The Young Journalist
The highest award I’ve ever received was back in 2009 at the South Dakota Newspaper Association’s annual convention when I was named the Outstanding Young Journalist for all weekly newspapers in the state.
This remains one of my proudest moments.
The Outstanding Young Journalist award is only awarded to two individuals each year, one for weekly newspaper journalists and another for daily papers. The recipient must be under the age of 30 and can only receive the award once in their lifetime.
I was 19 when nominated and had just turned 20 when they announced my name during the formal banquet to which it was my first time attending.
My mind was whirling a million miles a second as I looked around the room in complete shock. People were beginning to stand and applauded. A gentleman to my left heartily slapped my shoulder and a lady across the table leaned forward to say her congratulations. My editor was on my right, beaming, laughing with a huge smile on her face. When I continued to just sit there, she kind of pointed towards the stage and mouthed something like, “go!”
As I walked forward – it felt more like I was floating – random people reached out to shake my hand and those who I then barely knew were greeting me with smiles. I could barely get my brain wrapped around it all.
How had a homeschooled and farm-raised girl like me made it here? How could it be that I was thus blessed? I was the girl who, not that long before this moment, had hardly ever been away from the farm in the country for any other reason than to make a mechanical parts run or to pick up feed for the livestock. How was it possible that I was living my dream already? I was making my living by my written words.
I got on the stage and was dumbfounded by what to say when they motioned me up to the microphone. I looked out at the sea of newspaper editors and publishers, all looking back at me, expecting me to say something. I silently prayed whatever I managed to get out was at least intelligible.
But then I saw my editor there, and remembered. It was due in large part to this lady that I had made it here. She was the one who had been willing to take me under her wing and teach me so much about the newspaper industry – practically everything I knew about it at that time.
I thank God He gave me such a great mentor, such a great friend.
Now, I barely remember what I said in my acceptance speech but do recall a line something along the lines of this: “When I started in this industry, it was on a six-week trial basis, to see if I could deal with the deadlines and to see if I could handle the stress of it all. Well, I’m here to tell you all that I’ve fallen in love with this industry and had those six weeks not worked out where I started, I would have been banging on each and every one of your newspaper’s doors begging for a job.”
To which I was rewarded with a hearty laugh from the crowd.