NORMAN – In central Oklahoma, a Cherokee Nation citizen has made a career move that puts him in a hotbed of sports and sporting news.

Jesse Crittenden recently returned to the Norman Transcript to serve as the newspaper’s sports editor after working news side and leaving for another job for a few months.

“I knew it was risky to come to the Transcript as a news reporter because my passion had always been in sports journalism, but I thought it would be good for me to branch out a little and try news journalism, Crittenden said. “I think it’s good for all journalists to try things outside their comfort zone because it’s the only way to know for sure what you like.”

Crittenden said some facets of covering news were enjoyable, while others were difficult and didn’t “come as naturally.” 

“The last three months of my original tenure, I actually became an interim co-editor,” he said. “I think this is when I truly realized that it’s really difficult to be in journalism if you don’t have a passion for it. If that passion isn’t there, you’re probably going to struggle like I did. Being an interim news editor was kind of … a moment of truth for me.”

There were no sports slots available at the Transcript, so Crittenden briefly left the trade. However, he always had a desire to get back in journalism – if he could cover sports.

“The publisher at the Transcript reached out to me in June and told me the sports editor position had opened,” Crittenden said. “I knew it was a big job – the sports editor’s main responsibility is covering (University of Oklahoma) football – but this was my opportunity to get back into sports journalism and I had to take it. So I guess doing news journalism helped reaffirm my commitment to sports, and it also helped fulfill a lifelong dream of covering OU football.”

Crittenden grew up in Stilwell and is a 2015 graduate of Stilwell High School. He graduated from Northeastern State University in 2019 with degrees in media studies with a public relations emphasis and in communication studies with an emphasis in family relations.

His interest in sports journalism arose during his final year at SHS, where he played on two state tournament basketball teams. Crittenden realized his career in basketball was ending, but his understanding of the game and other sports led him to consider the life of a sports journalist.

“I think the thing about sports journalism that intrigues me the most that there’s so much that goes into sports,” he said. “Each team has so many individual personalities that come together, and there’s so much that happens on and off the floor. Sports journalism gives me a chance to find creative ways to tell those stories and bring insight to peoples’ favorite sports and players in their community.”

Being Cherokee has also influenced Crittenden’s life. He is the great nephew CN Veterans Affairs Secretary S. Joe Crittenden and cousin of Tribal Councilor Shawn Crittenden.

“I think the biggest impact on me is the sense of togetherness that exists within the Cherokee Nation, he said. “One of many examples is those basketball teams I played on in high school. One of our favorite parts of making those state tournament runs was the support from the community that everybody on the team felt. I think we knew it was so special to play for a community like Stilwell because we all grew up with that sense of togetherness.”

Crittenden said he wasn’t certain how many other places have as deep a sense of community, and he still carries that “togetherness” and tries to share it.

“Plus, the Cherokee Nation has done so much for me,” he said. “I had a serious illness while I was in high school, and I don’t know if my family and I would’ve gotten through it without the financial support we received from the Nation. They helped me pay for my college. To say I owe a lot to the Cherokee Nation is an understatement, and I think in everything I do, I just want to be a person that they can be proud of.”

Looking at his life, Crittenden offered thanks to his fiancée Tosha Fletcher, his parents and older brother Taylor, and his high school coaches Ron Dunaway and Michael George.

Crittenden also had some advice for aspiring sports journalists: “Start studying now.”

“Find the sports you’re really interested in, read your favorite writers and write things in your spare time,” he said. “Work on finding your voice. Branch out to other areas of journalism.”