012121_ave_took1.jpg

If you’re in Eastern Baltimore County, please connect with me to share story tips, fill me in on the local history or just say hello.

I picked a tough time to become a journalist.

A year ago, I was staring down my final semester of college. I was an editor at my student newspaper and had a handful of professional internships under my belt. I had years of practice asking tough questions, balancing opposing viewpoints and boiling complicated stories down to simple forms.

A year ago, I worried about job security in journalism. I saw papers shut down, putting reporters out of work, and worried that I would struggle to find and keep a job amid industry-wide pressure to cut costs and downsize, but I also worried that I would not be safe at my job after witnessing journalists harassed, threatened and even killed on the job.

A year ago, I had already set aside the rose-colored glasses.

And then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

If anything could have further magnified the challenges I would face making my way into journalism, it was a sudden plunge into global economic chaos about three months before I was set to graduate.

Through spring and into summer, I kept a nervous eye on the horizon, thinking about the future in days and weeks, not months and years. I applied to jobs for which I was not qualified in industries in which I had no experience. I wavered at the edge of ‘selling out’ — taking the skills required in journalism to a more lucrative field like corporate communications, consulting or law.

But I didn’t sell out. I stuck it out. And looking back on the last year, one word comes to mind — blessed.

I became an education reporter in August, just weeks before schools were set to return amid the public health crisis of the century. I was on the ground amid the most heated presidential campaign of my life so far, talking to voters and election staff to affirm the security of the local ballot tallies. I covered the first round of vaccines, celebrating the start of a return to normal even as I reminded readers that we must continue to mask up and social distance.

I am so blessed, and not just because I have front row seats to watch history unfold. I am blessed to be living out my purpose as a writer, as a storyteller, as someone who cares deeply about other people and wants to do right by them. I am blessed to be part of journalism that is guided by the needs of the community, and I bring that blessing to The Avenue News.

On Jan. 6, during my first week as the Avenue News editor, I watched as violence unfolded in the nation’s capitol. I was shocked, frustrated and saddened by what I saw. One image will stick with me — the words ‘MURDER THE MEDIA’ scrawled across a door in the capitol building.

As a member of the media, I respectfully ask that you do not murder me. I am not your enemy. I am your friend, your neighbor, your ally. I am here to serve you, my readers.

Newsrooms across the country have entered a turbulent era. We are adapting to new business models. We are learning to do more with less. We are navigating a shifting landscape of fact and opinion that can leave us muddled with more questions than answers.

Despite these challenges, we are surviving. We are making calls, reaching out and reporting the news. We are building relationships with readers to earn their trust. We are finding new footing to continue serving our communities, as we have for decades past.

I look forward to continuing that service at The Avenue News. I will bring respect, trust and compassion to my work. I will make mistakes, and I will learn from them — that’s a promise. I will always make myself accessible to hear questions, comments or criticism from my readers — that’s part of the job.

Some might say that I’m naive, or that I’ll become jaded over time. Maybe so. Let’s circle back in a few years and find out. For now, I’ll focus on getting up tomorrow and putting the paper together the best way I know how.

To my readers, thank you.

I could write more, but it’s time to get to work.

Please email editor@avenuenews.com or call 443-239-0737 with questions, comments or story tips.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.