BIG RAPIDS — The Pioneer Group, including the Pioneer, Herald Review and Lake County Star newspapers, recently welcomed a new associate editor to its staff.

Julie Norwood comes to the Pioneer's editorial staff after previously working at MLive Media Group for nearly eight years, filling roles ranging from high school sports reporter to page designer and copy desk editor.

Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois, Norwood's career in the newspaper business got off the ground slowly after she graduated with a degree in journalism from Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee.

"When I graduated with my undergrad in journalism, it was '97 — right when the internet took off and newspapers were trying to figure out how to keep up," she said. "They weren't hiring at that point, which is why I went back to grad school, but I freelanced at some local newspapers."

Norwood earned her graduate degree in counseling psychology, but said she never lost her interest in journalism.

She was able to continue to pursue that interest after moving to Grant, in 2006, at which time she began freelancing for the Rockford Squire and Cedar Springs Post, before eventually taking the position with MLive.

From using her creative muscles to layout each page of the paper to discovering stories that matter to her audience, Norwood said she has enjoyed many aspects of working in a newsroom.

"I like finding stories readers are going to be interested in and will educate them about what's going on. Just finding stuff they are going to like to read," she said.

Now a couple weeks into the job at the Pioneer, Norwood said she is excited to bring her experience to the position.

"The newsroom feels like home," she said. "I like the people I work with, and I've been able to jump right in. There hasn't been a huge learning curve, just a little one."

Tim Rath, Pioneer editor in chief, said he is looking forward to working with Norwood.

"I'm thrilled to have Julie Norwood on staff at the Pioneer. She is a seasoned veteran at newsrooms across western Michigan, with a diverse array of journalism skills," he said. "She will work with our team of editors and reporters to produce clean, well-sourced copy and quality photos, while exploring all our new digital mediums have to offer."

Along with her passion for the news business, Norwood is an avid musician and plays guitar and drums at her local church, and is a lover of all things artistic.

"I love music, and I love art, writing and reading," she said.

Although Norwood lives outside of the Big Rapids community, she said she is excited to work throughout Mecosta, Osceola and Lake counties and get to know the people in the area.

"I like the general small-town life, so I assume I will love it here," she said. "I'm looking forward to opportunities to engage with the community more."