As I listened to my college professors tote the virtues of journalism and why it's so important to have a "watchdog" on the government (city, state and federal), I caught the journalism bug, big-time. I always wanted to find a job as a reporter for a small-town paper.
It was a job many of my teachers said didn't exist anymore - or at least was rapidly disappearing. They encouraged us to learn as much about multimedia journalism as possible, but still I nourished a secret dream of writing for print, and not only that but doing it in a small community, preferably at a community-owned publication.
Even as I watched media conglomerates buy out the papers in my area, I held onto my hope that someday my dream would come true.
My first opportunity came the month after I graduated from BYU with a bachelors degree in communications. A former professor, Joel Campbell, recommended me for a job at the Sanpete Messenger in Manti, Utah. (When I arrived at the Messenger, I learned they technically considered me just an "intern," but the title didn't bother me. I worked just like the other two staff writers did.)
The Messenger was radically different from my previous internship experience at Deseret News. First of all, the staff was tiny. Second, I wrote about a much wider variety of topics. Third, because the paper was in a small town, it was easier to see how what we published affected people.
The smaller staff meant each writer was under more pressure to produce articles, even though the Messenger was only published weekly in comparison to the daily Deseret News. I put an inspiring quote on my desktop and did a lot of praying to get through the stress of my first few weeks, and through a combination of that, hard work and diligence, I met my deadlines.
Sometimes, when everyone called me back at once, I would write three or four stories in a day. I did some, but not much, traveling for stories. Most of the evenings were mine, and I rarely had to work a weekend. Overall, it was a difficult, but rewarding learning experience. Part of me was relieved when I left the paper two months later to serve a religious mission in El Salvador, but part of me missed it, too.
My experience working at the Tooele Transcript-Bulletin has been similar, with a few measurable differences. The most noticeable difference is in the Transcript's larger staff. Here, if you count the two sportswriters, there are five full-time writers and one full-time photographer. The second most noticeable difference is that it's published twice a week. It's funny, though - these two things combined usually equate to me being about the same level of busy, but I'm not as stressed working here as I was working in Manti.
Some things, however, are exactly the same between the two papers: I love the small-town atmosphere. I love seeing my name in print. And I love feeling like I make a difference.