Newsroom changes life of journalism student

by SARA MARSHALL//Editor-in-Chief


Some of the first words I ever heard in the newsroom were “The newsroom will change your life, if you let it.”

At the time, I just laughed. They were such unassuming words, innocent and empty. Or so I thought for a very short time.

I began my academic career at South Plains College during the Fall 2014 semester, right after graduating from Andrews High School that spring. Despite being in journalism all three years of high school, for some reason I thought it would be a good idea to pursue an Agriculture Communications-type of degree.

After a semester of trying to do that nonsense, I realized my heart and soul was still in journalism. I desired to write stories that would move people to heartbroken tears, or want to laugh with sheer joy. I yearned to capture photos that not only told the subject’s million-word story, but added depth to my many words inked on the pages before me.

It was time I got back into the world of journalism.

Two years, several awards and multiple positions later, I’m realizing the weight of those very first words I heard in the newsroom. I quickly realized my dad was right; I should have stayed in journalism all along. In two short years, I’ve lived the good, the bad and the seriously ugly. But I honestly don’t regret a single moment.

Journalism can be absolute blast. But for me, it has also been extremely physically, mentally and emotionally taxing.

I’ve lost copious hours of sleep while staring at empty Word documents, trying to force some type of coherent thought on to the blank pages before me. Seriously, writer’s block is the stuff real nightmares are made of. And being a perfectionist with a procrastination complex makes it a million times harder on my already fragile college student mental and emotional state.

But those many, many lost hours of shut eye have led me to some of the most moving, brilliant stories. In two years, I’ve told so many stories. I’ve encouraged voices which had once been unknown to be heard by the world. I’ve told happy stories about beautiful puppies and their hard work helping people. I’ve painted breathtakingly painful scenes of a young girl’s repeated sexual assaults. I’ve shown that SPC isn’t as small a town as I had once thought (thanks, Banner Boy!). I’ve toured the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Artesia, New Mexico, and was able to make lifelong connections to federal agents there.

This past year, I have been the editor-in-chief of the Plainsman Press. What a ride it has been. I’ve learned so much as a writer, photographer, editor and person. Some of my best and worst, moments of my last year at SPC have occurred during this time and within the Newsroom walls. But every moment was worth it.

Being in the newsroom, I’ve met some of my closest friends. Each newspaper staff member has touched me in some way, even those who were here only for a short time. I guess that’s the problem with having such a big heart.

Everyone in the newsroom becomes a family, in a way. Though we can be a bit dysfunctional at times, there’s nothing I would change. I love all my staff so very much, and I wish I could recognize all of you. But, unfortunately, I only have so much room on my page.

One of the first people who was nice to me in the newsroom was Jenny. Oh goodness, this girl has been there for everything I’ve had to deal with since joining the paper. She has seen me cry at the dumbest things, and she has laughed with me for the best moments. She taught me that it’s OK to brag about all the animated films you watched last weekend while you were home alone.

Jenny proved to me that you shouldn’t be afraid to be yourself, even when there’s people who dislike who you are. Even though we don’t go to school together right now, she still tries to help me with assignments and stories. She tries her best to give me photography tips, even if they don’t stick. I don’t know what I would do without Jenny by my side the past two years, and I’m so happy to have her in my life. I cannot wait until I get to go to school with her again.

Another group of people I’ve become friends with is ‘the squad.’ This ragtag group of people are absolutely crazy, but they’re great. They’ve all taught me to chill out, and that I need to worry about personal health more than deadlines. Alex is a seriously hardworking girl, and I wish I could be as determined as her. Some may only see a pretty face, but I know that she has equal parts smarts and sass. Matty and Riley sometimes drive me crazy, but they’re wonderful and hard workers when they want to be. I know that Matty will be a fantastic heir to the editorial throne.

Then there’s Brandi. Oh my gosh, this girl has been my rock this year in the Newsroom. She’s a girl after my own heart, trying to be tough when the world feels like it’s crashing down around you. She’s taught me that it’s OK to be upset and that sometimes a hug is the best cure for anxiety. Sometimes you just need a hug.

More recently, I’ve befriended several other staff members. There’s Steven and Dom, crazy sports writers who know that I know absolutely nothing about sports. They totally love when I struggle to explain the sports section as we’re going over the paper. They’ve become the brothers I’ve always wanted, and I’m seriously going to miss the random, and occasionally ridiculous, talks when waiting between classes. We can level with each other and be real, and I appreciate that friendship so much.

Next there’s Brittny, beauty queen and occasional sass queen. She’s an absolute delight, and too sweet for words. I have no idea where she puts all the sarcasm and attitude in her little body, though. It will be a mystery for always, I’m sure. And there’s Hannah, who never seems to know which hair color she wants each month. Though her exterior seems rough and unapproachable, this girl has been the most dependable, trustworthy friend I’ve had in a while.

Lastly, there’s Tyler and Des, the two ‘adultier adults’ in the newsroom. Tyler is an absolute nerd who has shown me that technology is a lot cooler than I had thought, though I’m still learning about it. I don’t know if I’m friends with him because of how awesome he is, or because of how awesome his wife is. And then there’s Des, journalist, cosmetologist, full-time mom, Cub Scouts Leader, and soon-to-be Girl Scouts Leader. She has proven the value of never giving up what you want, even if you had to put it on hold for a while. She never gives up, and she’s seriously one of the strongest people I have ever known.

And the professors, goodness. Well, being the oldest of three girls, I’ve gotten used to my dad always pushing me to be better than I was yesterday. I had absolutely no idea that when I entered those doors to Room 130 in the Communications Building, I was going to inherit two more dads to watch out for me.

First, there’s Charlie. This man drives me absolutely crazy, but I love him so much. He’s one of my biggest cheerleaders and tries to give me every opportunity to put myself out there and go farther in my career. We’re both so stubborn, so we butt heads a lot (especially at 4 a.m.). But, at the end of the day, he’s still there, encouraging me in my personal life and my writing.

Then there’s my third dad, Billy. He’s never taught me, but he’s always watching out for me and trying to encourage me. Though he teases me relentlessly, I know he means well. Whenever I have a serious problem and Charlie isn’t around, he always lends an ear and gives me advice, which typically fixes everything.

My actual dad is just as encouraging of my journalism career. All of my family has been so supportive of my writing and photography, always reading my stories and calling me when they love (or hate, if it’s politics) something I’ve written. My parents are the first people I call whenever I get an award, the first I share my new stories with. My little sisters are the reason I push myself so hard to be a good writer, especially my youngest, Rea. I want to prove to her that even though she’s a girl, she can do anything, be anyone. My family is my biggest inspiration in my writing.

Lastly, if it weren’t for the newspaper, I probably never would have started dating my fiancé. We started dating the summer before I became photo editor, and I’ve been with him ever since. Devon has been there for every breakdown and struggle I’ve dealt with. But he has always encouraged me to keep going, despite all those moments. Even when I wanted to quit, he pushed me to keep going because he knew I would regret it, and he was right, like usual. If it weren’t for Devon, I probably wouldn’t be where I am right now, winning awards and kicking butt. And I’m so happy I get to share the rest of my life with this crazy dork.

So, the newsroom really did “change my life,” as Charlie once promised me it would. So thank you to everyone who has made me who I am today. You’ve all helped me realize my full potential as a journalist, student and friend. I’m going to miss this life, but I’m so happy I have all of these wonderful memories.

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