What does it mean to be a journalist in the community?
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Generally you report on local news, community events, sports among plenty of other things. But a recent experience taught me that it's much more than that.
For me, to be in the community is to make things happen, go that extra mile and share the amazing stories of the people of Lithgow and feel a sense of pride.
I've been bursting with that sense of pride lately because I had the privilege of following Lachlan Sharp's journey as he jetted out to Tokyo for his Olympic debut with the Kookaburras and brought home a silver medal.
I had covered stories in relation to Lachi over the last three years working at the Lithgow Mercury, and it was always evident he was going to do amazing things.
When it was announced he was going to the Olympics everyone in Lithgow was beyond proud and I wanted to capture that feeling in my writing.
Initially my editor advised me to speak with his parents, on their son's selection and I did, but instead of leaving it at that I went a further 10 steps.
I met Lachi's lovely parents Richard and Tania who gave me an insight to his road to Tokyo, I ended up with a 2500 word, double-page spread in the newspaper telling the story of our homegrown hero.
And that got me thinking 'okay, what's next?'
I reached out to Lachi's old coaches, hockey club, his former schools and the mayor of Lithgow. I compiled a series of good luck messages to show the community support.
As the Games carried on I would share match reports, kept in contact with Lachi's parents and touched base with him after he scored his first Olympic goal.
When he made it into the gold medal match I knew I had to do something more. The Lithgow community is known to band together and support their own so I put a call out on social media for the city to turn green and gold and it actually worked. I was pretty chuffed with myself.
I set out pre-match to snap photos of local businesses who had decorated with green and gold balloons. I wanted Lachi and his family to know how much the community was behind them.
Of course once Lachi had landed back on home soil I did a follow up on how he was feeling because I knew that's something the community would want to know. He thanked me for my efforts and said he never thought he would receive so much community support.
The fact that I made that happen and knowing it was meaningful to him and his family, puts me on cloud nine.
It was just one thing after another and I honestly couldn't get enough of the Olympic coverage and the pride that came with it.
When it's about someone from your community it hits closer to home and I knew I wasn't the only one who felt that way and that's what I wanted to share.
The icing on the cake for me was when Lachi's parents had a beautiful bouquet of flowers delivered to my door to thank me for my hard work. They were so grateful. I wasn't expecting that, I was just doing my job but it filled me with so much joy and confirmed that I love what I do and that's why I do it. Thank you Richard and Tania.
Plus it's not every day that you get an Olympian from your hometown and I believed it deserved the extra coverage.
So now I understand that to be in the community is to make things happen, feel the emotion of your community, share it, love it and be grateful for it.
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