Nothing can prepare you for your first job as a community news journalist.
Sure, you can train and study, but all that goes flying out the door when your editor tells you to speak to a mother who lost her children, or to the elderly woman who found her best friend murdered in a closet.
No textbook can tell you how to comfort a grieving widow, or how to take photographs at the funeral of a talented sports star who died too young.
You know you’re not supposed to get emotionally involved, but once the words have been written, the article is printed, and the dust has settled around yesterday’s news, their stories haunt you. Did you do them justice?
Of course, for all the horrifically sad stories there are equally happy ones: the former criminals who turned their lives around or the little girl who, against all odds, beat death and celebrated her first day of school.
Sometimes, sad stories can turn into good ones: the mother who lost her home in a fire, and the community who supported her until she was back on her feet; the man who got to thank his rescuers, who thought he wouldn’t make it.
Community news introduces you to the talents, the fighters and the survivors.
You get to meet the man who grew giant tomatoes, the couple who’ve been married for 70 years, and the people who make sure the owls have homes too.
Sure, there will be a pipe burst or three, and you might receive more than a few calls from angry residents. Sometimes, you’ll wonder if you’re good enough to be a journalist at all.
Then, a man will pop in to thank you for writing about the pothole in his street, and the bowling club will invite you for cake and tea.
I’ve been a community journalist for little over eight months now. Somehow, through listening to the community, I always receive more than I give.
Thank you, Kempton Park, for entrusting me with your stories. I can only hope to do them justice.