A slow march to Montgomery
by Jennifer Cohron
Apr 10, 2011 | 2077 views | 0 0 comments | 28 28 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jennifer Cohron
Jennifer Cohron
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It wasn’t long ago that my dream was to be living and writing in Mont-gomery.

In college, I did everything I could to put that plan in motion.

I declared double minors in history and political science so I would know as much as possible about the beats I hoped to cover.

Although I was the features editor at the college newspaper, I wrote serious news articles too. Fluff pieces were for a second-rate resume.

As a sophomore, I signed up for a mentorship program through UAB’s career office. I was teamed with Joey Kennedy, a columnist at the Birmingham News who won a Pulitzer Prize in editorial writing in 1991.

When I told Joey that I was interested in political reporting, he offered to take me to Montgomery during spring break.

I was thrilled. I had been to the Capitol once on a junior high school Beta Club trip and didn’t even see the State House. We just visited Hank Williams’ grave, the mall and the convention center.

My day trip with Joey was much more exciting.

My favorite part was our meeting with Gov. Bob Riley. We spent about 30 minutes with him in his office.

I was so overwhelmed that I spent most of the time staring at Riley’s cowboy boots. Apparently I’m a sucker for charming governors.

That was the day I fell in love with Montgomery.

I loved that it looked like an Emerald City because many buildings are topped with green glass.

I loved that it had the feel of a small town, yet so many important things have happened there.

I loved knowing that I was standing in the heart of the Heart of Dixie.

There was no question about it. I belonged in Montgomery.

Then the wheels fell off my grand plan.

I became an intern at the Daily Mountain Eagle my junior year. While working on numerous people profiles for the Progress edition, I realized to my complete surprise that I enjoyed features much more than news.

When Lona Courington left Lifestyles in 2007, circumstances conspired and the section stagnated for two and a half years until I made it my personal mission to get some original material on those pages each week.

Lifestyles still isn’t where I want it to be, but it is making a comeback. Now anyone who wants to take the title from me should be prepared to pry the pen from my hand.

When I’m frustrated with my job, I remind myself that some days I have an opportunity to really make a difference in someone’s life.

For example, an article I wrote on Brylee Smith and her nonprofit, B.A.R.K., was read by the right people and Brylee was invited to meet the governor two weeks ago.

Since I have a personal and professional connection with Brylee and her mom, I was asked to go along.

As I was taking pictures of Brylee and Gov. Bentley, a girl from the Montgomery Advertiser kept bumping into me with her camera.

I realized later it was probably just another photo and caption to her. That indifferent reporter might have been me if my life had worked out the way I planned.

Instead, I fought back a tear or two when I stopped taking pictures long enough to embrace the moment.

I was finally working in Montgomery, but I wasn’t covering the governor.

My focus was on a 10-year-old girl from Jasper who has had some bad stuff happen to her but who still wants to help make someone else’s life a little easier.

Looking on were her mother and brother, who are equally awesome.

And sitting not too far from them was one of the main reasons that I didn’t ask the Montgomery Advertiser for a job when I graduated from college — Zac.

I didn’t give up my big dream for him; I just found a better one.

Today I would argue that writing for Lifestyles is just as worthy (and certainly more fun) than working in Montgomery.

I still write hard news from time to time, but in my heart I know that I am a features writer.

More importantly, I am Zac’s wife and chunky monkey’s mother.