Love at first sight

By Austin Jackson | Published Saturday, July 14, 2018

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Have you ever met someone and it just clicked?

It’s uncommon, for me at least. But every once in a while, you cross paths with someone, and lay down a wry observation or a corny pun, and all of the sudden you’re off to the races, riffing on the way towards becoming fast friends.

Austin Jackson

That was my impression in June, as I wheeled through Downtown Decatur, slightly frazzled wearing a seldom-worn, itchy blazer and trying not to rubber neck on my way to an interview at the Wise County Messenger.

I rolled down the windows and was shocked. I heard bustle and hustle. The downtown streets were filled with people. They shopped, ate and talked.

I saw a community that was connected. A town with vigor.

It was something I hadn’t seen. Not recently, that’s for sure.

For the past 11 months, I’d worked as a sports reporter in Oklahoma, spending a lion’s share of my time writing features, profiles and spot news coverage on the people of Carter, Love, Marshall and Murray County for the Daily Ardmoreite. It was a six-day per week paper, and there, we took all of our own photos and I was tasked with designing pages four to five nights per week.

There’s nothing like the relief of hearing that ornery press roaring to life. It’s something I won’t forget soon.

If anything, Ardmore was a place to cut my teeth as a budding reporter. There, I learned how to survive as a journalist, in a harsh community where meth and high-paying jobs were among the biggest exports.

The pace was different. I usually worked until around midnight, and I’m still adjusting to that sleep cycle as I type this. I registered more rapid smacks of the snooze button at 6 this morning than I’d like to admit. But if anything, Oklahoma gave me perspective.

When Reece Waddell, a classmate of mine at the University of North Texas and colleague at the student newspaper, informed me of a potential job opportunity, I was all-ears. First off, the job was in Texas. A year on the wrong side of the Red River will make a Texan from birth a little crazy. And it’s true, the Whataburger really is better over here.

Second off, the Wise County Messenger served a community that was somehow half the size, but had twice the readership and four-times the digital presence. A talented team and strong leadership with a keen ear on the community has built that. An informed, educated Wise County has kept it alive.

Now, it’s up to me to learn some good habits.

So here I am. Austin Jackson, a reporter currently living on an air mattress in an empty garage apartment in Decatur who’s looking for more friends in a community that I fell in love with at first sight.

I got into journalism to write. And here, with the talented and ever-interesting Joe Duty as well as the dedicated design team, I think I can accomplish that. Instead of surviving, here, I hope to thrive.

My passion is features. I like to find what many see as mundane and peel back the layers to discover it’s beauty and power.

People will always be my favorite subject. And to me, I really do believe the old adage that everyone, from the maintenance man to the mayor has a story. So please, if you see me, looking slightly lost and slightly enamored by this new world around me, introduce yourself.

I can’t wait to meet you all. Seriously, I want to meet you all, and I’m proud to call this community my home.

Austin Jackson is a reporter at the Messenger. He started his new job Monday.

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