The Lawton Constitution vehicle

On any given day, you might see me tooling around town in “The Constitution Cube” with photographer Michael D. Pope, reporting on rodeos, races, science fairs, business openings and more!

When choosing a potential career, people often consider options that might garner them societal respect, life-work balance and financial stability.

Not journalists.

We sign ourselves up for a life of public scrutiny, wild working hours and often barely-above-minimum-wage pay — though none of this is a complaint. Because what we do each day is important, regardless of what, if any, recognition it receives. (And God bless our families and friends for putting up with it.)

My work affords me the opportunity to truly learn a community, from the inside out.

As a reporter, I get to go “behind the scenes,” meeting the civic leaders who keep our city running, the farmers and ranchers who keep our economy strong and the teachers and coaches who spend their days investing in the next generation.

I’ve heard it takes a good two years to feel at home in a new place. And for many, I’m sure that holds true. But for me, it’s taken only a few months to feel as if I’ve already lived in Lawton for a couple years, and I give my work most of the credit for that quick familiarity.

My first week in town, The Constitution staff welcomed me with open arms, for which I’m grateful. I grabbed my camera, a trusty pen and a few reporter’s notebooks and went right to work learning the business of my new home.

In just my first week on the job, I had the opportunity to interview, for example, the mayor of Lawton, a Lawton Public Schools department director, the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center director, and a Cameron University professor. Each of these folks warmly welcomed me into their offices and work spaces and shared with me their obvious passion for the community.

Through connections like these, I was able to immediately get my finger on the pulse of Southwest Oklahoma. I learned about the history, the growth, the challenges, the hopes embedded in this corner of the state.

I’ve since had the privilege to interview everyone from the 2019 Rush Springs Watermelon Queen Morgan White to local centenarian Darline Bridges-Hornbeck, winner of this year’s Lawton Award in Excellence.

I’ve reported from behind the scenes of the annual longhorn roundup in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge and the World War II Airborne Demonstration Team parachuting schools in Frederick. I’ve covered events like the opening of one of the state’s largest cotton gins in Hobart, the American Indian Expo Parade in Anadarko and the Color Run at Freedom Elementary School on Fort Sill. I’ve sat with people in the midst of great triumph and great heartbreak.

If I’ve learned anything, it’s that Southwest Oklahoma is an incredible tapestry of people and culture, and I love getting the chance to share a few of its stories with you each week.

While I’m always honored to meet a community’s leaders, my favorite folks to interview are the ones who are doing the extraordinary in the midst of the ordinary — to borrow a concept from the 2019 Elgin Middle School Winter Wishes campaign, which I’m really looking forward to reporting on this year.

I love to see young professionals and retirees volunteering side by side at local nonprofits. I’m amazed at how many teens in this town work hard to improve their schools and neighborhoods, and I can’t say enough about the incredible artists, authors and creatives I’ve met who help their communities flourish.

The list goes on and on, but suffice it to say, I have thoroughly enjoyed being a student of Lawton, Fort Sill and Ssouthwest Oklahoma. It’s not always an easy job, there are hard and long days, as in every industry, but it’s always worth it.

I know that my piece of the community puzzle is a small one, but I am grateful for it, because I take the business of going behind the scenes to share your stories seriously. Thanks to each of you for inviting me along and for making my time here so special.

Hannah Maginot is a features and area reporter for The Lawton Constitution. Send her story ideas from your neck of the woods at hannah.maginot@swoknews.com.

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