Southwest Ga. journalist is ‘relentless’ as she covers local multifaceted topics

Jennifer Parks began writing at an early age, leading her to attend and graduate from Georgia Southern University in 2007 with a degree in journalism.

Photo above: Jennifer Parks, reporter at Georgia’s Albany Herald, with her family. Facebook photo

By Natalie Beckerink, SizingUpTheSouth reporter, Auburn University

“Journalism appealed to me as a good use of that skill and it was something that I could use to serve my community and reach out to others,” Parks said.

Parks started her career at the Albany Herald in Albany, Georgia in 2008 and is still there at the daily newspaper as a writer covering news related to health care and the military. Photo right: Jennifer Parks, reporter for Albany Herald, Georgia. Albany Herald photo

Parks started her career at the Albany Herald in Albany, Georgia, a community with the population more than 73,000 located in southwest Georgia, in 2008 and is still there at the daily newspaper as a writer covering news related to health care and the military.

Moving around a lot as a child, Parks said she spent most of her time with a big city mindset. Going to Albany as an adult changed her perspective.

“Once I moved down south for my college education, and eventually developed a career here, I got a feel for the needs of a rural community,” she said.

Jennifer Parks, reporter for the Albany Herald

Health is an imperative topic in a small town that needs discussion, Parks said.

“In this area, like a lot of rural areas, the health news is vital because they’re underserved, there aren’t as many resources or education in certain aspects related to healthcare,” Parks said.

Parks covers the Marine Corps Logistic Base for the Albany Herald. Facebook photo

Military coverage has been another part of her job. Parks has worked on several stories about the Marine Corps Logistics Base in Albany. Through working with the Marines, Parks learned a lot more about the work that is done while also making many meaningful connections, she said.

“I was able to establish a good relationship with the Marines over there, and in doing so that enabled me to get to know the folks at the base” she said.

“Establishing that connection helps me to tell that story and also helps to understand a little better where their tax dollars go.”

Jennifer Parks

After working at the Albany Herald for almost 11 years, Parks has covered numerous stories and met many different types of people. One story that was memorable was the implementation of an anti-bullying program into Georgia schools — Rachel’s Challenge, she said.

Rachel’s Challenge is a non-profit run by Darrell Scott, father of Rachel Scott. Rachel was the first person killed during the Columbine High School shooting in Colorado in April 1999.

“I got a chance to interview Rachel’s brother Craig Scott, who was in the library at the time of the shooting, and it was very enlightening to hear from that perspective – what something like that was like,” Parks said.

Another memorable topic for Parks was covering damage from Hurricane Michael in October 2018. “It was kind of an awkward experience reporting on that, being a storm victim myself,” Parks said.

Covering a lot of hard-hitting stories could seem like a daunting task, but Carlton Fletcher, interim editor at the Albany Herald, said Parks puts a lot into her stories.

“I think the best word I could use to describe her would be relentless.”

Carlton Fletcher, interim editor, Albany Herald

“When she goes after a story she’s going to complete it no matter what. She’s going to do whatever she has to do to get a story,” he said.

Fletcher has worked at the Herald since 1988 and has known Parks since she began at the paper. He has worked his way up from a writer to editor, which provided him with a new perspective of the newsroom. Photo right: Carlton Fletcher, Interim Editor, Albany Herald Albany Herald photo

“Before I became the editor here, when I was a reporter, the people who were in the position I am now would always talk about how hard Jennifer worked,” he said. “Once I took this position, I realized what they were talking about – like I said, she’s relentless.”

Laura Williams worked with Parks, too. Williams is now a teacher, but she spent six years at the Albany Herald as a page designer and writer. Parks has a work ethic, Williams said. Photo right: Laura Williams, former feature writer/graphic designer for the Albany Herald. She now is a teacher. LinkedIn photo

“She’s very hardworking and very detail-oriented,” Williams said. “She wants to make sure that she gets exactly the truth, and she does her fact checking — everything she needs to make sure she gets everything right.”

The praise makes Parks humble, she said.

“It didn’t occur to me that someone would want to interview me for something like this,” she said.

Natalie Beckerink is the 2019 SPJ Region 3 summer intern and reporter for SizingUpTheSouth.com. She is a junior at Auburn University studying political science and journalism. Beckerink is on the staff of the Auburn University Plainsman student newspaper. nbeckerink.spj@gmail.com

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