Our last day in Utah was hot, but it was a worthwhile one.
My girlfriend and I spent several hours at Zion National Park, hiking through small waterfalls, exploring an oasis known as Emerald Pools and staying as cool as possible under the hot sun. We wanted to relax. Luckily, we found a brewery near the park's entrance.
As soon as we parked our behinds at the bar, a gentleman and his wife started a conversation with us. The man was friendly, funny and engaging. We talked for about 40 minutes when he asked me what I do for a living.
"I work for a newspaper in Colorado Springs," I told him.
"So, you're part of the 'fake news'," he said, without a hint of sarcasm.
I took it in stride. Laughed, too. But I decided it wasn't a good idea to really talk about my passion, my career, my livelihood. We talked some more, shook hands and wished each other well before my girlfriend and I departed on the final leg of an 11-day road trip to and from California, my home state.
But that man's comment stuck with me. I'm not a fan of confrontation, so I didn't bother asking him to explain what he meant. And, truthfully, it just really hurt that he grouped all journalists as "fake news."
This happened Thursday, the same day five people were killed in a mass shooting at a Maryland newspaper. At the time of the conversation, I didn't know this took place. I only read about it that evening as we were on the road to our next Airbnb.
I've been in journalism since 2000. I've worked at publications in Utah, California, Washington, Colorado and the countries of Azerbaijan and Cambodia. I've reported alongside award-winning journalists and even won a few awards myself. I've seen firsthand the blood, sweat and tears they put in just to put out a paper every morning.
I did take a two-year hiatus to complete a wonderful Peace Corps service in Azerbaijan, but even then I edited the organization's newsletter in that country.
I've always had a passion for writing and reporting. It's a unique way for me to communicate, considering I grew up with a stutter and interviewing someone on a daily basis has helped me come out of my shy, quiet shell.
Every time we pick up the paper or read it online, we learn something new. The information connects us. And I'm so honored to play a small role, whether that be through writing about a high school football game, a shooting in a Colorado Springs neighborhood, a court case or a feature about a club for people named Barbara.
I don't think what we do is fake news. It's far from it.
Sure, I could have told that guy at the Utah brewery that he was wrong and to stop spreading that "fake news" nonsense. But I know what my colleagues and I do is honest, real and important. And if he doesn't want to believe that, it doesn't matter. We'll try our best anyway to make sure what we do is worthwhile.