OBU writer blossoms into columnist

By Emma Patton, Editor-in-Chief

Nicole Smith hails from the small town of Pond Creek, Oklahoma, but her list of journalistic accomplishments is anything but small.

After the Oklahoma Press Association awarded her a paid internship this summer, the junior journalism major was encouraged to write columns. Little did she know her boss at the Tri County Herald entered her into a statewide contest.

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Nicole Smith interviews Governor Mary Fallin for OBU’s student broadcast, Shawnee News 30. Photo by: Stephen Draper / The Bison

“Oh yeah, I won. I mean, it was just a monthly [competition],” Smith said of her article, which was judged to be the best out of 185 newspapers eligible for entry.

The column, Smith said, was inspired by her conversation with a man at the Oklahoma Press Association Convention.

“He asked me, ‘Why does your family stay in Pond Creek, where you live?’” Smith said. “[I told him] I come from a small town and it’s made me who I am and it’s where my roots are, and to my family, roots and where you come from are pretty important.”

Being from Pond Creek may have even helped Smith get her internship. Brian Blansett, publisher of the Tri-County Herald, found out that Smith was applying to be one of the 24 students chosen for the prestigious internship and requested that Smith be assigned to his paper.

“She came from a small town and just kind of fit right in,” said Blansett, who runs the paper in offices in Meeker, Oklahoma.

But it wasn’t just Smith’s background with tight-knit communities that got her the job. Blansett mentored Smith back in the spring semester, when she interned for the Tri-County Herald for academic credit.

“I was impressed with the work that she had done, when she was doing her internship for class credit. I thought she had a lot of potential,” Blansett said.

Smith juggled her internship last semester with writing for The Bison and co-producing OBU’s student broadcast, Shawnee News 30. To many of her professors, it was no surprise that she received two journalism scholarships last semester—and she still has two more years to grow.

Blansett stretched Smith’s writing abilities by giving her a wide variety of assignments. The diversity not only allowed Smith to sharpen her grammar skills, but also the chance to meet all kinds of people, Smith said.

“I talked to a former dragracer,” Smith said. “I talked to a dairy farmer that’s trying to do his own dairy in Meeker; I talked to some athletes. There’s] just some really cool people, and I kind of got to see what it was like to be a part of the community.”

After eight-weeks at the Tri-County Herald, Smith’s official internship ended and her first real-life job began.

“I was asked to keep writing for them,” Smith said. “I’m going to cover McCloud football.”

Smith plans to work for the Tri-County Herald this semester and then will go on to do journalism after graduation, she said. And though nothing is certain yet, her small-town roots may run deep enough to pull her back home after walking the stage.

“It’s pretty early to say, but there are jobs around Pond Creek in that field,” Smith said. “I wouldn’t be unhappy, because it is my hometown and there’s a lot of things I love about it…I could see myself staying there, just depends on where God takes me.”

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