This week we had the pleasure of talking with Nathaniel Cline, a new(ish) reporter for Loudoun Times-Mirror in Leesburg.
Nathaniel talks to us about coming back into news after a stint in sports, why he feels community news matters now more than ever and a lot more.
Hometown: Military brat
Hobbies outside of journalism: Traveling, Karaoke
Favorite book: On Writing Well
Journalism advice your received and adhere to: What makes this newsworthy?
To start, can you please introduce yourself and tell us about what you do at the LTM, when you came on board and what you did prior to coming there?
I’m Nathaniel Cline, and since June I have been working as a multimedia journalist at the Loudoun Times-Mirror, the most-read news source in Loudoun County. In 2007, I began my career as a reporter for three of Lakeway’s weekly newspapers in the Northern Neck of Virginia. Since joining the Times-Mirror, I have focused on public safety, local government and political news coverage. One of my favorite parts of the position is being able to create and share original videos using my smartphone.
Prior to joining the Times-Mirror, I spent four years in Cleveland, Ohio, as a sports reporter for Cleveland.com, which is connected to The Cleveland Plain Dealer. There, I covered high school and pro sports and served as an on-air high school football analyst for a weekly TV show called Spectrum’s “Friday Night Huddle.”
From sports back to traditional news–what made you want to come back to Virginia to work?
I had many reasons for coming back to Virginia, but one of the most important was wanting to make an impact in a newsroom. I climbed the newsroom sports ladder for six years, and I had a great time. But during that time, I watched local and national news, and I wondered how best I could tell those stories.
Fast forward through some long nights and conversations, my attention turned to the area around the nation’s capital.
The Loudoun Times-Mirror was my answer. I love community news, and there’s no shortage of news in fast-growing Loudoun. It’s a great place for any journalist to cover the multiple levels of government and politics, new businesses, the economy and public safety.
I also got married in March and wanted to relocate to be closer to my family members and friends. I was waiting for the right situation for me to walk away from sports. I’m very happy I landed at the Loudoun Times-Mirror.
It’s not a story you heard very often: a person wanting to come back into community news after a stint at a larger publication. Usually, the trajectory is keep climbing the “ladder” as you said. What is it about community news that empowers and inspires you as a journalist?
Scroll to the bottom of a controversial story online and take a look at the remarks in the comments section. Or pull aside a resident at a public hearing and ask a couple of questions. No matter the size of the publication or the source for someone’s information, most people have some interest in the news, and that’s what empowers me.
During my previous stint in Virginia, I developed deeply meaningful relationships and connections with people because residents saw me around town. Like my colleagues, I also know what readers want through emails, private messages and one-on-one conversations about what impacts them.
My case is a bit different for a journalist’s career. However, what remains the same is that readers need journalists to be the brave community watchdogs and hold the powerful accountable. I love what I do, and it’s the readers and news lovers that motivate me week in and week out.
“No matter the size of the publication or the source for someone’s information, most people have some interest in the news, and that’s what empowers me.”
What’s one story you’ve written while at LTM that has made you feel like a real impact was felt through the community? Why does this story stick out to you?
I never thought I would be caught in a clash of bigotry and hate, but a couple of weeks into starting with LTM, I was, and we brought readers with us. The event: a combined Confederate-Nazi flag burning in Leesburg.
“It’s 2018, and no way is this going to happen,” I thought to myself. Well, it did. Protesters lined up along a fence, cops surrounded the perimeter and boos and chants were heard across the courthouse grounds where it took place.
The event happened without incident, but it was a bit surreal to stand in the middle of it and watch. Along with a short video, I wrote an account of the event and of remarks from a unity rally later that day.
It was moving for me to be in the middle of such a unique protest, and hopefully I provided our readers with a strong account of the event.
Do you think the national rhetoric against the press has trickled down and impacted reporters at a local level?
Yes, I do, and the remarks been handled differently by reporters across the country—some more vocal than others. I think that’s why it’s so important for reporters and their peers to stick together, because at the end of the day, unless a journalist is writing an editorial, it’s our job to remain objective and report the news.
Hang in there, everyone.
As you continue your time at LTM, what are you looking forward to?
Familiarize myself with the area, the issues and help tell the locality’s top stories with a great editorial team of Carl Lukat (@LTMsports), Veronike Collazo (@VeronikeCollazo), Karen Graham (@karenggraham) and Trevor Baratko (@TrevorBaratko).
This Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.