Meet readers, foster community conversations

I was 9 when I wrote my first diary.

My friend Brooke and I decided our class needed it. We kept it simple, four front and back pages, handwritten and xeroxed. I don’t remember if it was well received, but when I look back I see it was the start of something meaningful.

In college, I considered majoring in English, but I followed my heart and got a whole new degree in journalism. People enter journalism for a variety of reasons. I consider this to be a calling. I have always wanted to tell the stories of those who are marginalized and sometimes forgotten.

One of the first newspapers I worked on was the Sidney Sun-Telegraph in the small town of Sidney, Neb., which is about 10 minutes from the Colorado border. At The Telegraph, I learned more than I ever learned in any college class, reporting two to three stories a day, taking photos, editing copies, writing columns and more.

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Misty Harris, second from left, listens to students from San Antonio College who work at the Ranger after a community meeting on the future of journalism education.

Nancy M. Preyor-Johnson / Staff

The best part of being a journalist? Connecting with the community – that’s where my heart is. At that time, it was often in person. I have often been stopped by our readers at the grocery store, local theater, sporting events, cafe and library. It was a small community and I always felt like I ran into a friend. We talked about their story ideas, local politics and our newspaper.

I am originally from San Antonian and have always dreamed of working for my hometown newspaper. I was therefore delighted when Express-News tried my luck by hiring me in 2016 as a researcher and archivist.

Throughout my five and a half years, I have worked to help reporters, editors and photographers share the history of San Antonio. I helped support Express-News reporters as they covered important topics and events by finding phone numbers, data and facts, creating timelines, calculating numbers, extracting court records and searching the archives. This work has been extremely rewarding and stimulating.

In October, I took on a new challenge by taking on a new job at Express-News as editor-in-chief of editorials and letters. Editing opinion pieces can be just as difficult and rewarding. I seek community voices and engage with readers, working with writers and non-writers to reflect and create compelling commentary.

This new role gives me the opportunity to do my favorite part of journalism – having meaningful conversations with the community – our readers.

In a short time, I learned a lot about myself, not only as a journalist, but as a person. I also got to know some of our readers and letter writers. You made me think and take a step back, helping me learn things I didn’t know through experiences I never had.

You, our readers and letter writers, play a vital role in this journal and in our community. You make us all think beyond our personal perspectives. We don’t have to agree on everything, and we shouldn’t, but we can listen to and learn from each other.

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Beyond that, you also care about journalism and help to empower our journalists, praising them for their hard work and offering ideas and suggestions.

I’m still learning, but this is what I know for sure: you, our readers, really care about our country, our community and democracy.

Express-News letters and editorial sections will continue to evolve, but it will always be a space for the community. I am happy to receive your contributions and look forward to working with many of you to amplify your ideas and perspectives. Think of our letters and editorial space as a hangout, like meeting a friend in a cafe. Together, we can have conversations that inspire us to be better citizens and people.

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