From the time I was five years old, scribbling onto stapled copy paper and presenting it to my parents as “books,” to actively pursuing a college degree in journalism, I knew I was meant to write. Something about it just came so naturally to me, and the idea of getting to do it for a living enticed me from a young age.
When I was fourteen and just starting high school, I started working for the Buford Weekly Illustrated, the former town paper. I was tasked with covering Buford City School events, most often involving the arts, and I loved it. I felt so official in my press badge, walking around and interviewing people for my articles. It was my first real taste of the journalism industry and, to this day, I still get excited when I’m handed a new story.
Working as an intern for The North Gwinnett Voice is what cemented my passion for the job. Every week, I got to research something new, interviewing people from all around the city of Buford and challenging myself with each new article. I learn the most from doing, and this was the perfect opportunity. It taught me the proper formatting, grammar, and time-management skills that make me a competitive student in my journalism courses.
A term we use in journalism is “baptism by fire,” which means young journalists are often thrown into the job without much prior training, and you learn from your missteps and your experience. For students just entering the field, this practice is daunting, and it often leads to struggling in their 101 classes. Up until now, they may never have written a story or covered a beat.
My experience was quite the opposite; having worked with The North Gwinnett Voice, I had already learned how to attack a story, set up interviews, and ask the proper questions that would produce the best content. Commas were not foreign to me, nor was formatting a byline or citing sources. I knew what I was doing.
I am grateful that, during my formative years as a writer, I was encouraged by the amazing staff at The North Gwinnett Voice, who quickly became not only mentors but friends. They taught me the ropes and then, let me climb them as I soon became not only a staff writer but the occasional editor as well. I was able to learn every aspect of a newspaper, a unique experience that not many people my age have, and through my articles, I was able to bring more attention to the arts and culture scene of my hometown which meant a great deal to me.
Because of my position at The North Gwinnett Voice, I am still working as a journalist. Currently, I am at The University of Mississippi pursuing a B.A.J. in Broadcast Journalism with minors in English, History, and Theatre Arts. I work as a full-time reporter for Rebel Radio 92.1 FM covering the arts and culture in Oxford, Mississippi; recently, I was named first runner-up in the 2020 Southeast Journalism Conference Best of the South competition for Best Radio Reporter. I have made my studies my focus, as evidenced by my place on the Dean’s Academic Roll, and within the Provost Scholars Program. I write articles for my sorority, Alpha Phi (Iota Omega)’s monthly parent/alumni newsletter, and am an active member of the Ole Miss Cardinal Club.
My time with The North Gwinnett Voice allowed me to enter my journalism courses with excessive prior knowledge and experience, giving me a clear leg-up. For any high schooler with either a passion for writing or an interest in the journalism field, I highly recommend applying. It is one of the best and most treasured experiences of my writing career, and one that I will never take for granted!
— By Hayden Wiggs, former Buford High School Intern and currently an NGV Staff Writer