Jeff Kessinger is the reader engagement reporter for the Springfield Daily Citizen. (Contributed photo)

Some things just get in your blood, whether you intend for them to or not. Springfield is in my blood. Journalism found its way in, too.

I was thrilled, then, when I read about the coming launch of the Springfield Daily Citizen —  the nonprofit structure, the community-focused journalism and the empowerment of the readers to make changes in their world. 

It felt like a dream come true.

I’ve spent the better part of the last 20 years covering sports in southwest Missouri. From Taney County to Springfield and many places between, I had the pleasure of chronicling the accomplishments of some of the best athletes — and people — to come through the area. 

But that kind of writing is a young person’s game. I’m not super young anymore. And I’m blessed to have a big, beautiful, blended family, and they needed me home more in the evenings and on weekends.

So I’ve spent the last three-plus years at the Downtown Springfield Association, connecting the community to opportunities to support local businesses and planning events that bring Springfield and the Ozarks together. My time Downtown helped deepen my connection to this community and invigorated my passion to serve it.

I still found the time to do some freelance writing around Springfield, my hometown and favorite city in the world, but I didn’t think I’d ever be a journalist again.

But then I read the job listing for “Reader Engagement Reporter” on the Springfield Daily Citizen website. I saw a chance to help connect my community to the kind of news I want to read. I also saw an opportunity to connect people in my community with each other. It turns out journalism is still in my blood, and it gives me a chance help create the kind of informed, active and engaged community where I want to raise my family.

This job is unlike anything I’ve done before, and I’m thrilled by the opportunity and the challenge. Part of that challenge is trust in journalism. If you haven’t heard, opinions of journalism and journalists are pretty low right now.

But I look to this nugget from the survey: trust in neighbors has increased during the pandemic. I’ve been your neighbor for nearly all of my 43 years. So many of my teammates here have also been your neighbors, while others are excited to get to know Springfield.

Part of the opportunity I have is to help enrich the community and connect its members to the reporting that matters through our soon-to-be-launched newsletter. This will not be just a list of links you might find of interest. Our newsletter will help contextualize our deep-dive reporting, help you find things to do in town — and entertain you along the way. 

It will plug readers into the community, showing them why this news matters and what they can do to create positive changes.

It’s something brand new for Springfield. Thankfully, there are people like Daily Citizen CEO David Stoeffler and Managing Editor Brittany Meiling courageous enough to try this new thing. You’ve got a great group of neighbor-journalists ready to work. We can’t wait to earn your trust.

Jeff Kessinger

Jeff Kessinger covered sports in southwest Missouri for the better part of 20 years, from young athletes to the pros. The Springfield native and Missouri State University alumnus is thrilled to be doing journalism in the Queen City, helping connect the community with important information. He and wife Jamie daily try to keep a tent on the circus that is a blended family of five kids and three cats. More by Jeff Kessinger