By Haley Harvey
Chloe Klingstedt, formerly Chloe Moores, attended the University of Oklahoma pursuing a degree in journalism. After graduating in the spring of 2017, when she was also the arts & entertainment editor at The Oklahoma Daily, Klingstedt married and moved to North Carolina. There, she worked as a reporter for a small newspaper in her town, the Statesville Record & Landmark, before landing her current job as editorial assistant at Our State Magazine.
During her time at the newspaper, Klingstedt wrote a compelling feature on an immigrant mother who overcame being undocumented, homeless and a victim of domestic abuse. Nesa Coleman’s story reminded her of the importance of journalism in shedding the light on subjects that could be misunderstood or hard to talk about.
HH: How have you been adjusting to life after graduating?
CK: It’s kind of a long story, but I’ll make it short. I got married in May — my husband and I went to OU and we dated all through college, and he proposed. He is getting his master’s degree in North Carolina. He was applying for master’s programs our senior year of college, so I kind of knew we’d be moving out here, so I started looking at different media organizations. I stumbled upon Our State Magazine and just immediately fell in love with it — the gorgeous photography and wonderful writing. I applied for a position and didn’t get it, but they said they would keep me in mind. I thought, ‘OK, yeah, whatever,’ and in the meantime got a job as a news reporter at a small local paper here called the Statesville Record & Landmark and worked there for a year. About two months ago, I got an email from the Our State managing editor, and they said, ‘We have this position open. Do you want to apply?’ I was just floored that they remembered me, and I applied. After a few interviews, I got the job. It’s in Greensboro, which is about an hour northeast of Statesville.
HH: What has been your favorite story you’ve written so far?
CK: Oh, gosh. At the Statesville Record & Landmark my beats were court and agriculture, which kind of sounds like an odd combination, but in North Carolina there is a very heavy agriculture industry. The county I was living in produced the most milk for the state. They were a big dairy county. So, that’s what I did. I was also one of four reporters there, and when I left I was one of two. I kind of did anything and everything. I wrote everything from court stories, to business openings, to feature stories about artists or unique people, to bigger, agricultural issues in the county. I just did a little bit of everything.
HH: Let’s talk about your story about the undocumented, homeless immigrant woman from Barbados who overcame several struggles. How did you find Nesa Coleman?
CK: It just kind of fell into my lap. I had been working there for a few months and I got this press release about this man who was homeless and got hit by a car in a tragic accident. Through a court settlement, he received a fairly hefty amount of money but lived in a disabled home after the accident, and his life was never the same. After learning about that and talking to some of his caretakers, I started thinking, ‘What does homelessness look like in Statesville and Iredell county?’ which was the county I was living in, and ‘What resources are available?’ I just fell down a rabbit hole. I just started researching all the resources I could get my hands on and started talking to different organizations in the community — the housing authority, different healthcare organizations, the homeless shelters, just everyone. I really just needed to find someone who was going to be this face of homelessness. So, me and our staff photographer went out one day to this homeless camp in the woods and met this man named Daniel. I started reporting on him and right as I started doing that, these two women just walked into our newsroom one day and one of them was Nesa. It was crazy because they said, ‘We’ve discovered this homeless camp in the woods and we feel like we need to help them out. Have you written anything about it?’ I said how I was actually starting to write about it, and Nesa told me that homelessness was important to her because she used to be homeless. When I first started reporting on homelessness, it was going to be like a three-part series. My editor decided that one part of the story would be like a ‘success story,’ like someone who has broken the cycle of homelessness, so I reached out to Nesa. She was once homeless and was also an immigrant survivor of domestic abuse, and I asked her if she wanted to be a part of the story, and she did. I just kind of reached out to her and talked to her, and we just went from there.
HH: Why do you think it’s important for people to know about people like Nesa and the struggles they have faced?
CK: I think it’s important to shed light on something like this because it’s not talked about. Statesville is a fairly small community, the population was approximately 25,000 people, and it is very conservative. Most people didn’t really talk about serious things. So what was really neat was that I got to shed light on these topics because they are something that people don’t talk about, but they’re there if you look for them. I think in every community, no matter how wealthy or well-off it is, educated, or whatever, there are people who are homeless and living in an unstable situation. I reported on this story for months and months and finally got it published, and because I lived in a small community, I had people coming up to me at church and in the community saying, ‘I know Nesa. My kids go to school with her kids and I never knew that about her,’ and how what a powerful story it was. That was really cool. If I had been living in a bigger community, they might not have reached out to me. I think that just reaffirms the fact that that’s what journalism is for — to get those stories out and to bring them to life. They’re not what people think of when they hear of people living in society day-to-day.
HH: Were you faced with any challenges during the making of this story?
CK: Oh, yeah, but not so much in the actual story itself. Nesa was always very open with me. She welcomed me into her home, let me interact with her kids. I asked her a lot of really personal questions and she was always very straightforward with me, and that was just so cool. I felt so honored that she let me do that. More of my struggles came from the broader struggles that are facing the newspaper industry in general. I started reporting on her story in January, and I don’t think it got published until the summer or early fall. A lot of that had to do with the fact that we were short-staffed, and I was having to report on a ton of things. I wasn’t really able to give the attention that I wanted to that story. Even looking back, you know, I’m my own biggest critic, but there were things that I was not even happy with when it did get published. It was just having to feed the beast of putting a paper out every day. There were a lot of times when I came in in the morning and had no idea what we were putting in the paper the next day. My whole day consisted of turning in content for a few things in the paper, and that’s kind of the struggle of the newspaper, and then on the side having to fight for the story. I had to remind my editor why it was important and why this story needed to be told. So that’s mostly where my struggle came from, not necessarily from reporting on the story itself.
HH: Did you learn anything or come away with any new experiences upon completing the story?
CK: I think what I learned from reporting on this story was, I think a lot of times when you talk about hard subjects like sexual assault, homelessness, gun violence, or any of those really hard, ugly topics in our society, a lot of times we don’t think to ask where the resources are for these people who need help. I was really impressed to see that a lot of those resources are there, and I think I learned that more of their problem was connecting the dots between those resources. It wasn’t necessarily that there wasn’t healthcare available to people who don’t have insurance or are homeless, it wasn’t that there was necessarily nowhere for them to get a job. In those situations, her husband never applied for her green card, and she didn’t have a car or a source of income because she didn’t have a green card. It was connecting the dots of all of those things so that she could start taking the steps to be independent, and to kind of get out of that homeless situation. So that was a huge thing I learned and kind of changed my perspective on homelessness in general.
HH: Did you receive any reactions to the story from any of your sources or the public?
CK: My first reactions were kind of what I said earlier about the people at church who pulled me aside and told me their kids went to school with her kids, and they thought the story was so important, so that’s cool. I had colleagues that I worked with at The Daily who were really sweet and gave me a lot of great feedback about the story. Statesville is a really conservative community, so when we did share the story on Facebook, a lot of the public were very insensitive and ignorant when it came to being undocumented or being an immigrant in the country, which was part of Nesa’s story. They weren’t very understanding of that. But what was really cool that came out of that was that there were people in the comments that called them out on it, or kind of talked about what that means, so that was cool as well. I expected people to react negatively to that aspect of things, but it was cool to see other people in the community have that discussion.
HH: From your experience so far in the world of professional journalism, do you have any advice for journalism students preparing for a career upon graduating?
CK: Honestly, I think the biggest shock — and everyone tells you — is that you’re not going to get paid a lot. But even then, I was really shocked. When I first started at the Statesville Record & Landmark, I made $12.26 an hour. I didn’t know reporters made hourly wages for starting, that was kind of news to me. Which isn’t a bad thing because it means you’re getting compensated for your work, but I made $12 an hour when I interned at the Tulsa World the summer before, and now I had a ‘big girl job’ and it wasn’t much of a step up. My biggest obstacle was honestly making sure I could pay my bills, and that aspect of things was a rude awakening. It’s different to be able to do this at your college newspaper and love it, but then you actually have to try to support yourself. Fortunately, I made it work, but that was kind of a wake-up call. I think you just have to know that going into it, especially for newspapers. You have to really love it because that’s what was fulfilling to me. Obviously I needed to buy groceries and put gas in my car, but the cherry on top was that I believed in what I was doing and thought it was really important work. You have to believe in that or it’s going to be really tough. I guess from more of a newspaper industry perspective, it’s grim right now. I was so sick of everyone telling me in undergrad that print was dead, the newspaper industry is dying, blah, blah, blah. It was easy to brush that aside when I worked at The Daily when advertising and money wasn’t a big part of it. We just kind of got to focus on putting out really great work and engaging with our audience. In the professional world, standards are there. When I started out working at the Statesville Record & Landmark there were four reporters, and when I left it was me and one other guy — the editor who had hired me left. There was a lot of turnover and it was crazy. Even in just the year I was there out of college so much had changed. There are a lot of reasons to be discouraged, so I would encourage anyone who really cares about this industry and think what journalists do is important to have that reality going into it, and to have a really good support system of friends and peers who can cheer you along because it’s definitely not for the lighthearted.