When I was young, I wanted to discover dinosaur bones and uncover artifacts in the dirt. Then, I wanted to look for answers in the atmosphere. Later on, I thought I might climb mountains, chase tornadoes, become a secret agent or whatever else appealed to my sensibilities in the moment.
I still hadn’t quite settled on what I wanted to do when enrolled in my first year of college. I think I chose to go to Middle Tennessee State University because my harp teacher had recommended their music program, yet somehow I found myself entering a major of interior design, of all things. I knew it wasn’t for me after the first week.
After that, I found an interest in the field of geology. I enjoyed it immensely, but after a semester, I decided that I didn’t want to agonize over identifying rocks forever. I don’t think that’s what a career in geology is all about, but I longed for something else. I knew there must be something out there that was a better fit for me. So I changed my major again to music business. After all, what was better in Nashville than another person trying to make it in the industry? I figured with music business, even if I never became a recording artist, at least I could manage a studio or something. Again, it didn’t stick.
One thing I am eternally grateful for is the patience of my parents. They always encouraged me to follow my dreams, and they never said a thing about my fickleness in choosing a career. As I went to change my major for the fourth and final time, I did some real soul searching. What was it that I had loved to do from my earliest age? I wrote stories, real stories, about my life and those around me. I took pictures, and I filmed my fair share of home movies. Eureka! I finally knew. In the depths of my heart, I was always a journalist. I was also sure I needed to graduate in five or fewer years. Even with four changes of major, I did it in four and a half.
The thing that drew me to journalism over English, a common major for those with a writing inclination, was that I wanted to write about reality. Not that I never wrote fiction. I do have a few short stories in my arsenal, but to capture the world around me and record the truth appealed more to me.
Before I knew I was a journalist at heart, I held some chagrin for the world of media. I still feel it toward certain sensationalized outlets. My ethics teacher liked to refer to them as “newsertainment” and referred mostly to television news. Unlucky for those of us who listened to our ethics teachers, journalism often gets a bad name because of “newsertainment.” Couple that with the horror that is fake news from websites that only want to draw in ad revenue with click bait, and it is no wonder that chagrin for media has grown since the internet swept the world.
That’s why, after I realized I was a journalist at heart, my new dream became to work at a small town newspaper. Here we get to know our readers. We focus on local impacts, far away from the big city troubles of click bait and fake news. Our main concern is you.
The heart of journalism is truth. It beats everywhere in the world of news, resounding in every line written under a legitimate masthead. And in my mind, this heart is the richest in the house of the hometown press.
Sinclaire Sparkman is The Democrat’s news editor. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @wilsoncoreports.