Charting a new course

The last time I wrote, I described the end to my Master Plan.

But endings make for great beginnings, and I’m happy to write that this week I accepted a great opportunity to begin my (hopefully very long) career in journalism on the South Carolina coast.

In mid-August I’ll be moving east to become a reporter for The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette newspapers in Hilton Head, S.C. Once I’m settled into the new digs, I’ll be working the Beaufort County government beat for both papers.

Gorgeous coastal Carolina (the Lowcountry, it’s called) isn’t a bad place to start, either. My parents were a little worried about the move at first, but they’ve reconciled all their fears with their newfound excuse to visit the beach every year.

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I couldn’t be happier about having a chance to pursue a career as a reporter. It’s surreal that I get to do something I’ve always wanted to do, and it’s an exciting time to be breaking into an industry that’s walked through fire to survive tough times.

We talked about that excitement at The Kansas City Star’s weekly intern lunch with two long-time newsroom veterans.

In summation: The people that are still around newsrooms really want to be there, and they’re some of the very best. These are the folks who made it through all the cuts and changes that news organizations have seen, and they live and breathe really good journalism.

That passion is contagious.

Besides, it’s hard not to be excited about this job. We get to tell stories for a living, and that’s a privilege, reporter Eric Adler told us.

“You’ll find the great literary themes in everybody’s life,” he said. “All you have to do is knock and say you’re interested.”

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The end of the Master Plan

I had a girlfriend my first year of college, and she called it the Master Plan.

Whenever more work came up, she’d chalk it up to the Master Plan. When I couldn’t think or talk about anything but my reporting; yep, it’s the Plan.

What she called the Master Plan was the course I’d charted for myself to go from zero to pro in my four, short college years. It was about working at the papers in Columbia, scoring internships and beefing up my resume with references and awards. She loved to tease me about putting all my gas into this plan, and her mocking title has stuck with it ever since.

My Master Plan didn’t account for the incredible summers I spent in Maine and Utah or the Saturday night graveyard shifts in the Columbia Missourian newsroom. But the plan always ended with a shot at reporting for my hometown newspaper, The Kansas City Star.

Now I have that shot.

Today I turn 22 years old, and I couldn’t think of a better birthday present than to start the final stage of the Master Plan.

It’s an opportunity I’ve worked toward for a long time. The countless hours I poured into my work (and those initial stages of the Plan) have all built up to this summer and the chance to break in to my dream profession.

With some more hard work, I’m hoping that my short time at the Star can help further establish my reputation as a reporter and writer. When job applications come around at the end of the summer, I’ll be proud to turn in the Star’s banner atop my clips.

Maybe by the time it’s all over I’ll have charted myself a new course.

And perhaps instead of the old adage, “When one door closes, another opens,” it’ll become “When one Plan ends, another begins.”

Taking a chance to rest

It’d be difficult to condense everything I’ve learned this semester into a simple, coherent article.

For the past 15 weeks, I’ve spent virtually every minute of every day learning: Learning to manage reporters in the newsroom, learning HTML markup, learning to work as a group on a tight deadline. It’s been a difficult road, but this has easily been the most rewarding semester I’ve had on campus.

I’m still married to the Columbia Missourian, working as an assistant city editor for Elizabeth Brixey and the education team. As a group of nearly 20 reporters, we’ve had our ups and downs. Whether it’s been writing tough corrections or conquering difficult stories, the team has been there for each other and taught me volumes about becoming a better writer, editor and leader.

In another challenge, working with Tom Warhover and Jacqui Banaszynski for our capstone project was a tremendous experience learning to define a group objective, set realistic goals and work cohesively to actually move an idea forward. And it seems our class idea for a symposium is even gaining some traction with important people (who have money).

Not to mention that I’ve learned a thing or two about HTML/CSS coding and public speaking — skills that’ll make me a better journalist and both of which I’ve written about before.

Taking on a full class schedule and editing has been daunting, but it was worth every ounce of personal and professional experience. I suppose it makes this winter break even more soothing, especially with graduation day looming over next semester.

Apologies for burying the lead, but I’m also pleased to announce that I know my plans for next summer. Following my graduation in May, I have the opportunity to take my dream internship and return to my hometown.

For 10 weeks I’ll be a metro desk intern at The Kansas City Star, where I’ll be covering the city I grew up in, writing general assignment stories long and short (maybe even for the front page). It’s the opportunity of a lifetime and I couldn’t be more honored to write for the newspaper I grew up reading.

First things first, though. In the spring I’ll return to a full slate of classes — including Investigative Reporting with Mark Horvit — and another semester as an assistant city editor for the education team.