To Whom It May Concern:
First, let me apologize for that typo on the note that brought you here. Let me use this moment to regain your faith in me.
I want you to know, right now, that I want this job. I want you to know that I will be amazing at this job. But, to fully understand why, I need you to follow me to the end.
In 1996, I graduated from a division II state university with a degree in broadcast journalism. Soon after, I went to work for the NBC affiliate in Little Rock as an editor and weekend photog. The job was fine, but it’s hard to live on $13,000 a year. So after six months of an increasing workload, a wife still in college and no hint of a pay increase, I left for a job in law enforcement. Eventually, that job evolved into a PIO position for the department and I thrived. I was back in the world of journalism, but on the opposite side of the microphone.
But, technology was evolving rapidly in the late 90s and I watched as analog tape decks moved out and digital media moved in. To stay relevant, I built a computer and bought an early version of Adobe Premiere and over the course of a few months taught myself non-linear editing. I followed that by enrolling into a newly formed multimedia journalism MA program at the local university. By the time I graduated, I’d been recruited by the United Methodist Church to be their state communication director. I oversaw their communication office, newspaper, website and staff. In addition, I worked with the national communication office as an in-house journalist, plus served on a team dedicated to branding and advertising. We worked with ad agencies to develop national advertising campaigns and we traveled around the country coaching local churches how to look deep and tell their own stories within their own communities. It was this work that set me on my current path. I loved teaching people how to tell stories. How to find the stories around them and say something compelling.
It wasn’t long before my alma mater asked me to guest lecture. Guest lectures turned into adjuncting. Adjuncting turned into a visiting professor position, and visiting professor turned into a tenured assistant professor of multimedia journalism. I absolutely love bringing energy into my classes and teaching my students how to use the power of storytelling to bring journalism to life. It must have connected, because in 2014 I was named Professor of the Year by the Student Government Association.
There was something I remembered from my own college days that didn’t want to repeat. Too many of my professors told the same stories in class after class. I realized they weren’t practicing their craft anymore. I didn’t want to go down that road and so I’ve made it a point to stay active with writing for local magazines, doing contract digital marketing and creating content for my own personal website and social media channels. The digital marketing has also served me well as it’s given me an opportunity to stay relevant on the mechanics behind digital media, plus consistently work with clients on communication strategies.
But, journalism is my true love. As I write this, I am in South Texas on sabbatical. Since last summer I’ve been heading to the Mexican border working on a long-form project on South Texas and immigration. The end result is planned to be both a book and a documentary. My favorite journalists have always been those who put themselves in the middle of things whether any news agency was backing them or not. So when the Trump administration’s zero tolerance immigration policy began separating families, I drove to the border and started making contacts without knowing if I would ever have a place to publish my stories.
I teach my students that we tell stories that reflect the state of humanity and so I choose to lead by example.
That example is part of why I am writing to you today. I don’t have to explain to you that the world of journalism has changed in profound ways. Whether we’re talking Facebook privacy and algorithms or we’re talking about “Fake News,” it’s no longer enough to know how to write a proper inverted pyramid, point a camera or to make sure all the copy follows the AP Stylebook.
The truth is that it’s hard for most journalists. Not everyone gets to work at a first-rate news agency. Not everyone gets to go to Columbia. There are a lot people out there who went to division II schools and work for outlets who won’t let them chase Pulitzers. There are a lot of people who are wondering if the low pay and being called the enemy of the people is really worth the hassle. But, sometimes being the underdog has its advantages. For those people, innovation isn’t corporate jargon, it’s what we do to survive. It’s what we have to do when people don’t want to talk to us because our credentials aren’t from a big enough news agency. It’s what we do to be the Fourth Estate when nobody is helping us.
I know that you understand this.
I want this job because I have spent most of my professional career advocating for and trying to inspire young journalists. My life has been teaching people how to tell stories that matter under an increasingly changing landscape. What makes me unique is that I have worked in the world of journalism from multiple angles and that I have already made a point to do what this faculty position requires with my own students. It’s not just that I understand how journalism works, it’s that I also understand how communication and storytelling work and I know how to teach it. I want to take that experience and passion to the next level and I specifically want to do it with Poynter.