A great first year with Star-News

Published 3:00 pm Thursday, June 23, 2022

That old saying “Time flies when you’re having fun” could not be truer as I celebrated one year working for the Andalusia Star-News on Tuesday, June 21.

For the last 11 years, writing has become one of my biggest adventures. It’s not just my job but a passion and dream come true. Since I began working with the newspaper, I have come a long way in such a short amount of time. I have learned so much and could not be more grateful for this opportunity to be a local writer.

Last May, I was waiting to interview at another prospective employer and began looking through the classifieds. I saw the need for a staff writer and thought it would be a great fit for me with my 10 years of sports writing at Straughn High School. After contacting Publisher Robert Blankenship, I shared my résumé and some work samples with him. We had a few discussions, and I was honored he believed in me to give me this opportunity.

Seeing as I was still employed full-time at Walmart, I wrote a two-week resignation letter to my managers and left there on good terms.

I thought writing about news would be challenging but have embraced it and put my best effort forth. It has taken some time, but I’ve gotten the hang of taking photos at local events and sports games. Photography is fun and something I missed out on when I was just focusing on the writing aspect at Straughn.

I am beyond blessed to be a community writer building relationships inside Covington County. Meeting all kinds of people and learning their stories and then sharing them with the public is incredible. My parents have both passed away but knew I loved writing at Straughn, even if I didn’t get paid for it. They would be proud I’m living my dream as a writer here with the Star-News.

There is no telling how many articles I’ve written in the last year, but I’m sure it’s plenty. With my publisher Robert’s guidance, he has become one of my biggest mentors. I’m so grateful for his words of advice and constructive criticism. He has helped me this first year and given me even more confidence and belief in myself.

My work family is small here, but I don’t mind that. Lisa Eisenberger is an awesome office manager even if I only see her half a day because of her part-time status. Ruck Ashworth and Anna Carver do an incredible job with our advertising department and help make the newspaper successful on their end. Chris Halford has been here for several years and shared how circulation works with me. If I were ever called upon to help out, I would be in good hands with his guidance.

While I’m not the kind of person to boast about my achievements, I’m proud for the strong grammar foundation I was given by my English teachers growing up. I have been told that has made a difference in a good way here with my job. There are some who think grammar is irrelevant and doesn’t matter much in today’s society. Many people text and use slang terms for many things, and we can’t forget all those wonderful emojis to choose from. Thankfully, these core skills I was taught jumpstarted my career in writing, which led to a very successful first year at the Star-News.

As a sophomore at Straughn, I joined the yearbook staff under the direction of Mrs. Debbie Parrish. I went to Andalusia and other areas in the community and sold business ads with my classmates. I laid out pages and cropped pictures in a completely different way than what is done today. We had cropping pencils and cropping tools that today’s students would probably view as antiques.

Prior to my senior year, Mrs. Parrish contacted me and said she was going to name me the editor of the 2005 yearbook. I was very humble but took it in stride, and it led me to receive a scholarship from The University of West Alabama in Livingston. When I moved to UWA, I began a new journey and immediately learned as much as I could about the small school. One of my discoveries was seeing they didn’t have a yearbook, so I inquired about starting it back up and started a small staff with an advisor.

When I reached my second year at West Alabama, I was named the athletics section editor and responsible for every single athletics page. I took it as a challenge and passed it with flying colors so much that our advisor approached me about being the editor for my senior year. I felt my prior experience, as a high school editor would come in handy. I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree in early childhood and elementary education in December 2008. When teaching didn’t work out for me, I pondered what to do with my life and came across writing in 2011.

The administration at Straughn allowed me to continue this volunteer writing endeavor for 10 years until May 2021 when I met with Principal Matt Cobb and decided to step away. I look at it as God giving me a sign when I saw the classified ad for a full-time staff writer at the Star-News.

I am blessed, grateful, and so appreciative for Robert and my Star-News family during my first year. As I go into year two, time will tell what is to come, but if it’s anything like this last year, I’m excited. God is good all the time and continues to guide me along on this journey.

Regardless of where life takes me, writing is something I will forever take pride in. That volunteer time at Straughn really propelled me to this point and taught me a lot about writing. Thankfully, with the Lord’s guidance and the Star-News’ support, my staff writer position has taken off well. It happened when I least expected it, and now I’ve made it one year.

What a first year it was! Year two, I’m ready for you.