Call me a true believer.
It all started, I suppose, when I stepped off a bus in Santo Domingo sometime in the spring of 2000. My two years in the Dominican Republic as a proselyting missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were coming to a close. I was twenty-one years old with a burning question on my mind: What to do with the rest of my life? I stepped down from that bus, and the inspiration struck. Journalism was the answer. Just like that. I knew my calling.
I got home to Nebraska a month or so later. I worked like a dog that summer – two jobs and sixty hours a week – to save money for college. That fall, I returned to BYU in Provo, Utah, for my sophomore year of studies, and this time I had a purpose. I threw myself at a print journalism major. I loved it. I lived it. I wrote on deadline. I read The New York Times. I thrived on the electricity of the newsroom. I relished seeing my name in print.
And I drank the Kool-Aid. Journalists, I came to realize, play a vital role in our society. They seek the truth. They hold the powerful to account and shine a light on injustice. Without the Fourth Estate – a free and robust press – this whole American experiment crumbles. I believed that then. I still do.
But I admit I flinched. During my senior year at BYU, I told one of my journalism professors I needed a favor. He said, “Anything – as long as it isn’t a recommendation letter for law school.” I must not have been the first. The J.D. was the right thing to do, even if a part of me will always feel like a traitor for it.
My journalism degree is still one of my prized possessions. The diploma hangs on the wall in my office. Right next to my law degree. I’m proud of both. If I have a favorite, I won’t admit it any more than I would admit to having a favorite child, but deep, deep down, I’ll always be a newspaper man. My time in the journalism trenches changed me. It changed the entire trajectory of my life. I learned a skill, developed some much-needed confidence, and came to admire a profession that is too often misjudged.
Frankly, I’ll never understand the paranoia. Journalists aren’t perfect. Mistakes happen, but let me assure you the profession as a whole isn’t out to get us. Journalists are mostly honorable people out to get it right. So, perhaps if one day you’re reading something you don’t particularly like, something that makes you feel a wee bit uncomfortable, maybe just maybe that means there’s a journalist out there doing his or her job. Yes, the truth can be messy and challenging and disquieting, but it can also set you free.
Chris lives in Lincoln, Nebraska, with his wife, Sara, and their six children. He has a B.A. in communications (print journalism) from Brigham Young University and a J.D. from the University of Nebraska College of Law. Chris enjoys music by The Piano Guys, flying kites, and pumpkin pie. Chris is the author of Red: A Football Novel.