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Mary Barczak
Western Kentucky University
Cynthiana Democrat

Presents always come in unexpected packages. Each one is always filled with something surprising and indescribable.

Cynthiana was my “present” this summer.

In these few short months here, I have truly had some unforgettable experiences that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

My second day on the job, I fainted. Talk about mortifying. Residents are still asking me if I need some water or to sit down for a bit when I introduce myself.

I have gotten to write numerous feature stories, including one about an 86-year-old beekeeper and a group of women who call themselves the “Cynthiana Hookers” (they hook rugs, don't get excited).

I got to try my hand at column writing and have found out that I actually enjoy it quite a bit.
I even learned how to pick up a camera and take a pretty decent picture, which incidentally is all about capturing a moment.

Oh, and I learned how to collect court records. A word to the wise, it's easy if you can decipher all of the abbreviations.

These are just some of the duties that I maintained while at the Democrat, but all of these led me to one overall lesson.

Community. I truly got to take a good look at community.

I was used to working at my college paper where everything is separated-- the news, features, opinion, photo, design, multimedia, etc. But not here. Everyone does a little bit of everything. Just to give you an idea, on a given assignment I might be expected to take pictures, write the captions, take notes for a story and lay it all out in InDesign.

The first day that I got here they handed me a camera bag,  and I politely accepted, slightly confused. But when Becky told me that I was going to go to the school and take pictures of ice cream distribution, it clicked. I realized that they expected me to take my own pictures, and that terrified me.

At Western, if you are in the journalism program, then you are either dubbed a “newsie,” which is print, or a “PJ,” or photojournalist. And I would fall into the first category, so toning and “shooting raw” were foreign things to me, that is until now.

This summer, I have been given so many great opportunities to learn about the multiple facets that make up the paper and keep it going.

And I have learned what it takes to be on staff at a community newspaper. Courage-- to ask the hard questions when they need to be asked. Compassion-- for those who need someone to listen and relay their story. And an adventurous spirit-- to seek out the oddities of the land.

Because after all, you know what else is a community? A newspaper. And now I hope to take all of my new-found knowledge about newspaper workings back with me to hopefully implement more of a working “community” at my college paper in the fall.


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