Daniel Kehn is a freshman journalism and telecommunications news major and writes for The Daily News. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the newspaper.
Entering my first semester of college, it was hard to tell people that I was studying journalism. A good deal of the time, I got “the look.” It’s perfectly passive-aggressive. It’s the slightly uncomfortable smile. It’s the condescending bend in the eyebrows that ponders if I actually know what I’m doing. It’s the “good for you” that feels so much like a slap in the face.
Those responses drowned out the positive support I had for my passion. They made it hard to stand firm in my convictions, and they would always leave a shred of doubt in my mind.
It’s not every day you pack your life into your parent’s minivan and move to Indiana with the dream of becoming a sports journalist and, contrary to what I had told my mother on numerous occasions, I was wildly unsure about college.
It seemed a little too much for my skill level. I was petrified that everyone around me would be light-years smarter, more organized and generally have their lives together far more than I did. Doubt lived in my head and plagued my daily life, so much so that I didn’t finish packing until 3 a.m. the morning I left home.
Sitting in the press box at the Camellia Bowl at the end of my first semester, preparing to cover my first bowl game on Christmas Day and looking back on how I felt on day one, I found that anxiety comically overestimated.
My plan for my first month of school was simple: find whoever runs The Daily News and talk to them, get to know them and maybe get an article published if it was up to par.
I talked to this nice lady named Lisa Renze-Rhodes over the summer, and she seemed to know what was going on in student media. It turned out she ran the Unified Media Lab (UML) and advised The Daily News. Months later, and well into my career at The Daily News, I can say she’s definitely a good person to know.
When I took my tour in the spring, I remember not being able to go into the UML. The guide was far more interested in showing me the Chick-fil-A downstairs than anything else, but I tried to peek in through the huge glass windows to see what was inside. It was the first real newsroom that I had ever seen in person, and I knew I wanted to spend all my time there. Now, I do.
I quickly got acquainted with the sports section of The Daily News, which I firmly believe is the best group of student sports journalists in the country, and was given the women’s volleyball beat. I knew as much about volleyball as I knew about rocket science, but I took the opportunity and started learning as much as I could.
The rest of my first semester of college was a blur of stats, copy, pictures, transcriptions, edits and “pinch-me-is-this-real life” moments – my first few months fiercely exceeded my expectations. Not only was I able to cover a Division I volleyball program, but I covered football and basketball, too.
No part of my mind thought I would be doing the things that I’m doing so quickly into college. Finishing the semester, I covered the Mid-American Conference Championship, the NCAA volleyball tournament and traveled to Alabama to cover a bowl game.
I don’t experience too many of those “pinch me” moments that I previously mentioned, but the trip to Alabama was certainly full of them. Walking into the press box, the journalists around me were chatting and networking while I was trying to hold in my excitement and locate the bathroom. I was nervous, yes, but not out of place. I didn’t think I needed to bolt back into the elevator and find the first flight back home – just a deep breath.
I personally believe that the press box is one of the best views you will ever get in any athletic venue. Combined with a flurry of stats, interview questions and possible story angles, I was in journalist heaven. Not only was I given the opportunity to do meaningful work, but I was having a blast doing it.
Despite asking myself “who let you in here” several times in the first 10 minutes, I came to what is usually a once-in-a-lifetime realization: This is where I belonged.
Once that thought crosses your mind, there’s no going back. You stand a little taller, sit a little straighter and begin to put everything you have into what you do.
You pull the punches when you don’t know if something is right for you. You don’t try as hard. You don’t produce your best because what if you do and you still aren’t happy?
I was pulling my punches. I didn’t know whether this would be right for me, but I am now certain it is. When I tell people I’m a journalist, I stand a little taller. I sit a little straighter. I say it confidently because I know where I belong.
Contact Daniel Kehn with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @daniel_kehn.