Coming full circle

Published 1:05 pm Saturday, May 30, 2015

My first official interaction with the press occurred rather unexpectedly. When I was in the eighth grade, I didn’t really think the fact that I was a good speller was all that newsworthy. But considering that I was the first child from Southampton County to ever qualify for the Scripps National Spelling Bee, maybe I should have been more prepared for the attention I got from The Tidewater News and The Virginian-Pilot. Talking with those reporters made me nervous. Before each interview I practiced in the mirror, afraid that I would stutter or stumble over my words.

As my last interview with The Tidewater News concluded, Charlie Passut, the journalist, turned to me and said, “Don’t go into journalism, kid. There’s no money in it.”

Of course, being an obstinate child, I immediately added journalism to my list of possible careers. I began to pore over books and websites, weighing options and considering the practicalities of being a journalist.

I dipped my toe into the water two years later, when I took a journalism course and wrote for Southampton High School’s newspaper for a single semester. I wrote a feature story about Southampton’s girls field hockey team that my editor deemed good enough to submit to the Virginia High School League’s student journalism competition. But for the most part, the experience didn’t satisfy me in any lasting sort of way. Besides the field hockey piece, the only thing I remember writing from that year was an article on the trendiest dresses worn to Homecoming, and I don’t recall it ever being published. Writing about such trivial matters didn’t interest me at all, and I didn’t sign up for newspaper staff the next semester.

Another three years passed before I tried my hand at journalism again. This time, writing opinion pieces for American University’s student newspaper, The Eagle, it clicked. Writing opinion changed my view of what journalism is. As a public relations major, I’m taught to write just the facts, while leaving my feelings at the wayside. But writing an editorial piece lets me shout my opinion from the proverbial rooftops. American University is an extremely liberal school in Northwest Washington, D.C. Writing more moderate and sometimes downright conservative articles and riling the tail feathers of my left-wing classmates was a bit more vindictively fun than it probably should have been.

Joking aside, I enjoyed writing for The Eagle so much, that when I arrived home for the summer after freshman year was over, I immediately drafted a fresh resume and cover letter and applied to The Tidewater News. I enjoy the “Circle of Life” aspect of working at the very newspaper that first bit me with the journalism bug, and I can’t wait to rile a few tail feathers closer to home.

Walter Francis Jr. is a student at American University and is serving as a staff writer for The Tidewater News this summer. Email him at