BY TIFFANY JOHNSON
When I was 13 years old, I was afforded the opportunity to write an article in the Charlotte Observer. Back in the day, haha, the Charlotte Bobcats (now Charlotte Hornets) held an annual Cool School Field Trip where they invited thousands of Charlotte area middle school students to a preseason basketball game. My eighth-grade year as a student at Quail Hollow Middle School, the Charlotte Observer selected 5 students from my yearbook class to cover the game. Super exciting! I can't remember the exact process for being selected, but I'm sure knowing me that I fought to have a seat at the table, per my usual.
The Bobcats played the Washington Wizards during that game, Quail Hollow was selected due to its close ties to the matchup. Antawn Jamison was a star on the the Wizards and he previously attended and played basketball for Quail, so he become the sports cover story. I remember wanting that story so bad, because it was a more lengthy article and would have pushed me as a writer. However, the story that I covered was destined for me. I read it back the other day, and it spoke to my soul in the best way. The article was published on my parents 19th wedding anniversary, October 17, 2006, and they were beyond proud!
The whole process was eye opening. I kept all my souvenirs from my media pass to the sign that was hanging in the media room upon arrival to the game stat sheets. During the game, I was able to sit down by the court on press row, behind the backboard and the photographers. It was intriguing, sitting next to established writers and watching how they approached covering the game, and the questions they asked during the post-game press conference. FYI - That room is much smaller than it looks on television.
I covered the hot performance by Gerald Wallace despite the Bobcats' game loss. I was so nervous, but excited. Since I was so young, I wasn't allowed to go to into the locker room. So, Gerald came outside the locker room to answer my questions after other members of the press went into the locker room for interviews. I appreciated him for still taking the time to speak with me. Prior to the interview, I prepped questions on my reporter's notepad. I didn't have a fancy tape recorder like the other journalists. So, after I asked him the questions, I quickly wrote down his responses with precision. Funny enough, I then asked him if what I wrote was okay. He joked, and said something like that part was up to me.
This was back when the Charlotte Observer still had their stand-alone building at Stonewall and South Tryon, so I was too hype walking downtown from the arena to the Observer building to write my first published piece after having just rocked my first interview with an NBA star. This was my first introduction to journalism, and essentially provided a day of mentorship as well. The staff journalists split us up to work on our pieces, and I pulled quotes from my interview with Gerald, and then wrote A LOT. I wrote so much more than my small article allowed, and I'm sure that I interjected my opinion in first person too. When I reconnected with the staff member, he reviewed what I wrote and a good chuck of it ended up on the cutting room floor.
Since this was over a decade ago, the Observer hadn't quite converted to digital publishing, so the day it published my mom took me to different spots to pick up multiple copies of the newspaper. I told all my friends about my journalism debut, and my mom surely told all her friends, coworkers, and our family.
Everyone was so happy for me, and asked if I was going to be a reporter or a journalist. Immediately, my answer was no, there isn't enough money in that profession. Now, look at me at 27 years old, and I am once again drawn to my love of storytelling that I previously shaded. When I was younger, I was determined to become a lawyer because of the craft. The impressive salary for that field certainly didn't hurt either. So, anything that wasn't law I denounced because I didn't feel it was my purpose.
In some way, I feel like John David Washington when he mentioned that he was always drawn to the art of acting, but denied it for years and then reconnected to that passion. A part of me has always loved storytelling and media, especially watching sports and entertainment interviews on television.
It feels good to get back to what was my first office-like career experience. This blog is my creative outlet and allows for me to share the stories of others and my own at the same time. Keep following along, it will only get better from here!
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