Column: From bison to bobcat

By the time you’ve picked up this edition, my career with my beloved student newspaper, The Parthenon, has concluded.

After this edition, I’ll no longer assemble this publication. I won’t design its front pages, hound reporters for stories or spend my evenings in the newsroom.

After three and a half years of undergraduate studies at Marshall University, I will make the transition from bison to bobcat. In August, I will pursue graduate school at Ohio University, one of the nation’s most prominent institutions for photojournalism.

In the time I have spent at Marshall, I have taken 200,000 photographs, written more stories than I could possibly track down and designed 45 editions. Much of my life has been intertwined with my various editorial roles in this newspaper, and for that, I am grateful. If anything, I regret not doing enough.

I received my first DSLR — a Nikon D3000 — for Christmas in 2012; prior to that, a two megapixel Kodak Easyshare CX4230. Before that, a hot pink, holographic Barbie 110 film camera.

Like all freshmen searching for an immediate in, I found a potential niche in my college, and I requested to be a staff photographer for The Parthenon.

My first assignment was the 2013 FitFest 5k. As I wandered aimlessly through the crowd with my camera trying to find an event schedule, I befriended another, far more experienced photographer, Marcus, as we waited for the race to begin. He noticed my settings, and assisted me in changing them for fast-paced action.

Last month, he and I celebrated our three-year anniversary together.

I have found my identity as a photojournalist, reporter and leader in this newsroom. As photo editor, I documented West Virginia’s first same-sex marriage, Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito’s election as the first West Virginia female U.S. Senator and photographed President Barack Obama and his substance abuse forum discussion in Charleston, West Virginia.

After serving as the Statehouse Reporter for The Parthenon, I was selected to intern with the state’s newspaper, the Charleston Daily Mail. In September, I was selected to serve as a social media team member for NASA’s OSIRIS-REx, which will be the first asteroid-sampling mission to launch and return in 2023.

I owe many thanks to those who have had faith in my abilities, particularly to professors Rebecca Johnson, Sandy York and Rob Rabe, Ph.D. Without each of you, I would not be the journalist I am today.

To my parents: thank you for believing in my passion and encouraging me to pursue a creative, demanding field. I owe you both everything.

To Marcus, Mikaela, Sam, Hannah, Gin, Emily and Bri, my closest friends: Thank you for encouraging me after every critique and challenging me to see the beauty in the obscure.

In my profession, a lot of concerns have recently emerged regarding restraints on press freedoms under a Trump administration.

As news consumers, I leave you with a few words of advice: it is not only prudent, but necessary that you learn to be your own personal gatekeeper in an age when fake news is perpetuated as often as credible journalism. Be cautious in clicking Facebook articles and check dates on the stories you read. Real journalists are not the enemy of the public, but the protectors. Learn to separate fact from fiction.

It is vital to protect the press and its abilities. I trust that the incoming Parthenon staff will continue to uphold its century-old legacy, provide quality journalism and keep you informed.

This journey has been one hell of a ride, and it has been a great honor to serve you in this capacity. Thanks for tagging along.

Lexi Browning can be contacted at [email protected].