Elizabeth Johnson

Murray State University
Todd County Standard 

In early February a 9-year-old girl was killed in the southern part of Todd County. Arrested for the crime was her 17-year-old cousin who happens to be her adoptive brother.

Having interned last summer at The Tennessean – a large daily newspaper owned by Gannett and based out of Nashville, I had no idea what to expect working at the Todd County Standard – a small town weekly. I do know that I had no expectations of covering pre-trial hearings in such a high profile murder case.

Those expectations, or lack thereof, were wrong.

I attended my first pre-trial hearing one month into my internship. Accompanied by Ryan Craig, publisher and editor of the Standard, I took notes and recorded the hearing so I’d be able to help him write the story. But before the suspect was called from the lengthy docket, Ryan had to leave because we were working on deadline. I found myself alone in a crowded courtroom as the suspect’s attorney filed a motion for suppression of his client’s alleged confession and for change of venue. After the hearing I chased attorneys down in the hallway for quick interviews and headed back to the office to power through a story that would undoubtedly be read by many.

While I may not be able to cover the trial set for November, I have followed the case in my time at the Standard, attending hearings, analyzing possible outcomes and spending seven hours outside of the courtroom after the media was denied access to the suppression hearing.

Following the case has been heart-breaking, intriguing and something I’ll never forget.

Getting an internship at a paper willing to let a young journalist follow a murder case meant I was in the right place to get a heaping dose of reality.

I wrote stories of human interest and hard news, covered city council meetings and spent most of my internship investigating a case in which a young girl was molested on a Todd County school bus when a settlement was made eight years after the incident.

I shot and edited photos and spent Saturday’s sweating in the unforgiving southern Kentucky heat at local festivals. I honed in on my limited artistic skills to create an illustration out of toothpaste and consumed unhealthy amounts of caffeine for long nights of editing and designing.

Most importantly I learned what it is like to work in the organized chaos of the best small weekly newspaper in Kentucky. There are plenty of awards to prove it.

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