BY TODD BOWMAN
MARTINSBURG, West Virginia – I jokingly tell people that I broke my mom’s heart the day I decided not to go to journalism school directly out of high school. After all, she supported me with my two summer internships with the Cumberland Times-News, the local paper in my hometown. She supported me writing for The Sentinel, my high school newspaper and the Maryland Fire Dispatch, a publication in Maryland that covered news related to the fire and emergency medical service.
I have always been fascinated with news and current events. More specifically, breaking news and how quickly news outlets can push that information out to their readers, viewers, and listeners. As the years pass, that speed and efficiency continues to increase. Reporters using smart phones with advanced cameras are taking photos, live tweeting, and using Facebook Live to broadcast video from cities and countries around the world. Reporters are imbedded with military troops reporting from areas that many people will never see in person.
“Journalism is a front row seat on life,” Joyce Barrett, a professor of English and journalism at Shepherd University said to an eager group of students. She had a knack for pushing her students. She used her years of experience as a reporter and editor to guide myself and other new writers to find their niche and confidence. The confidence you need to ask the tough questions. The confidence to pick up the phone, step into an office, or onto the sidewalk and get the story. Not only to get the story but to make sure the story is accurate and precious.
As the editor-in-chief with The Picket, Shepherd University’s student newspaper, Barrett became like a second mother to me. We spent days talking and texting about the next story, layouts, photos, and then ultimately making the tough choice to take the paper completely digital.
I was several years older than my classmates and my co-workers on The Picket. I worked a full-time job, taking classes as my schedule allowed. A non-traditional student to say the least, but I finished my Bachelor’s degree.
Barrett never let me lose focus on a story. She kept her students and staff that she advised grounded and centered. Students have went on to other news outlets using the skills that Barrett taught us to report the facts accurately and thoroughly.
To this day, just like mom, Joyce is just a phone call away if you need advice or just to chat about current events.
Being a journalist isn’t about the money. It is more than sitting at a keyboard, in front of a camera or microphone. There is incredible power being able to tell a story that otherwise may never be told. Being a journalist means you have to have the confidence to go into situations knowing that you might not be welcomed to get a story. Being a journalist means keeping up with current events, trends, and reporting these topics in a manner that readers understand.
Todd Bowman is a local journalist and social media anchor. He is also a paramedic/firefighter in Western Maryland. Follow him on Twitter @todd_bowman87.