I attended Sam Houston State University and majored in Broadcast Journalism. I was always passionate about writing and wanted to share stories. The news industry is an incredibly competitive niche career sector. You have to be good at making people feel comfortable with you. You need to be a good writer. You need to be honest and fair. You need to be cut-throat sometimes. You have to have a thick skin for constant criticism from other reporters, the community and your superiors. You have to be a quick thinker, fast learner and pick things up fast. You have to be ready to change directions at a moments notice. You have to separate yourself from some of the things you are seeing. You have to live and breathe news.
The first thing you learn in journalism school is that you need to get comfortable hearing the word “No”. You’re going to hear 99 no’s before you get that 1 yes and when (if) you get it – you better go for it!
My “yes” was in Scottsbluff, NE – a small town in Western Nebraska. A crazy personal and professional adventure. It was the first time I was leaving home and living on my own in another state. All this compounded with learning how to do a new job in a strange city with no support system. It was a challenge, to say the least. I learned a lot about myself and about how to be a journalist, which lead to my next gig in Lufkin/Nacogdoches, TX.
I worked at the ABC station as a multimedia journalist (multi meaning I do it all: write, shoot, edit, present on-air) for nearly 3 years. Being a reporter is definitely not as glamorous as it seems…let me tell you. I lugged about 40 pounds of equipment from my news unit to meet my interview subjects every day, multiple times a day. I worked in the rain, snow, sever weather, iced over roads, flooding, in the woods, in lakes and all over the 12 counties our station covered. It’s also hard to remember sometimes that journalists are some of the first people on the scene with first responders and we see a lot of heartbreaking things. You learn early on that you have to separate your personal feelings from what you’re witnessing because you have a job to do. You have to tell the story that led to this crime or fatality. You have to ask grieving people how they feel about situations that are fresh on their hearts. It’s challenging and humbling. On the other hand, as a journalist you have an incredible opportunity to help people get their message out, tell stories, uncover corruption, give people peace, memorialize someone’s accomplishments and share people’s victories. The people you interview put their trust in you to tell their story and you have to deliver.
I loved telling stories, meeting new people and making an impact in their lives and the community. Eventually, the lifestyle caught up with me and I decided to take a step back from news.
“Journalism is the first rough draft of history.” – Alan Barth
My next stop was at the American Cancer Society in Houston where I worked on planning and executing fundraising events while implementing marketing/communications initiatives to drive revenue and bring awareness about the mission. It was a transition job while I figured out what was next for me and a launch pad that gave me the freedom to pursue a Masters degree. I also met two of my best friends there. I was really jolted awake when my position was eventually eliminated and I found myself unemployed. There’s nothing like the universe giving you a swift kick in the behind to show you that you need to refocus.
To be honest, I felt pretty directionless for a long time after I left news. Being a journalist was all I ever wanted to do, all I worked toward and I had no alternate plan. I was constantly second guessing my decision to move on from the industry and felt like a failure most days. It wasn’t until I read a LinkedIn post a friend of mine wrote that I really found some peace with my decision. The part that stood out the most to me was: Some dreams aren’t meant to last forever. It blew my mind because I realized then that I had lived my dream. Now, I needed a new dream! <Woha, right?>
I’ve since graduated with a Master of Business Administration and while I haven’t quite figured out what’s next for Leighá…I’m okay with it (for now).
Currently, I’m working in higher education in digital content creation and working on this blog to fulfill my passion for writing and storytelling.