Originally written as an editorial column in the March 2016 edition of the CU Denver Sentry during my time as Editor in Chief and later repurposed into a blog for Sunshine with Savannah. Link to blog: sunshinewithsavannah.com/2019/04/15/lessons-small-town-journalism/
My small mountain town is always calling my name. This is especially true as the snow starts to melt and the spring-time sun emerges from behind Gunnison Valley’s peaks. Sunny Gunni, as the locals call it, has an allure for everyone who pays rent or pitches their tent near the coveted Blue Mesa Reservoir.
Some people roll their eyes at their hometown. Even though it comes with its own set of demographic issues, I never will. Honestly, I just couldn’t.
While so much of my attraction to the town comes from the tight-knit community, my childhood home, gorgeous scenery, and the 360 (at least) days of sunshine in a year, one amenity stands apart from the rest: The Gunnison Country Times, the valley’s weekly newspaper.
It inspired me enough to direct my path. I was an English major without a formal direction. I had an epiphany, inspired by my love of the familiar print.
So, with my dad’s professional connections in hand and my resolve to be a “practical” writer, I asked the publisher for an internship with The Times after my freshman year of college. It worked, and I began to compose my first pieces of journalism, at the command of the paper’s editor.
Everything was new. At this point in my life, I’d never opened the AP Style Guide, called someone for an interview, or had to pitch a story idea.
I was brand new to photographer collaboration and column inch counts. My idea of writing had always been confined to sitting on my bed and snacking on chocolate, waiting for narrative inspiration to strike in doses of academic engagement.
I was scared. My first article was about a local man, in his eighties, who kept track of the weather every day for the past 25 years. I showed up to his front door, and nearly turned around when I saw his cat tied to a leash, thinking, “What have I gotten myself into?”
Somehow, I stuck it through. I wrote articles I’ll never forget. There was one about the art center’s literary journal. Another dug into the prairie dog crisis on the western slope. Then, a Western State Colorado University alum starring in her own TV show. And my favorite, about my high school basketball coach promoted to the varsity squad. All were small assignments, but they spoke to the strength of the community and its relationships.
With each passing article, I found my voice. I found my confidence. And, along the way, I found that The Times was a starting point for me.
And guess what? There would be more to come.