J-School graduate Sierra Searcy has learned to adapt and thrive in a new environment as she approaches her one-year anniversary as an anchor and producer at NewsNet Northern Michigan in Cadillac, Michigan.
Searcy, a 2017 MSU graduate, has been given the autonomy to create the rundown for all of her shows. She produces three shows for NewsNet, in addition to two others remotely for NewsNet's sister stations in Cheyenne and Casper, Wyoming.
Searcy enjoys her chances to tell positive stories, which is why she enjoys the Person of the Week segment she produces. "It is very lighthearted and I get to talk to my favorite people in the community and spotlight people who are doing things to impact the people of Northern Michigan," Searcy said.
One of Searcy's favorite stories is about a local school teacher who went above and beyond last spring to help kindergarten students learn once classes went online following the onset of COVID-19. Searcy appreciates these stories when the hard news, crime stories that are a necessary part of her job sometimes seem to take over her day.
Searcy covered a story in September about a 12-year-old boy from Tennessee who got swept away in a fierce Lake Michigan wave in Frankfort, Michigan. The boy's aunt was only able to save his sister.
"That was such a sad and unfortunate story, a real heartbreaker," Searcy said. "But it was heartwarming in that the community rallied and donated $13,950 for the family."
Searcy has accepted that viewers often pay the most attention to her reports about crime, as opposed to the good news she likes to report. "Negative news usually gets the most attention. Like they say, if it bleeds, it leads," Searcy said. "Things like sexual assault and child pornography are gut wrenching and I do them almost daily. The opiate crisis is running rampant. The hardest thing is to deal with the negative and sad stories."
Searcy is thankful to have the loving support of her family less than four hours away in Detroit, where she graduated from Detroit Cass Tech High School. Her parents were preparing last week for their first visit to Northern Michigan. Searcy explained that she experienced a culture shock when moving to Cadillac.
"There aren't many people here who look like me," Searcy said. "This was my first time ever coming to Northern Michigan and I kind of stuck out like a sore thumb."
Searcy said everyone has been wonderful to her since she arrived in Cadillac, and she has branched out to enjoy other areas of Northern Michigan such as nearby Traverse City.
"It was a big adjustment but I adapted quickly mainly because I am doing what I love to do," Searcy said. "Being in journalism, you have to be able to adapt and learn your environment. "When you have a passion for something, it doesn't matter where you are, especially for your first job, you have this hunger," Searcy said.
"I hope for students who want to go into journalism, that even if you have to go somewhere far like Montana where you literally know nobody for your first job, that you know it's going to be OK, and it's going to help you that much more when you leave."
Searcy is thankful for the experience she had learning in MSU's School of Journalism, including her professors and the friends she made there.
"It's so great to see Focal Point people doing such great things," Searcy said. "A lot of people don't realize how amazing the J-School is at Michigan State."
You can keep up on all of Sierra's work on Twitter by following her: @SierraSearcyTV