When web content coordinator for mykynews.com, Dana Brantley, was a little girl, she never envisioned herself as a journalist, writer, editor, or being held responsible for the very content you find on this site, but having done all those things – permanently leaving her footprints behind like ink on paper – she has found herself once again with the title of editor, this time at the Ohio County Times-News.
As a little girl, Brantley had big dreams, from singing on stage to flying in space.
“In late elementary school, I wanted to sing and dance and act on Broadway, I wanted to be a star,” Brantley said. “Then I decided, no I didn’t want to be a star, I wanted to fly to the stars, I wanted to be an astronaut.”
Like most of us, her dreams as a child transformed with age, and her vision of stardom became a path leading to the unknown. Brantley didn’t know what she wanted to do with her life, but said her sister, Amy Lear Chmura, always did.
“When we were little, we would cut out old magazines and we would make our own newspaper. We would write our own stories about make-believe people,” she said. “She (Chmura) always knew she wanted to be a journalist.”
With her sister being two years older, Brantley always felt she was following in her sister’s footsteps. Throughout high school, teachers would ask, “Are you Amy Lear’s sister?” and would expect another great student, quiet and diligent, but Brantley never liked being compared to her, not for lack of admiration for her sister, but for want of walking a path of her own. So after high school, while her sister went to Murray State University, Brantley chose to attend Western Kentucky University.
She started out majoring in speech and theater, but was still unsure of what she wanted to do with her life. It was her skills as a writer that gave her direction, even though she believed she was just doing what she knew she could do.
“I got to looking through the catalog (of different majors) and I thought, ‘hmm, what do I want to major in?’ I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, but I could write,” Brantley said. “I thought everybody could write — I didn’t know it was a skill — I just knew that I could do it.”
After another year at WKU, this time majoring in mass communications, she transferred to Murray State, after her sister’s graduation. Mass communications wasn’t offered at Murray, which led to Brantley’s degree in journalism.
“Because most of my classes were in broadcasting, I ended up having a journalism major with a broadcast option,” Brantley said.
As a graduate from Murray with a journalism major, Brantley wasn’t sure what she wanted to do, but elsewhere, there was more in the works.
The Leader-News had previously hired her sister as a reporter, and when searching through the directory at Murray State for possible reporters, they noticed a familiar name. Once again, Brantley heard the familiar words when management from the Leader-News contacted her, “Are you Amy Lear’s sister?” and not a month after graduation, she found herself right where her sister used to be.
“I literally followed in her footsteps and sat at the same desk she sat at,” Brantley said.
She worked there for five years before becoming the editor of the Mclean County newspaper, at which she worked for nearly three years. It wasn’t until she got a job covering state government with the Kentucky Press Association in Frankfort that she felt validated in her skills as a writer and that she had earned her job.
“I felt like my sister got me this job (Leader-News) and it was because of this job that I got the other job (Mclean County),” Brantley said. “When I got another job on my own, that was validation for me, that it wasn’t who I knew.”
She covered state legislature and anything else going on at the capital when working for KPA, as well as coordinating open record requests. All the state newspapers that were members of KPA could run her stories. She also won awards for her work, including first place for best general news story. But after enduring the stresses of political press for two years, and working for a lifestyle magazine in Lexington for a couple more, she was taken away from communications work by possibly an even more stressful job. Motherhood.
Brantley didn’t move back near her hometown until her husband, Kevin, accepted a call to minister a church in Sacramento. She didn’t have a job and didn’t know what she really wanted to do, but she was sure that she “did not want to get back into print journalism.” It was not long after her return that she received a message from the Leader-News, asking if she was interested working once again. Her first answer was no, but after some persuading and the offer of a different job, she began creating mykynews.com.
“Ian (Anderson) designed the look of it,” Brantley said. “and then I decided what kind of content we were going to have.”
The website provides the public with news in the Muhlenberg and Ohio county areas: police reports, obituaries, news stories, sports and featured stories about organizations and people in the community.
After years of believing she was following in her sister’s footsteps and not knowing what she wanted to do, she has created her own path through faith and writing skills that she believed “everybody had.” There were times when she got away from writing in her life, but her innate curiosity and the “ink in her blood” kept reminding her how much she missed it.
“When I was in New York City once, I thought it was a movie set, but there really was a murder outside the Diamond District. The body’s still laying on the sidewalk and everything,” Brantley said when speaking of her curiosity. “The people I was with, they were from New York, and I said, ‘Can we go around again?’, and they asked, ‘Are you serious?’”
Though she never intended to start her career at the same job and desk where her sister used to work, Brantley said that looking back now she can see how it all worked out.
“Had I not gone to Murray and they not seen my name there, I would’ve never had this job,” Brantley said. “I would’ve never gotten my start in journalism.”
Now, not a year after starting mykynews.com, Brantley is moving on to be the editor of the Ohio County Times-News, leaving footprints behind for another to find their start.
Brantley said that she is looking forward to the opportunity to go to Ohio County and asks for patience as she gets adjusted to the challenging life of an editor. Prayer has led her to take a leap of faith once again and trust that everything will work out how God planned it, despite the footsteps you follow.
“No matter how hard you try not to follow in somebody’s footsteps or not to do something,” Brantley said. “Sometimes destiny just takes over and you end up there anyway.”
— Ryan Harper, MyKYNews