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Meet Columbus Dispatch reporter Nathan Hart

(Editor’s note: This article is part of a new weekly series about Columbus Dispatch journalists and their work in our community.)

Nathan Hart covers breaking and trending news for The Columbus Dispatch, where he has worked since February.

Previously, he served on the Report for America staff at Ashland Source in Ashland, Ohio, and interned on Capitol Hill at McClatchy DC and at the Ohio Statehouse at WCPO.

Below he answers some questions about his work.

Why I became a journalist

Growing up, nothing bothered me more than injustice and corruption. Movie and TV show scenes where people did the wrong thing and got away with it made my young mind flare with outrage. This is especially true if the villain was someone in a position of power.

So by the time high school came around and I had to seriously think about what I wanted to do with my life, I decided to study journalism. I wanted to expose the evil of the world to the public and bring about change.

I joined my school’s mass communications program and started writing for my school newspaper. When I went to college at Ohio University, I continued writing for The New Political, a political news-based student publication.

In my second year I had the opportunity to investigate a secretive local election group that was trying to avoid a levy. I spent hours canvassing neighborhoods to see who was putting up the group’s yard signs and searching through business records.

It was exciting and fun work and then I knew for sure that I had chosen the right profession.

What I like most about my job

In many ways, being a journalist is like being a paid adventurer. I’ve only been out of college for two years, but here’s a short list of things I’ve already had the opportunity to do for work.

  • Flown in a hot air balloon
  • Flown in a Vietnam era helicopter
  • Covered a national rock music festival
  • Covered an NCAA championship game from the sidelines
  • Witnessed a solar eclipse

There is no other job where you can do so many different things and meet so many people. Moreover, you get to do very important work that can make the world a better place.

A story I worked on that has had a lasting impact on me

Less than a month into my job, an EF-3 tornado ripped through Indian Lake, killing three people and destroying much of the community. I was there the morning after the storms, and the devastation I saw there was like nothing I had ever seen before.

Sure, I’d seen images of homes destroyed by tornadoes before, but actually being there and having to step over the remains of someone’s life is a completely different experience.

More than the devastation, I was struck by how resilient and optimistic the people I spoke with that day were. Even people who lost their homes had time to be grateful that none of their loved ones were injured. Most people didn’t even seem angry or sad, just determined.

What is the biggest challenge I face as a journalist?

One of my biggest challenges, and I expect one of the biggest challenges for any journalist, is finding really good stories to tell. It’s not that the world isn’t teeming with good stories, it is, but good stories don’t exactly put up billboards advertising themselves.

Often the best stories come from a tip, a member of the public or a detail in a file. But we can’t force people to give us tips and story ideas, nor are we omniscient enough to know which documents contain the juiciest details. It’s more a matter of casting your net far and wide and seeing what you can catch. And sometimes you don’t catch much.

What I like to do when I’m not working

Like many young people, gaming is my main hobby. On any given night, I’m probably playing whatever video game I’m in the mood for at that moment (my current main game is Diablo 4). I also enjoy reading (I’m currently reading Neil Gaiman’s American Gods), watching new TV shows (I just finished Shogun), and going to the movies.

Still, I don’t spend all my time at home. I am a big fan of socializing and visiting events. I visit the Short North on Saturday evenings for a good time with some friends, and I’m always looking for something fun to do outdoors.

I also have a number of creative pursuits that I pursue in my spare time. I performed stand-up comedy almost every week for four years in college and plan to pick it up again in the Columbus area. Recently I also started writing short stories.

Why journalism matters

We are one of the few professions equipped to hold the powerful accountable. We monitor governments, courts, police forces, businesses and more to ensure they act in the best interests of the public. We have a responsibility and an opportunity to make this world a better place.

Also imagine if the world press suddenly took a day off. The stock market would plummet if companies navigated without news about their industry or competitors. Crimes, disasters and accidents would slip by and be noticed only by those affected by them. The political processes of many countries would grind to a halt without news of what their allies and rivals are planning. Bad actors around the world would use the day to get away with anything.

Journalism is an essential pillar of a functioning democracy. Without it we would all be worse off.

Nathan Hart can be reached at [email protected] or @NathanRHart on X.

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