by Jill Ragar Esfeld
Special to The Leaven
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Sometimes things just work out.
Take, for instance, the situation of Jessica Langdon, a talented young writer in Texas who happened to be missing Kansas City at just the same moment The Leaven newspaper here was missing a reporter.
When staff reporter Kara Hansen recently left The Leaven to pursue a career in social work, editor Father Mark Goldasich posted an ad to fill her position.
But he did so with reservations.
“The older I get, the more I hate change,” he said. “So I was both sad when Kara left us, and anxious about the process of replacing her.
“But I needn’t have been.”
Indeed, Father Goldasich needn’t have worried at all — because the ideal candidate was only 500 miles away.
“I wasn’t anxious to leave Wichita Falls, by any means,” said Langdon, the newest addition to The Leaven staff. “I have friends and places and people that I love down there.
“But I was looking for an opportunity to get closer to home.”
Langdon has a brother and sister who live in the area; both are more than 10 years her senior. So although she’s happy to live closer to them again, it’s her father she really wanted to move back for.
“My mom died when I was 10, so it’s kind of been me and my dad,” she said.
Langdon was raised in St. Ann Parish, Prairie Village, where she attended St. Ann School.
After graduating from St. Teresa Academy in Kansas City, Mo., she attended the University of Kansas in Lawrence.
“I came back and visited a lot,” she said, “but I haven’t lived [in Kansas City] full time since I was a senior in high school.”
While earning her degree in journalism with a broadcast communication emphasis, Langdon interned at WIBW, the CBS affiliate in Topeka.
The timing worked out, and the station offered her a position when she graduated.
“It was wonderful,” she said. “I had a chance to report on the weekend and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.”
Langdon also produced newscasts for WIBW. But after a few years, she wanted a full-time reporting job, and eventually found one in Wichita Falls, Texas.
“I spent two-and-a-half years there at KAUZ, and got a chance to do everything,” she said. “It was reporting every day, plus some anchoring and assignment editing.”
Langdon continued to broaden her experience when she left KAUZ for a position with the local Wichita Falls newspaper, the Times Record News, where she has been a reporter for the last seven years.
When her father, who is still a parishioner of St. Ann, sent her the clipping advertising for a Leaven reporter, Langdon saw opportunity knocking again — and a chance to move back home.
Though there were many applicants for the position with The Leaven, Langdon stood out.
“Jessica brings to The Leaven an impressive amount of reporting experience in both television and print journalism,” said Father Goldasich. “So she was able to step right into her responsibilities here.”
Langdon brings more than reporting skills to the table.
“She also brings a younger Catholic’s outlook on the church and a better understanding of their reading habits and how to reach them,” said Father Goldasich.
“I’d really like to get involved with the younger crowd and help them feel connected to their faith through the work that we’re doing,” said Langdon.
Langdon has plenty of experience working with young people. For the last several years, she has been chair of the committee organizing Teens Make a Difference Day in Texas.
“It’s an annual event,” she explained. “It’s a Saturday in October when between 2,000 and 3,000 teens go out and do community service projects at different sites throughout the area.”
Langdon hopes to work on a similar event to our area.
“I definitely think there’s room for that here,” she said. “So if there’s an opportunity, maybe it’s something I can get involved in.”
She also hopes to get involved in taking more of a multimedia approach to spreading archdiocese news.
“I think today you have so many opportunities to combine the elements of video and print and Internet into packages that people want to look at, want to read, want to hear about.”
Father Goldasich likes that plan.
“Hopefully, she can help us chart a course vis-à-vis our Web site and maybe some social media in order to help us broaden The Leaven’s outreach to younger Catholics,” he said.
For now, Langdon continues to settle in at The Leaven. So far, she likes what she sees.
“I love it,” she said. “The people are great; I’ve learned a lot already.”
Langdon’s pleased to be surrounded by people who share her Catholic faith.
“[Faith] always plays a role in my work,” she said. “It’s something I bring to the table regardless of what job I’m doing.
“It’s part of who I am in that I approach everything honestly and try to do everything as accurately and as positively as I can.”
And now that she’s had a chance to get her feet wet, so to speak, Langdon is anxious to get out in the field.
“I’m excited to go out into the area and start talking to people and getting to know their stories,” she said. “I think learning about other people’s faith adds to my own.”
A winner of multiple state journalism awards, Langdon prides herself most on her service to her readers.
“I think one of the biggest compliments I’ve gotten as a reporter has come in a form of letters saying, ‘You told my loved ones’ story as if you knew them,’” she said. “So I want to offer people that kind of window to share their experiences with the community.”
Langdon admits she’ll miss her friends and favorite places in Texas.
But there’s one thing she’s pretty sure she won’t miss.
“The summers. I don’t think I’ll miss those,” she said with a laugh. “It’s 110 degrees there this week.”