A wide, open road


The road back from Springfield, Mo., was the same one I took to get there. But this time there wasn’t any stopping, no savoring the journey. This was a drive hurdling forward.

The Stry.us project in Springfield ended with the month of August. And on Sept. 4, I started my new job as the night cops intern at The Roanoke Times. The new job is a fantastic opportunity for a young reporter to build up tremendous amounts of experience at a highly-regarded daily newspaper. Some of the most interesting and demanding stories a journalist can catch originate as utterances spitting out of a newsroom police scanner, breaking the whirring sound of a quiet office and thrusting a writer into action. For that reason, many of the best writers have honed their craft on the night cops beat. Beyond that perceived journalistic trend, this paper has a reputation for nurturing young writers and developing talent, and it is indeed a tremendously advantageous environment for launching a career.

When I went to Springfield — when I applied on a whim to go to Springfield — I knew it was a strange idea. The project itself was a novel concept that offered no reasons it should work. The thought of a young journalist adding a grant-funded company nobody had ever heard of to his resume as the first post-college place of employment seemed somewhere between perplexing and crazy.

As it turns out, the project worked, and I wasn’t the only young journalist willing to do such a thing in exchange for the oopportunity to try my hand at long-form journalism. Admittedly, I have no idea how what I did this summer affected my way forward in this industry.

I do know at least one new co-worker thinks it is the most interesting line on my resume. Nobody does long-form at my age.

And maybe that’s what drove me to Missouri on such a wing and a prayer in May. Not the pure thrill of taking a risk. Not some post-grad self-discovery mission. But the chance to see if there is another destination I’d like to get to.

The answer? Yes, I enjoyed long-form reporting even more than I remember imagining I would. I enjoyed the immersive quality of the writing process and the depth I could layer into my writing. But more importantly, this bizarre-seeming detour into the uber-specific new world of local, hypertopical, long-form, Web-based journalism actually broadened my horizons.

Working on a team so small to create something very much on-the-fly showed me all of the different directions I can take this career path and still find fulfillment. When I wrote the blog post describing what I’d learned at Stry.us, I focused on storytelling, about the way we think about writing for readers. I also learned some things about myself.

I really enjoy editing, wading through a great story and thinking of the best way to tell it. While I’d always taken pride in editing stories at my college paper, it was always with the point of making the paper better. Editing at Stry.us was pure collaboration. It wasn’t about making stories “printable” or anything of that nature. It was making them the best they could be. It was taking them from a great yarn to a transcendent story.

I should read more. I got more great ideas this summer than ever before simply because the people around me kept recommending great reading material.

I enjoy working in teams, to the point of needing it to function. I struggle to imagine myself trying to write as a solitary, roaming freelancer.

Most importantly, I learned I will probably be happy doing just about anything in this field. I know there are some things that I have my sights set on, but writing the real stories of the world is going to sustain me. And that makes the path ahead quite a bit brighter.

A taste of what I’ve done here in Roanoke so far:

Greatest hits from Stry.us:

  • The Fake Grenade Toss Heard ‘Round The World.
  • They Couldn’t Light It, So Instead They Tried To Fight It.
  • More Than A Thousand Words.
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