Ashley Luck is our interview this week. Ashley, who graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University last year, is the sole reporter for the Tidewater Review in West Point.
She talks about expectations she had for reporting coming from school and they differed from reality; the challenge of reporting on rural communities; why in the face of job instability and political rhetoric she still has a drive to report and a lot more.
To start, can you please introduce yourself and tell us a little about what you do and your background?
My name is Ashley Luck and I’m currently a reporter for the Tidewater Review in West Point, Va. I cover local news for the town of West Point and counties of King William, King and Queen and New Kent. I write about local government meetings, education, businesses, etc.
I graduated in December 2017 with a B.S. in mass communications with a concentration in digital journalism from VCU. At VCU, I did several internships and got hands on experience; I was a reporter for VCU CNS where I reported on the Virginia General Assembly’s 2017 session; I was a reporter for VCU iPad Journos where I reported on the gubernatorial and other local elections; I interned for Richmond Magazine, Henrico Citizen and ABC 8NEWS-WRIC; and I was a senior editor for Her Campus at VCU, the local VCU chapter of a national online magazine geared towards college women.
Since graduating, have you enjoyed your time as a newspaper reporter? Is it how you anticipated it being? Any surprises that came with working as a reporter full time?
I have enjoyed my time as a newspaper reporter. It has been how I anticipated, but like my professors told me before I graduated, you don’t know how it is until you get out in the field. Being a full-time newspaper reporter is much different than being a newspaper intern. Obviously there’s more work. It’s also more rewarding.
I’m the sole reporter for the Tidewater Review and I cover four localities. I never anticipated that when I was a student, but I am very organized, good at multitasking and passionate about community/local news. Organization is key for being a successful reporter, you can have five stories going different ways and you need to stay on top of your interviews, sources and facts.
Wow. That’s crazy you serve as the only reporter for that whole coverage area. How do you manage it? What does a typical week look like for you?
I’m very organized and good at multitasking. I have a planner, a list of stories for each weekly deadline, a daily to do list and I keep track of my interviews and sources. A typical week for me might be 1-2 local government meetings, interviews with local officials or community members and scoping out new stories. Sometimes it’s hard to cover everything for each locality as one person for sure. It’s also hard to always know everything that’s going on in a small rural area.
What has it been like to cover more rural communities? Was it something you were familiar with going into this position?
I was born and raised and still reside in Hanover County just outside of Richmond, so I’m familiar with a rural setting and community. The majority of my reporting experience before graduating was in Richmond as I attended VCU and was an intern for Richmond Magazine and the Henrico Citizen. Before I started my job I was used to a depth of stories and that there was always something going on to cover, whereas that’s not the case in rural settings. Reporting in a rural setting really makes you think, you have to dig deep for ideas and always be on the lookout for random things popping up. There’s also not a lot of breaking news out here, I make phone calls and check regularly, sometimes there will be, but not very often.
What does it feel like to be a young person in the industry right now?
It feels scary, but exciting at the same time. I know in my case, as many others, the current political climate inspired me to become a journalist. When this political era started, I was a student journalist and it just fueled my fire even more. I think we are going into a new era of journalism and I think young journalists and people are dedicated to seeking the truth and holding public officials accountable.
“I think we are going into a new era of journalism and I think young journalists and people are dedicated to seeking the truth and holding public officials accountable.”
What’s scary about it? Is it the rhetoric being used against the press by the current administration or job security you’re referring to?
I would say both. Some of my mentors have said this in the past and I’ve come to realize it to, journalism ages you in a way–by what you see (crime scenes, horrible situations, sitting in long meetings) and the intensity of the job. The rhetoric being used by the current administration is scary. The press is the Fourth Estate and is needed in this world to inform people about what is going on and to hold public officials accountable. The lack of job security is also scary as well, I know people who have lost their jobs, but I think everything happens for a reason.
Right, I think a lot of our readers would agree with journalism aging you in a unique way. That begs the question, why do it? What makes you want to be a journalist in the face of political opposition and potential job instability?
I have always had an interest in people, communities and writing. I like writing about what affects communities and informing members of the community of what is going on in their community (i.e.: public official meetings, events, new businesses openings, problems in the area). I like to find what makes communities and people tick.
Outside of journalism what are some of your hobbies and interests?
Outside of being a reporter, I’m a dog mom, I have a 6-month-old Shih Tzu puppy and I love spending as much time with him as possible. I also love yoga and being with family and friends.
One thing people might be surprised to know about you?
I danced for 15 years of my life, from 3-years-old to 18.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.