The day I became a journalist

10 Dec

As a kid I was pretty consistent (and specific) about what I wanted to be when I grew up. If I couldn’t be a professional beach volleyball player I was going to have a golden retriever and together we were going to drive around in a green van and I would be a travel writer. I told you I was specific.

When I was a senior in high school I got a little more serious about my future. While writing was still a vision, I first saw a career in broadcast journalism. That year I was involved in a video productions class where we filmed, edited and produced the school’s daily announcements. Because of my name I was a shoe-in for the weather girl.


Holly signed my yearbook with a picture of us my senior year.

My friend Holly and I wanted to pursue the same dream and together we went to Washington State University. I was a declared broadcast journalism major.

But one day, one person’s words steered me on another course that led me to a career in print journalism.

Before a student can certify into the communication program, Com 295 is the ticket in. The media writing course is the first real world experience of deadline writing. The computers in the classroom didn’t have spell check and if a name was misspelled or an address written incorrectly, it was an automatic F on the assignment.

My class was taught by Emily, a graduate assistant who was just a few years older than myself. I tried to ignore the horror stories about the course passed down from classes past and found that I thrived under the pressure and stress of quadruple-checking my work.

I was waiting in the hallway outside a professor’s office when I ran into Emily. It was the first time I had talked with her outside the classroom and she asked me what I was pursuing at WSU. I told her broadcast journalism.

Emily didn’t discourage me, but she asked me if I had thought about print journalism.  She had seen my work during the semester and gave me confidence that I kind of knew what I was doing. She also said I could always write for news broadcasts.

High on compliments I hopped on the bus to head home to my off-campus apartment and called my dad. Always my mentor, and a journalist himself, I told him I was changing my major to print journalism.

“Don’t do it,” he said.

*buzz kill*

My dad encouraged me to double major so I could become a teacher if I needed a backup plan, like if I was laid off two years after college…

As I neared my senior year and saw how close I was to finishing one degree, I ditched the double major idea and counted down to graduation! I had a sports internship lined up at The Spokesman-Review in Spokane where I covered minor league baseball, Seattle Seahawks training camps and other fun things!

I moved on to another daily where I won two awards for sports feature writing a year removed from college. But a year later I was a layoff casualty and suffered a midlife crisis at the ripe age of 24. As I contemplated going back to school to get my teaching certificate I got a call from a daily in Bellingham with a job offer and moved for the fourth time in three years.

Fast forward to now and I’m extremely fortunate to say I’m still doing the journalism thing.

I’m so thankful for that run-in with Emily. She didn’t know it then, and I didn’t even know it then, but her words led me on a journey of writing and editing all across this state and back to my hometown, where I’m still quadruple-checking names.

5 Responses to “The day I became a journalist”

  1. Alex December 10, 2013 at 8:18 pm #

    Hey Somer, I always like reading your posts! They pop up in my inbox and it’s so fun to hear what you have to say. I didn’t read the title of this one… just got down to it and when it ended I have to say I really just wanted to hear more! I think that’s a pretty good thing 🙂 I went back to the top to see what it was about and that made a little more sense as to where it ended. Keep it up!

    • somerbhanson December 10, 2013 at 8:23 pm #

      Aww, thanks so much Alex! That means a lot to me! I feel the same way about your photos! 🙂

  2. Steve December 10, 2013 at 9:11 pm #

    Glad you stuck with it. And happy to have met you along your travels.

    • somerbhanson December 10, 2013 at 9:15 pm #

      Thanks so much Steve! I learned a ton from you at the MPDN! Luckily I haven’t had to work as hard as I did during those days 🙂

  3. Marissa Dogeagle Smith December 11, 2013 at 1:44 am #

    This is a great post Somer! It helped me remember the passion I had for business while in the Foster School at UW, and very similar to you I had a professor steer me in a specific path when I started in the major more open! Especially in the work grind this season per dealing with frazzled clients and deadlines, your blog reinforced the importance of keeping the dedication and passion alive that was formed in college. Happy Holidays! -Marissa

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