OU Daily News Managing Editor Emma Keith has crafted articles covering powerful topics such as mental health on campus, protests and historical figures at OU since she was a freshman. She credits her personal and professional growth to the communities that have given her a constant home after a childhood of sporadic moving.
Why did your family move so much and when did you start moving?
“We started moving when I was a year old and moved twice more by the time I was five. They’ve all been because of my dad’s job at AT&T and they’ve all been good things like promotions and things we want for him, but it has been a lot. Dallas has been our most stable home—we were there almost 11 years—so that’s where I grew up and went to high school and where most of my friends are from. We just moved again this last year to Dallas and since it’s AT&T’s home-base we hope this is the last time!”
You were living in Georgia when you came here as a freshman, correct?
“We moved to Georgia the week after I graduated from high school and lived there all summer. It was terrible and I hated it. I came straight [to OU] after and I’’ve been back every summer and winter break since and I love it now, it’s so good.
Why did you hate it at first? Was it such a dramatic change right after graduation?
“It was that and my dad was working a lot and wasn’t really home so it was just me and my mom and my brother in this brand new city. By the end of the summer she made friends and my brother made friends in the school year but I still don’t know anyone my age because I never went to school there, so not having that connection [made it difficult]. It was also the summer after college and all my high school friends were in Dallas having fun with each other before they left and I was 900 miles away missing all that, so it was not awesome.”
Why did you decide to come to OU?
“I decided on OU three years ago at this point. As soon as applications came out I applied and knew I wanted to be here. I chose my housing in October of my senior year I was so ready. However, we didn’t find out I was moving to Georgia until March of my senior year. OU was close enough to where I could go home for the weekend but my parents can’t come see me all the time. It was also that thing where people say you walk onto campus and you feel at home and that didn’t change because my parents moved. I’m a very controlling person so I just couldn’t uproot this plan. My parents wanted me to go to school in Georgia but I knew I wanted to follow my plan and stick with this and I’m very glad that I did.”
Where they upset with you for wanting to still go here?
“I think my mom was a little bit, I think she was more upset with the concept than the reality. But I think if I had tried to transfer [from OU] she would’ve been the one to say ‘Okay this is a lot, let’s reconsider’. It was hard for her dealing with the reality of me leaving and her being in a brand new place and knowing no one. We’re really close, so it would’ve been hard enough for her being in Dallas and me being here. It wasn’t a great summer for any of us.”
What did your first semester here look like?
“I came out of the summer in this very depressive funk that didn’t wear off for probably three or four months in college so I don’t remember any of that. I was very lonely here for a while and while I did know my roommate from high school it took me a while to find deeper communities. The OU Daily has been that for me, though, but when I first started working here I was very shy and didn’t want to be here all the time. However, last fall things started to shift and this has become a nice home for me. I was in Sigma Phi Lambda my first semester freshman year and it took some time to make friends there, too. Even though I’m not in it anymore, though I made friends and even live with two of them now.”
How did you initially find out about Phi Lamb?
“One of my friends from OSU was in it and since she liked it I thought that I would, too. Two friends and I decided to check it out together and we all ended up joining even though I never thought I’d join a sorority. They emphasized that we could chose them and when I left I didn’t feel bad because they’re just very accepting of whatever you want to do. That was a good place to be for a long time, though.”
Did you just feel like your time was up there?
“I did and last fall I starting to get a little frustrated with how some things were—nothing bad that forced me out—and I decided it was time to start looking for other communities to get involved with. I’ve started going to [Antioch Community Church] last year and it has provided a much more solid foundation for me. I’ve started serving with their kids’ ministry and I’m in a bible study there so it’s been a helpful alternate community. It has provided me a good community outside of The Daily because the more I’ve been here the more I’ve seen that it’s good to have something outside this.”
How important has it been to you to have some sort of faith community in college?
It is very essential and important to me but I feel like I’ve always struggled to find deep and meaningful relationships in a church, so I think that a lot of my faith-based relationship are outside of Antioch. My best friend that doesn’t live here definitely draws me back to faith and relationships like that have fed me spiritually. Faith has been essential to living fully, treating others well and motivating me to do work here.
How has having a faith background helped you in your work here at The Daily?
“It’s helped me try to seek beauty and meaning in other people and helped me learn to be more empathetic and compassionate. Coming to college I went to a Christian high school and grew up homeschooled before that and was very sheltered. Coming to college has really exposed me to a lot of new things. I remember last year covering the die-in protest and what a pivotal moment it was for me because I realized that this effects real people and wasn’t just something people talked about. Having faith has helped me process those very hard and very real things and having journalism has helped me do something about that. Honestly, I think without faith this would be a very difficult field for me to be in. It exposes me to the very harsh realities of the world and how awful people are, but it also gives me a taste of how good people are and how beautiful their stories can be. Faith gives me something to go back to at the end of the day and to not let that darkness overcome me.”
What have the friendships and working at The Daily taught you?
“I say this a lot but being here has taught me more than Gaylord has. This is just a wonderful place to be trained, to make mistakes and to grow from that. I’ve had a lot of people here that have believed in me often more than I believed in my self. Andrew Clark was essential in that and saw a lot more in us than we saw in ourselves. Some people here have developed me as a leader and a journalist and have been graceful with me when I’ve messed up. These people are some of my closest friends and I genuinely enjoy being here every day and being with them outside of the newsroom.”
Have the communities you’ve been involved with in college given you more of an idea of what you want to do in the future?
“I don’t know specifically what I want to do but being here has helped reaffirm me that I want to do journalism. I didn’t have any journalism experience in high school and I came into college knowing that I liked to write and I’m terrible at writing fiction so journalism sounded good. When I started here I’d never written anything remotely journalistic so the work I do here helps me realize that this is something I want to pursue in the future. It’s been hard explaining that to my parents when I want to do something that they consider to be a dying industry, but when they see what we do here they’re very encouraged.”