BY THOMAS NAPLES
Journalism saved my life.
My journey to UNITY 2012 started almost two years ago when I came out as a gay man, had a total breakdown and took a leave of absence from Cornell University. All within three months.
I was suicidal; I was addicted; and I was despondent. I was 22 and in my senior year of college, and I had no career path.
After spending some time in a psychiatric hospital, I answered an ad in the Warwick Valley Dispatch (in New York state) looking for a reporter to cover local meetings.
One of my first assignments was to cover a suicide prevention and awareness walk, where I heard heart-wrenching stories and shared experiences. One group of about 20 people marched in honor of a young man who committed suicide at my age. I saw the pain and sorrow caused by his action.
It felt like providence.
I eventually took on investigative work and profiled local personalities and politicians. I had found my career path.
Coming out, however, was a more painful process. My mother cried but accepted me; my father pushed me out of our home.
However, I had the support of most of my family, many friends and my editors. Over the next year, I achieved sobriety and sanity, and grew as a person and a journalist.
I joined the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and was immediately struck by the kindness and professional assistance I received from the staff and members. I was also thrilled to learn that NLGJA was part of a larger alliance of minority journalists.
When I walked into my hotel room at UNITY 2012 and met my roommate, I knew I was home. Although we are from distinct associations, disparate places and different schools, we immediately bonded over our passion for journalism.
Joining the UNITY student newsroom has boosted my confidence and allowed me to learn and practice new skills. Working alongside other outstanding young journalists and under the tutelage of our mentors has proven invaluable.
It means a lot to me that NLJGA is now a full member of the UNITY alliance, because I feel that my struggles for inclusion and acceptance as a gay man have been recognized.
Journalists are compassionate people, always interested in hearing — as well as telling — a good story. I’m still writing the story of my life, and from now on, UNITY will be a part of it.