The opportunities I take with me

As is often part of our areaís first impressions, itís a small town.

Exploring the different layers of government, law, crime, politics, education and the countless other strata that complete our local communities has been the one of the most unique opportunities Iíve ever had.

If you havenít heard, Iím leaving The Evening Sun at the end of May.

As a reporter Iíd compare the role to a jack of all trades, master of none. Thereís no hope for one to understand the law as well as a lawyer or education as a district superintendent. Though you canít compare your experience on a topic to a career dedicated and trained official, you are expected to grasp a basic comprehension. Your aim is to capture the priorities and encompass the general. The goal is to explain an issue in about 400 words or so to the average reader so they can be intelligently informed.

The small town aspect of my job has allowed me to frequently travel between these separate layers and due to their tightly knit scope, Iíve also had the equally valuable opportunity of seeing the connections between them.

Itís been incredible being able to call and speak with the county district attorney, the sheriff, or town supervisor and a number of other high ranking officials in one day. If it wasnít for our areaís small town atmosphere, I wouldnít have had such access. A more populated metropolitan area would most certainly limit an ability to accurately perceive so many different organizations and officials, due to the sheer number of them required. Their access is also certain to whirl around a much more controlled space with spokespeople and press relations specialists handling most arrangements. Itís not like that here, at least not as much. There has been enough opportunity for me to develop personal-professional relationships with many.

From the road patrol officer to the police chief, from a murder defendant to the victimís mother, from a troubled student to an enraged board of education member, there is rarely a voice I havenít been willing to offer an ear to. And in all these conversations, I am willing to look through that personís point of view.

People as a rule never really perceive themselves as being intentionally irrational or evil. One of the most sinister talents of the devil is even he can seduce you with a good point or two. So at the very least, most people tend to have many, no matter what side they fall on or on what issue. Iíve had to accept this; a part of me is thrilled by it.

I just donít know how else to hold a conversation with two opposing sides in a single afternoon and then expect to tell their stories objectively. Given Iím the crime beat reporter, I happen to find myself faced with the dueling positions of victim and defendant often.

This marks another of those unique opportunities this job has offered me Ė the ability to hear the tales from all sides and from their impassioned voices. As reporters, we often hear, then write the words of those with the most to lose on a topic Ė the freedom of an innocent charged with a crime or the justice sought by a injured victim. Sometimes when caught between two strong arguments, I feel as if two giant waves suddenly crush me between them. Thereís been a lot of emotional sacrifice as a writer at The Evening Sun. Youíd be crazy to think I never lose sleep. The dynamic of being a reporter is a strange mix of always being caught in middle of things. It strikes the lonely note sometimes of never really having a side. But thatís where you are supposed to be.

This job has been many things. It is a changing daily combination of randomness and variety I have never seen before. The exposure and range of topics Iíve had to write about indicates the sheer number of things I first had to research and learn about. I couldnít imagine a more stimulating environment for intellectual or emotional growth, one that shoves you out of comfort zones and offers routine first time experiences. These experiences have changed me and became apart of identity. My interpersonal skills alone have been running the gauntlet for years, it seems.

After sitting around and reflecting on all the things Iíve learned at the newspaper, I realize the most important of them will be carried with me.

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