Never Sets on
Change of Heart Leads to New Career
by Britt Billings
Picture yourself in a classroom full of aspiring physicists. Every word that comes out of the professor’s mouth sounds like Greek to you, but everybody else in the room looks like they understand. You think to yourself, “Have I made a mistake in choosing my major? This is not what I want to do the rest of my life.” When award-winning journalist Lisa Duff made that discovery, it changed her life.
Ever since Duff was a little girl in Tampa, Florida, she thought one day she would become a physicist. When she was eleven, her family moved from Tampa to Whittier, North Carolina, changing her life and her dreams.
From high school, Duff chose to attend Western Carolina University, still planning to become a physicist. In Duff’s freshmen year, she took, and hated, her first calculus class, and it only took a few weeks for her to realize that Physics was not for her. “Thank God for general education,” Duff said, “because it gave me another option.” Her freshmen English class convinced her to pursue a career in journalism.
Duff worked very hard to obtain her goal. She made good grades and got involved in many campus activities, including the campus newspaper The Western Carolinian, and the Nomad, of which she became editor. Duff also earned a little extra cash working for the Office of Public Information, where she wrote memos and press releases.
In her senior year, Duff interned at the Sylva Herald, doing such good work that when, on the last day of her internship, a job opened up as a feature writer, she was given first choice. Duff graduated from Western Carolina University in 1991, and instantly began her career in journalism.
Duff worked six years as a feature writer before receiving a promotion to news editor. In her years at the Sylva Herald, Duff has won many feature and design awards, but she’s proudest of the award she earned from the North Carolina Press Association. Her piece told the tragic story of a sheriff’s deputy who had just gotten married, and who was on his way to the airport when he and his bride were killed in a car accident.
Duff is currently covering a murder case. At the Sylva Herald, you will most likely find her working on stories about county government and police work. Duff loves working as a journalist and values the education she received at Western Carolina University, especially the opportunity it gave her to become a writer.