation is a crucial element to a successful news outlet. Working around others schedules or waiting for someone to return a call who disregarded your message is unbelievably frustrating. It was a big adjustment to understand that sometimes the quality of your work can rely so heavily on another person’s cooperation. It’s sort of like group assignments at school, except you don’t get to choose your group. Sometimes you don’t even know who the people are, and you’re the only one being graded.
There’s no master schedule of Owen County to follow, so if you know of an event, business, person or anything that deserves a story, call or stop in the office. It’s as simple as, “Hey, there’s a sports tournament this weekend that could use some recognition.” At that point, if someone from the office is still unable to attend, then photos and stories can always be submitted by community members. A little effort goes a long way.
With that being said, it was an honor to collaborate with my community. You don’t realize how valuable a close-knit town is until you’re trying to get in touch with a person you’ve never met before, only to discover they already know you because your mom does their taxes or they used to be your grandparent’s neighbor. I never had a problem finding a phone number or other contact; it seemed like no one was ever more than one person away.
One of the best things I learned this summer is that the Owen County Farm and Craft Market is a very happy place to be. I spent most of my Fridays at the market interviewing vendors for a highlight story over the summer, and it was always my favorite day. I met new people who are now some of my favorite people and helped support local farmers and vendors. Every day there held a very free and energetic atmosphere. I especially encourage everyone to take their children to Kid’s Day sponsored by the Owen County Extension Office, or any other day as well. Involving kids in the community should start at a young age so that it becomes a habit and carries into their adulthood.
Perhaps what I consider to be the most prized privilege of reporting for The News-Herald was getting to experience an industry that is ever-changing. As social media continues to grow in popularity, newspapers are now shifting their focus toward producing online content and engaging with readers via the web. This can be both a blessing and a curse, and while I can’t change the way of society, I am appreciative of my involvement in the tradition of print journalism.
Although I won’t be working in the office, I will continue covering sports and other events throughout my senior year of high school. Looking ahead, I am undecided on a college or major, but whatever I choose to pursue, my experience as a reporter will compliment my resume and serve as excellent work exposure.