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Three Weeks

“We’ve canceled your position,” My boss told me 24 hours after landing in Nome to work at KNOM as their Public Affairs Director. “There is no Public Affairs position. You’re now a News Reporter.” She explained I would retain the public affairs duties of Elder Voices and Profiles but those tasks would be secondary to reporting news. The shift would balance the responsibilities of the News Department while making the department, which consists of the News Director and two News Volunteers, a cohesive team.

As my years of theatre improv training taught me, when presented with new information, just say yes. “Sounds great,” I said.

My first task as News Reporter was bending my mind from the shape of composing long form human interest stories to spitting out short news stories. I prefer mulling over my writing, wandering into the dictionary and thesaurus, placing words on the page like a Buddhist monk places individual grains of sand on a mandala, always gravitating towards timeless, doughy themes, nothing topical.

News rejects such indulgence. “Get it on the page and accurate,” my boss said when explaining news writing. “Forget perfectionism. A story a day is the goal.”

And let me tell you, it’s a rush. Combing news sites. Interviewing. Researching. Picking up the phone and dialing any person on any topic with the words, “I’m a reporter,” throwing open doors and mouths in full permission for nosiness. And the work is interesting, ceaselessly, whisking my brain from one topic to the next: adolescent obesity to caribou migration to fusing Native healing with Western medicine, for example.

It’s also a mental Stairmaster. Because news is a french fry—hot and salty one moment, cold trash the next. It doesn’t retain relevancy. News is what is happening now or what is going to happen. By the time it’s broadcast, it has expired. So the mind keeps climbing, grasping flashes in the pan.

By the way, I’ve been here three weeks. Before arriving I had never written news, broadcast live, edited audio, called for an interview, conducted a field interview, or touched broadcast equipment. Three weeks in, I’ve done all that. I’ve even dj’ed.

The KNOM staff induces this rapid transition. Though I came to KNOM with zero experience, walking through the door, the staff treated me as a radio news reporter. Instant belief. Instant support. Brief but thorough training. That mindset transferred to me, allowing me three weeks after walking into a radio studio for the first time to have already broadcast live news stories that I wrote.

At KNOM they pull you off a cliff, telling you, “You’re a bird,” and though you’ve never sprouted feathers, you find yourself flying.