New Sports Editor named at Times
The Okmulgee Times is excited to reintroduce our readers to, once again, our newest member of the team.
Kaitlyn Dillard grew up in Bartlesville and lived there until she was in fifth grade when her family moved to the Norman area. Kaitie was enrolled in Bridge Creek High School and attended the school until she graduated in 2013. From there, she attended the University of Science and Arts in Oklahoma and studied English with a minor in communications which is what has helped her in her journalism career. But she had found interest and inspiration in the field of journalism much earlier than college.
“Ever since I was little, my grandma was involved in writing,” Dillard said. “She started out as a journalist and moved her way up and became a public relations person. So, ever since I was really little, writing has been something we both bonded over.”
Kaitie’s grandmother was also the first person who showed her how powerful writing could be and how much it could touch others.
“She used to show me articles she wrote,” Dillard said. “It was just meaningful to have this bond with someone over something you both are passionate about.”
After Kaitie graduated college, she went looking for a job in journalism. She first got her foot in the door at the Okmulgee Times newspaper working as a part-time journalist while also working at the Okmulgee Chamber office. She came to the Times full-time as a sales representative and worked in the department until another journalist position opened up. Once again, she danced the part time dance and worked as a part time journalist and part time sales rep until transitioning fully into the journalism department.
There, she joined editor Patrick Ford and reporter Jessie Brydges and began establishing her journalism beat and writing style.
Around the time Kaitie was getting her feet under her as an established journalist, a new opportunity arose. Larry Owen, former sports editor, asked for help covering all the springs sports. Kaitie jumped at the chance and soon found herself assisting as a sports writer.
“I got to meet different kids and different coaches and getting to see how passionate players and coaches are about their different sports was amazing,” Dillard said. “Whether it was tennis, golf, basketball or football, getting to see how committed they were and getting to cover and spread that passion made me fall in love with sports writing. Because I was in sports in high school and getting to see the coverage from the other side was something special.”
There were some learning curves involved with sports writing which Kaitie had to overcome such as learning to read score sheets and stats.
“Learning how to read score books, which varied from school to school, and learning the different personalities of the schools was interesting,” Dillard said. “Because I went in pretty much as a previous player and getting to see the behind the scenes aspects, what the coaches went through and the more technical aspects was the biggest learning curve for me.”
After working for the Times newspaper for a time, Kaitie and her fiancé Wes moved to Tulsa, where Kaitie had an opportunity to work full time as a sports writer for Inside Owasso. There she covered Rejoice Christian and followed their football and basketball teams closely. It was through Inside Owasso she was able to grow the most as a sports writer after the Rejoice Christian boys basketball team made it all the way to, and won, at state.
Not only did she get the experience of following a state championship winning team, but being able to bond with a school like that was very important to her.
“I feel like what I learned there will shape how I work with and talk with future coaches and players,” Dillard said.
Kaitie enjoyed working for Inside Owasso. But when word came about Larry leaving and the sports editor position opening up, she couldn’t help but wish to return to where she got her start in Okmulgee.
“I’m just really excited to show Okmulgee and Henryetta and the whole county the potential the sports section could have,” Dillard said. “I just want to showcase the efforts put in by the county coaches and the players and to shine a light on the sports that don’t get the attention the bigger sports get.”
Kaitie is also looking to bring some fun to the sports section with featured players of the week for both papers. She will be taking suggestions from coaches, parents and other players as to who should be featured in a paper. It doesn’t even have to be someone who is doing well on the field. Dillard wants to lift up those players who are trying their best and putting in the effort even if they don’t make the winning shot every game.
Stepping into the shoes of such an established sports writer was a bit daunting, but Dillard has so far received nothing but helpfulness from the coaches.
“I have not met an unfriendly face yet,” Dillard said. “Okmulgee County is just such a welcoming place and I am ready and excited to work with them. The Okmulgee Times and the Henryetta Free Lance are like family to me and to get an opportunity to come back and share my passion for journalism and sports with them is humbling.”