In the beginning, there was journalism

By Wendy NugentNewton Now

On Wednesday, April 6, Adam Strunk, Bruce Behymer and I gave a talk about Newton Now at Life Enrichment, which is a program for people 60 and older at Bethel College in North Newton.

Adam talked about how he got into journalism, and I recall a column he wrote recently about the beginnings of his journalism career. Adam and Bruce were the main speakers; I didn’t talk much because, well, I’m a bit shy when it comes to things like that.

These subjects have caused me to think about why I got into this business and how an older editor told Adam if he went into journalism, the career would be so encompassing he’d never see his family.

The opposite was true for me, however. My job actually allowed me to attend my children’s school events when they were younger while taking photos for whatever community newspaper I worked for. I attended their school programs and sports games, always with a camera in tow. I also was able to take them out on assignments with me, if the assignment wasn’t during regular office hours, which was a plus for a single mom with three kids. I distinctly recall taking them to state basketball in Hutch and them sitting in the stands, being mostly well behaved.

Basically, the reason I went into journalism was because I could get paid to take photos. Taking photos is one of my passions. I love that. I love to take photos of people and thunderstorms. I enjoy taking portraits in creative ways, as well as candids.

After the circa 2008 recession, things went downhill for newspapers. At another paper at which I worked, there were hiring freezes. I was doing the jobs of other people, as well as my own. We all worked hard, just like the rest of the country. Little by little, people in journalism were getting laid off, and I was one of those casualties. I took a break from working for one newspaper and got a job in the Alumni Relations Office at Bethel College. This was a part-time job, so I needed to supplement my income with my freelance business, Wendy Nugent Words and Photography. My main customer was Kansas Publishing Ventures, which owns Newton Now, Harvey County Now, The Edge, Hillsboro Free Press and The Clarion.

My love for journalism started when I was in middle school, when I wrote an article for our middle-school newspaper. I don’t remember what it was about, but people really liked it, and I liked their reactions. I got positive attention. In high school, I joined the yearbook and newspaper staffs. In college, I was torn between majoring in psychology or journalism. I made way better grades in psychology, but I obviously chose the journalism route, although I still find psychology to be quite interesting.

That was back in the day before digital cameras. I really loved working in the darkroom. It was almost like magic, seeing the photo come to life in the developer tray. I miss that. I work quite at ease in a room that’s pitch black.

My first newspaper job was at the University Daily Kansan at The University of Kansas, where I graduated. While a student there, I married a guy in Navy ROTC, and we eventually moved to Key West, Fla., where I found my first real job at a newspaper, at the Key West Citizen. I’ve worked at a number of other community newspapers, spanning a few decades, and I’m always learning something.

One thing I do enjoy, though, is being able to visit other’s lives, even though it’s just for a small amount of time. People allow me to tell their stories. Whether it’s about a lively beekeeper, World War II veteran who saw the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima, KU fans cheering for their basketball team, a teen whose life was saved by a can of soup, a youth who likes to do magic or a young lady who had the same role in ?The Diary of Anne Frank? her mother did when she was in high school, I enjoy learning about other’s lives.

Doing an interview, though, isn’t like a normal conversation, because I take notes. There are usually pauses while I write down what someone just said. Sometimes I interject stories about myself. I hope by doing that, it puts others at ease so they don’t just think they’re talking to a ?reporter robot.?

I do enjoy this career, and I’m hoping it won’t go the way of Latin teachers and the milkman. So I want to thank you for subscribing. With your help, we hope to be around a long time.

Wendy Nugent is the features editor at Newton Now and the editor of Harvey County Now magazine. She can be reached at or 316-281-7899.

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