The Messenger is proud to announce the addition of two new staff members to the paper. Rachel Smith, 19, and Brandon Buchanan, 31, recently joined the paper as reporters and have already made their presence felt with their contributions.

"I have been extremely impressed with Rachel," said editor Jon Garrett. "At just 19, she has shown the ability and desire to produce quality work worthy of any daily publication in the country -- she's that good. And Brandon will undoubtedly bring his own style and love for writing with him as he reconnects back to his roots in Madisonville."

Unfortunately, Smith, a McLean County native, will be a short-term proposition as she will be returning to Northern Kentucky University in August to continue her pursuit of a journalism degree.

"The best part of working here has just been having this real-life work experience in a professional work setting," Smith said. "There's only so much you can learn in a classroom, and while those lessons are important and have made me a better writer, there's nothing quite like the experience of putting in eight hours a day, churning out two to three stories, and actually seeing your work in a widely distributed newspaper."

Smith said the experience gained has been beneficial beyond measure.

"Being trusted here as a journalist -- not as a student, not as an intern, but a journalist -- has been the highlight of my academic and professional career. I have felt secure enough in this position to experiment with my writing style, such as writing more creative-leaning and soft ledes, and it has shaped me into a better writer. I have never felt underestimated in this position despite my age, which has unfortunately been a consistent disadvantage when I would try to be taken seriously elsewhere as a professional journalist."

For Buchanan, the opportunity to join his hometown newspaper's staff not only provides him with a chance to pursue his love for writing, but also allows him to be closer to family.

"I moved away when I was 11, but every year I come home to visit my grandparents, cousins and the rest of my family," Buchanan said. "My wife, Rebekah, and I have two fantastic sons, and I have deep family ties to Madisonville. My great-grandmother is Lucille Todd. Bob Todd, my great-uncle, founded Todd's Furniture, and my grandmother, June Buchanan, is one of the biggest blessings of my life. My parents, Dwayne and Kim Buchanan, live in Hanson and are both teachers and are foundational to my love of communication."

He said he is excited about the opportunities that community journalism provide.

"I became a journalist to tell the stories of others," said Buchanan, who holds a bachelor of arts degree from Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida, and a master of arts from Full Sail University in Winter Park, Florida. "I believe each of our stories deserve to be told. As a former yearbook and honors English teacher, I came to journalism through teaching. I found a love for story and helping others to know why something matters. My hope is to listen to the stories of others and share that with our community."

Smith said she has felt herself grow as a person and a professional in her role as a reporter this summer.

"I have learned to grow into a more confident interviewer," she said. "In addition, this job has given me the opportunity to get out in the field as both a writer and a photographer. Before this job, I never took my own pictures for my stories, so this position made me become self-reliant while also still having that secure support system where I could reach out if I was struggling. I have very much matured both in my interviewing, writing and photography skills -- all of which are essential components of a well-rounded journalist. I have become an exponentially better journalist this summer, and I have The Messenger to thank."

Garrett said he knows both will continue their good work moving forward.

"I know Rachel is with us for only a few more weeks, but I remain excited about her future in this business," he said. "Brandon is one of those guys that gives you a good feeling. You know you are going to get his best effort, and I feel confident he will flourish as a writer, reporter and as a member of this community."

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