Readers of The Lennox Independent and Tea Weekly newspapers may have noticed a new byline the last few weeks, as new reporter Caitlyn French has joined the newspaper staff.
French is new to South Dakota, but experienced in the field of reporting. French is originally from Bay City, Michigan, but moved to Minnesota for college. She graduated from Bethany Lutheran College in December of 2014 with a Bachelor of Arts in Media Arts. French studied prelaw on the side too, with the hopes of going to law school one day.
Upon graduation she worked for the Granite Falls/Clarkfield Advocate Tribune in Minnesota starting as the Sports Editor/Staff Writer.
French said, “As staffing changes happened, with the publisher resigning and the news editor of Granite Falls and the editor of an affiliate paper taking different positions, I saw the opportunity to work hard and climb the ladder fast, so I ended up becoming the news editor for not only the Advocate but also our sister paper, the Tri-County News out of Cottonwood.”
The position proved to be a good fit for French, even though she hadn’t set out to become a journalist.
“I never once thought I’d be a journalist,” she said. “In college I had indirectly studied journalism; it wasn’t my major directly but just a tiny fraction of my major overall. Media Arts focused on all aspects of media—film, animation, motion graphics, broadcast, design, communication theory, and such. But I saw the job listing in Granite Falls for a reporter and took a wild gamble and went for it, thinking that sure, I studied prelaw and media, I bet I can combine the two and do that. So I went in for an interview and within days I was hired and ready to jump into it.”
That leap paid off, as French discovered an appreciation for the field of journalism.
“I instantly fell in love with the field when starting at the Advocate,” French said, “I had great mentors, Dave Smiglewski, the mayor of Granite Falls and the former Publisher of the Advocate alongside Scott Tedrick, the former editor of the Advocate and now current editor of the Renville County Register. They taught me the importance of small town journalism, how to be an ethical and effective journalist, and all the tricks and tips to the trade that could never be found in a textbook. Thanks to Scott and Dave I have such a strong passion for community journalism. It’s such a unique field, I absolutely love it.”
French joined the staff at The Lennox Independent and Tea Weekly on Sept. 13, 2018. Publisher Kelli Bultena said she is looking forward to working along side her.
“We had some strong candidates for the position, but Caitlyn’s writing really stood out to me,” Bultena said. “I also think her experience and philosophies line up well with ours and I’m looking forward to seeing the community news through her eyes.”
Covering the news faithfully and without bias is important to French. “I believe that journalists have an important responsibility to their communities so it’s my goal to do the best work I can,” She said.
She also notes a difference in daily and weekly news coverage. French said, “I feel that small town journalism is one of the purest forms of journalism. Small town journalists are both mirrors and history keepers for their communities. As a journalist I feel like my work helps to keep entities like city councils, county boards, law enforcement, and the like, accountable to the communities they serve. Quality journalism is so critical to maintaining free speech in a democracy too, and I’m proud to be a part of that.”
French said the job does come with challenges. “The hardest part is also one of my favorite parts of weekly news; no week or day is the same,” said French, “You can plan out perfectly how your week of stories is going to go but you never know what might come up. You might have more news than you planned for suddenly and need to add pages or, on the opposite end of things, something might happen to throw a wrench in the story you were working on and then you’re left scrambling to fill space on the pages. Everyday changes. It never is dull. I took a break from journalism briefly for a year to work in a corporate office before jumping back into journalism here; living in a cubical didn’t cut it for me. I needed the challenge of the news cycle and I thrive on the unpredictability of it. Even though that unpredictability can be a bit painful at a weekly, it’s worth it in the end to get that paper out to press.”
French notes that it is the little things that make the job extra rewarding, citing seeing a copy of her paper open on a waiting room table or tucked under someone’s arms as they pick up a fresh copy at the office.
“It’s a super cool feeling to see people reading your work and knowing that you’re making a difference as a journalist,” French said.
One of the aspects of the job that she is looking forward to is covering community events.
“I really enjoy being on the frontline of the action,” French added. “My camera lens is what captures that moment forever and I enjoy doing all that I can to get the most striking and captivating photos possible. I get to experience events on a unique level as an observer and I love that I can share my experiences with the community. Since I’m a newbie to the community it’s fun for me too, to also get to experience everything brand new and with a fresh perspective.”
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