Before I was a reporter for the Fredericksburg Standard-Radio Post, I spent two years in Atascosa County.
I covered a wide spectrum of things and four communities. Covering missing persons and murder cases were not easy. I sometimes found myself having nightmares after reading information, interviewing people and viewing details of the cases.
The death of a 21-year-old woman at the hands of her boyfriend was one of those cases I closely followed.
I sat in the courtroom at several hearings, spoke to people who were there the night she was killed and listened to her mother speak of her and witnessed her loss taking its toll on her family she left behind.
Some journalists would have used that family’s vulnerability as an advantage to get a story. Nevertheless, I felt genuinely drawn to help. Her mother needed an outlet and wanted to express herself. I felt it was my duty to tell her thoughts honestly and respectfully.
On another occasion, I held the hand of a woman whose son had been missing without a trace since 2014, as she tearfully recounted the last moments she spent with her son.
Those things, I could not help but take home with me instead of leaving at work.
I have seen people pulled from wreckage and witnessed lives that were changed forever for both positive and negative reasons.
These are small details of moments I have never shared about my career. And some of the things I have heard and seen I know will never leave me.
As a journalist, this is a side of me I wish more people knew. There are sides to all of us journalists that are rarely seen by our readers.
We complete many behind-the-scenes tasks each week to bring you the pages you comb weekly.
Each week we hit the ground running chasing your stories and following up on leads. We spend hours writing, snapping photos, designing pages, distributing the paper and then we do it all over again the following week. Every once in a while, our readers may even have their weekly news delivered by our newsroom staff.
Those group photos of kids at events, couples dancing at a festival or people waving from a parade float take us many phone calls and time to identify. We work to make certain we get those names correct down to the last letter.
I will admit, though, that we do not always get things right. We are still people, and we make mistakes. Trust me when I say that we are hard on ourselves about those, too.
Sometimes we write or cover matters we do not necessarily agree with personally, but we set all of that aside because we understand those matters are important to our readers.
There are moments when people get upset because they do not agree with what they read. At the end of the day, we do the work we love, and take into consideration the positive and negative outcomes.
All of those things I have mentioned are just a few of things I wish our readers knew.
The communities we cover and their support are important to us.
It brings joy to my heart to see someone enjoying their coffee and reading our stories at a local restaurant. When I see that people take the time to clip news articles and display them in businesses and on the school campuses, it brings a smile to my face.
In our office, we have an inside joke that involves a hashtag: #JustAReporter. At some point in our careers, each of us in the newsroom have either been called or identified by others as “just a reporter.”
We are more than the faces you see covering city and county meetings, sideline reporters at sporting events or the people wanting to take a photo of you because we saw you in a moment worth capturing.
Honestly, we are not just reporters with a camera, pen and notepad. We are more than that. Some of us are active volunteers in our communities, musicians, artists, members of association boards, athletes, youth sports coaches, activists and even parents.
I think those are things worth mentioning because people tend to see us as “just reporters.” For those of you that do see us, we see you, too.