I lived in the same house in rural Nebraska, situated north of Wood River and south of Cairo, until moving to Lincoln for college in 2011. A year later, I worried my parents by traveling to India as a journalism student for a three-week documentary class. It wasn’t until I returned that I really gave them something to worry about: Flipping my car into a cornfield while interning for the summer as a journalist for five weekly newspapers in northeast Nebraska. As much as they’ve hoped for slightly less eventful updates from me, I haven’t delivered on that front.
After the first weeks of college – remaining on the photo staff following cuts at the college newspaper – journalism gripped me. Photojournalism granted me a ticket to the world: I traveled to Husker football games across the country for the Daily Nebraskan, interviewed several mass shooting survivors for a national investigative journalism program, documented the housing crisis in São Paulo, Brazil after homes were torn down for FIFA World Cup stadium construction. Before graduation, I’d reported in every continent outside Australia and Antarctica. As a lecturer, I’ve taught journalism courses in Puerto Rico, Guatemala and will travel to Mongolia this winter.
I’ve held three permanent residences, all in the Platte River basin: growing up in the Platte River Valley, pursuing degrees in journalism and women’s and gender studies in Lincoln and working at a newspaper in Fort Collins. Living in Colorado, with the Poudre Canyon and Rocky Mountain National Park in my backyard, shaped my perspective. A culture centered around recreating outdoors enveloped my mind and free time. I noticed people’s reverence for the land, comparing it to the Platte Valley. I wondered what kept me indoors, disconnected from nature, for the previous 22 years. Emboldened, I vowed to explore where I’d grown up and champion it.
Journalism sent me abroad, but eventually drew me closer to home. I understood the tools journalism gave me above and beyond the profession and noticed how my students grew through experiences traveling and reporting. I wondered about ways I could share skills with high school students from similar backgrounds. One question I felt I needed to answer first – How was it that I ended up majoring in journalism in the first place – led me to research the Great Plains, rural spaces and agriculture.
For the first time, I understood where I grew up as fascinating: A grassland – teeming with native plants, animals and people – less than two hundred years ago and now one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world. One preoccupation determined my current course: Will corn continue to rule the landscape beyond the next couple of decades? The answer directly affects my family whose livelihoods depends on the current agriculture system.
As a journalist at Platte Basin Timelapse I will report and photograph stories as I explore the Platte River basin, including the agriculture system my family found homesteading over a hundred years ago up to today. These personal accounts connect my experiences across time and space. The stories will be personal, a challenge for me as a journalist, and a challenge as I reckon with my long-held perceptions of life as I knew it.