TEXARKANA — The Twin Cities are losing one of their most recognizable voices.
Today is the last day on KTXK-FM for longtime local journalist Sabrina McCormick, who departs Sunday to pursue a master's degree in Northern Ireland.
McCormick has been reporting for the Texarkana College-based National Public Radio affiliate since 2005, and before that spent two years covering various topics for the Texarkana Gazette. She begins work this fall on a Master of Science degree in peace and conflict studies at Ulster University-Jordanstown, near Belfast.
"In the 15 years I have worked as a reporter here, I have gotten to know and work with some wonderful folks, and I plan to stay in touch," said McCormick, an Arkansas-side native who has visited Ireland multiple times since her first trip there in 2012.
KTXK station manager Steve Mitchell praised McCormick's initiative and ability as a journalist, saying she was the first real news reporter the station had.
"She grabbed the news department by the horns and I was able to let her do her own reporting. She was and is strong willed and we did clash on story ideas sometimes, but she was always professional in the end.
"Her feature story reporting was some of her best work. She could take any subject, even the obscure, and file a very interesting and in-depth story. That's what I'm going to miss the most. Her storytelling. She could draw the listener in with her words and draw out the subject she was talking about," Mitchell said.
Gazette Editor Les Minor remembered McCormick's time with the newspaper.
"Sabrina was a careful and conscientious journalist and a valued member of our staff. Much of her work was focused on education, which tied in nicely with what she would go on to do at KTXK. She knew how to find the positive in people and this knack showed up in her writing, her dealings with other staff members and, more importantly, the people she covered and the community. Ireland's gain is Texarkana's loss," Minor said.
McCormick's new path may seem radically different from covering local news, but she sees possibilities in how it relates to journalism.
University of Ulster's peace and conflict studies program "has a strong focus on critically assessing the causes of consequences of conflict and examining the theories and practices of post-violence peace building, which is appropriate given that it is rooted in a society emerging from decades of protracted violence," according to its website.
From the late 1960s to the late 1990s, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland engaged in violent conflict, known as The Troubles, that pitted those who wanted the north to remain a part of the United Kingdom against those who wanted a unified, independent nation.
McCormick may put her new education to use in journalism covering issues facing communities in conflict, or "by working with an organization dedicated to building economically strong communities that respect divergent backgrounds," she said.
"Reporters have an obligation to objectively report on conflict situations. I find value in understanding aspects of conflict and peace building efforts. I believe it is necessary to provide accurate and contextually correct information reflective of the whole story, and the voices involved," she said.
McCormick is a recipient of Ulster University's John J. Sweeney Scholarship, a $20,000 award sponsored by the AFL-CIO federation of labor unions. To be eligible, an applicant must be a union member or have a familial connection to a union member. Her father, Keith McCormick, and his two brothers were Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. employees and members of the United Steel Workers.
"The chance to do this simply would not be possible without a very special scholarship, one that I am humbled and privileged to receive," she said.