I remember sitting in the newsroom of the hometown paper, the New Orleans Times-Picayune, when I first saw my life in focus. “This is it,” I thought to myself. “I have to be a journalist.”
I was 18 then – when journalism drew me in. As a high school intern at the paper, I had met with most Picayune writers and gone on assignments. It was a crash course in what it’s like to be a reporter.
I was impressed by the reporters’ knowledge of the world – not of theory or intangible things, but of things that affect real people. They knew what was going on; it was their job. I wanted to be like that.
When I decided to become a reporter, it wasn’t an epiphany. There was nothing spiritual or transcendent about it. It was more like slamming into a brick wall. That’s what I love about journalism. It’s fast-paced, hard-hitting writing in a small package – like a jab that comes from nowhere, knocking you to the floor.
I returned for my senior year of high school in New Orleans after that summer. I was editor of the school paper, which took up most of my life. I thought I knew a lot about journalism then, but I had barely scratched the surface.
Like a toddler learning to walk, I learned to be a journalist at the University of Alabama student paper, The Crimson White. There I went from being a cub reporter to an assigning editor to this year’s news director. I’ve spent most of my two years at UA working for the paper, certainly more so than going to class or studying. It consider it the most important part of my education.
Also doing some correspondence work for a radio station and The Tuscaloosa News, I spent this summer reporting for the Mobile Register in Mobile, Ala. I couldn’t have asked for a better internship. I got to cover everything from federal court cases to an alligator farm. My second week, I was assigned to cover the finals of a national beauty pageant. Skeptical at first, I learned from the two-week beat that good stories are everywhere, if you’re willing to look.
I hope the Scripps Howard Foundation Semester in Washington program will be another important step in my development as a reporter. I can see myself as a Washington correspondent one day; what better way to learn the ropes?
When I decided to be a journalist, I never thought that I would have such experiences, certainly not that I’d be in Washington after two years of college. It’s been a wild ride, yet I feel like I’m just getting started.