NORMAN — 7 a.m. alarm, snoozed; 7:15 a.m. alarm, snoozed; 7:30 a.m. alarm, snoozed.
By the time I rolled out of the too-firm bed in my freshman dorm, I was sufficiently pressed to make it to my 8 a.m. class on time.
I slipped on a long-sleeve shirt and some sandals as quietly as I could, trying to appease my disgruntled roommate. Then I ran through the 62-degree spring morning breeze to Gaylord Hall and made it with two minutes to spare. Satisfied with myself, I sat down in my usual spot by the window ready for that day’s assignment — man on the street interviews.
For the next 45 minutes, my professor delivered the instructions, and an ominous scene developed outside that window: first clouds, then wind, then rain. As we poured out onto the South Oval to seek out our sources, it started to sleet.
I was thoroughly unprepared.
Armed with a newfound appreciation for morning people and the knowledge that I would be allowed back inside only after my five required interviews had been completed, I tried to flag down students as they rushed to class.
On my first attempt, I had no luck. The second one similarly passed me by. But the third person I waved down stopped and looked me over knowingly.
“Oh man,” she said. “I almost made that mistake this morning, too.”
After answering a few questions, she lent me her umbrella.
The next person handed me some extra hand warmers.
In each act of kindness, I began to appreciate the commonalities that link Oklahomans to one another — the warmth, the humor, the shared experiences.
I returned to Gaylord Hall much warmer, and, for the first time, I felt like an Oklahoman.
Community journalism requires community understanding
Since then, I have continued with my journalism education and encountered many more unplanned circumstances. Along the way, I have come to understand that these kinds of human connections are essential to my work.
Effective local media listen to and learn community interests and values, and journalists connect people through them. It shortens the distance between the different groups that make up a community.
I try to carry these lessons with me into each one of my stories.
As I followed a group of Oklahomans who went door to door in rural Iowa canvassing before the February caucuses, I remembered Oklahoma’s long populist history and how its remnants are still felt in Oklahoma’s culture today.
As I sat with a woman in California and heard about her experiences growing up in the migrant worker camps Oklahomans fled to during the Dust Bowl, I remembered the origins of the neighborly attitudes that brought her community together over shared hardship.
Journalism has allowed me to learn about the past and the present of the community where I live, and over time, it has made me feel like a member of that community.
Starting NonDoc’s fall reporting internship, I am excited to be working in a newsroom that is not only dedicated to serving Oklahomans but where I can continue to learn and grow into my role serving them as well.