By Nicole Bellford
Emerson, a University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire alum, said that he didn’t hesitate when he made the decision to study journalism.
“From a young age, I loved to write and talk to people, probably too much,” Emerson said. “I figured this profession was the best way for me to get paid doing what I love most.”
Fresh out of college, Emerson took the first job he could get at a local Chippewa daily paper. He originally had high hopes of being a sports writer, but found his true passion in hard-hitting, investigative news.
After eight months of working the daily paper, he dabbled in a handful of local news publications before deciding to be a freelance writer for a couple years. While he doesn’t suggest freelance writing, Emerson has high regards for his decision.
“My period of freelance writing was truly where I found my voice,” Emerson said. “ I achieved a huge level of freedom as a journalist, while getting to write for a wide variety of media outlets and developing my own stories rather than getting ideas from an editor.”
In 1997, Emerson settled down for his current job at Leader-Telegram. He covers two official beats: the local government and outdoor endeavors in the Eau Claire community. In addition, he said that he covers “a little bit of everything” whenever he sees an opportunity.
On Friday, I watched Emerson crank out a story about a new play ground being built in Eau Claire. He showed me his scribbled note pad containing key facts from his interviews, and let me contribute to establishing a strong lead for the story.
While writing the story at hand came easy to him, he said that he dealt with plenty of struggles throughout his time in journalism.
After nearly two decades at Leader-Telegram, Emerson watched print journalism transform before his eyes, battling to stay relevant amid rapid technological change.
“It used to be just writing a story and seeing it printed the next day, no problem,” Emerson said. “Now, we need to get the stories out on several platforms. You can’t just write a story; you have to post to Facebook, tweet, the whole nine yards.”
To put it simply, people would rather retrieve news at the click of a button nowadays than have it delivered to their doorstep for a monthly fee.
If he could go back in time, however, Emerson ensured that he would still pick a profession in journalism.
“It’s who I am,” Emerson said. “It has allowed me to get to know so many people, and get to know the community in ways I don’t think I would have been able to.”
Regardless of struggles present in the field, Emerson convinced me that the perks of this profession are worth it. I can absolutely envision myself working alongside him in the future.