Monthly Archives: August 2016

Joe Dennis: shaped by journalism

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Journalist. Father. Teacher. Husband. Student. Friend. Mentor. Son.

There are many hats underneath the fedora that frequently adorns my head, but at the core of every aspect of me is a passion for people. Whether they are family members, students, colleagues, church members, friends or even strangers, I am fascinated by the uniqueness of each individual and the stories underneath their hats. It’s why I’m a journalist. Every person has a story, and I want to discover it.

My journalistic journey began at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois. My summer orientation leader was sports editor of the college newspaper, and he needed a volleyball reporter. I didn’t know much about volleyball, but had a huge crush on one of the volleyball players. Middle hitter Tara, and the promise of free pizza at the newspaper meetings, roped me into journalism.

Little did I know that a little crush and a lot of pepperoni would set up the rest of my life.

The stories I heard, wrote and even lived through shaped who I am today and the hats I wear. I became an organ donor after profiling a man’s unsuccessful wait for a new liver. My respect for police officers grew immensely after spending 20 hours with a unit during a meth-lab drug bust. My compassion for the poor — especially children — was reinforced after visiting the blighted home of a slum-lord victim. My faith was strengthened after witnessing victims of various tragedies be thankful for the silver linings of their situation.

In addition to shaping who I am, journalism has also been a lot of fun. My career has given me the opportunity to hang out with several “stars,” such as musician John Mayer, WWE superstar Chris Jericho and basketball legend Isaiah Thomas. I’ve met several historical figures including civil rights leaders, war heroes and prominent politicians. But the most inspiration came from the everyday people I encountered: the principal of an impoverished school who is doing all he can to stop the cycle of poverty among his students, the nurse who has dedicated her career to providing free healthcare for the poor, the retired couple who are housing and keeping the local Red Cross chapter alive.

I tried my best to tell their stories through an article, later published in a newspaper. But their stories didn’t die there. Although the physical papers may have been trashed, their stories continue to be recycled in every interaction I make, each an individual thread in the hats that make me who I am.

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