I can’t believe the semester is practically over. I had my last beat meeting this morning and when everyone cleared out, I looked at the empty room and realized that I wouldn’t be sitting in there again, or at least not with all the familiar faces I’ve come to know this semester.
At the beginning of the semester I was scared out of my mind, everything was new, confusing, crazy and overwhelming. I’m not going to lie, there were points where I told myself just to survive and get through it. But honestly, now that I look back on it, I had always wanted to do more than just survive; I wanted to thrive. And while I stumbled along that cobblestoned path for a while, I finally learned how to balance on steadier footing. With the help of my professors, Jeanne Abbott & Liz Brixey, I learned so much more than I thought I would. Working with Jeanne on the community beat, I learned how to pitch in-depth profile pieces weekly, write and edit 50-inch features, juggle a handful of stories at once, conduct multiple interviews and spend quality time getting to know my subjects. Having GA shifts with Liz taught me how to crank out detailed, interesting stories on extremely strict deadlines, fact check everything before and after pitching stories, work with multiple editors, cover national events such as the presidential election, and of course, sing along with Liz in the early mornings when she gave us our GA pep talk (I’ll miss that, too).
Originally, I thought I would be one of those kids screaming “THANK GOD IT’S OVER,” when December finally rolled around, but surprisingly, I find myself in a different position. Was it the hardest semester of my life? Yes. Were there times I wanted to throw in the towel and give up? Undoubtably. But, I finished strong with a wealth of knowledge, a full portfolio of clips and great relationships with my professors — all feats that I am proud of. So, while I am looking forward to the five week break with my family, I can honestly say that I am thankful to have worked with the amazing professors, editors and students at the Missourian and that I look forward to seeing them again soon.
One of the ethical dilemmas that I noticed upon watching the documentary, Reporter, was knowing when to get involved and when not to. I thought it was interesting how Nick had the ability to make thousands of people sympathize with the men and women in his columns when he tried to remain unemotional himself.
I think this came across especially when the doctor decided to get involved with the starving woman. She felt like she was crossing an ethical boundary by helping her but at the same time, how could she not bring a starving woman to a hospital? When she asked Nick what he thought as they were on the way to the hospital, I could see the dilemma playing through his mind. I think he wanted to tell her not to help the woman, but human instinct pushed him to help her. Turns out, this decision awarded him the “prime subject” he had been searching for in his story.
The hardest thing for me would be to walk the line between getting emotionally involved and providing non-judgmental reporting. While he clearly struggles at some points, Nick does an really good job of finding this medium and that is why, I believe, he’s so good at writing these kinds of columns.
Today was a depressing day… but in a good way.
This morning in our Missourian lecture, we watched a film on a New York Times journalist who covered heart-renching situations like genocide and disease. While it was incredibly difficult to sit through (especially in the really gruesome moments), it was inspiring to see a journalist go into the field and find different angles to get people to actually care about topics outside of the U.S.
When I got back to my GA shift, Liz gave me my first life story. I’ve done obituaries before, but never one where I had to actually call the family members. Like I said, it was a pretty morbid day. To be honest, I was scared out of my mind. My greatest fear was that they didn’t know the person had passed away. But, luckily the chances of that happening were slim considering the woman I was to call was the deceased man’s wife. I just didn’t want to be the journalist who had to bother someone at such a personal time. I didn’t want to hurt anybody or say the wrong thing.
Eventually, I called her. It was hard at first. When I explained why I was calling the line got very quiet. After a few moments she started asking me how I got her number and why I wanted to do this. I explained (pausing before saying the word “obituary”) that we had received an… obituary… and wanted to do a life story to memorialize him. Then, I broke the ice with a dumb blonde moment: she was going to call me back after discussing the life story with her children and I asked “do you want my number?” and she burst out laughing – which was a relief – saying, “well how else would I call you back?” I felt stupid but, it got her to smile and that made me feel a bit better.
After that, I ended up talking to both her and her daughter on the phone together. They recalled all these adorable memories of their husband/father which really helped me understand who he was. Towards the end, it got hard. I asked if there was anything else they would like him to be remember as – anything else they wanted me to add. The wife told me “Words cannot describe what he means to me. He’s half of me. He’s my best friend.” and started crying. I thanked her for her help and hung up. I got up, went outside and wiped away my tears. I couldn’t imagine losing my dad and to hear someone who had just lost their husband two days ago choke back tears over the phone broke my heart. At this point, I didn’t want to be a journalist. I didn’t want to write about someone else’s pain. I wanted to hug my parents and tell them how much I love them.
But that’s when it hit me. No, I couldn’t bring him back but I could write a touching life story, for this family, for these wives and daughters and sons who had lost someone they love. I wanted readers to feel like they knew him, I wanted them to care about this man. I hope I succeeded.
Just a quick update that my story on Caleb, the Appalachian Trail hiker came out today online! I’m super excited to see it in print tomorrow. This was by far one of the most fun articles to write : )
Katherine asked us in her blog post, to think about how much we actually listen in an age when the world is full of cell phone rings, twitter update beeps and distracting noise. So I sat down and thought about everything I hear, every day. In the morning, I hear my car radio on the way to class. I sit through endless lectures listening to professors, I listen to crowds in the student center, friends on their phones — all this jumble of noise. And when I finally get home, I walk in my room, shut the door, and enjoy the sweet sound of nothingness. It’s peaceful, really.
But how much do we actually digest what we’re listening to? It’s one thing to hear these noises, but much different to actually listen and process them. I’m an easily distracted person. I have to be going and doing something at all times. So, if I’m in class and the teacher is talking about something that may not be of interest, I constantly find myself mentally preparing for a test I have soon or what articles I have to write, then checking my phone to see what time it is so I can get on whatever to-do list I just made in my mind. But, then that’s really the problem isn’t it? My generation grew up constantly thinking about the future so much that we forget to stay in the present. Whether we’re a toddler looking forward to our next birthday, a high school kid stressing about college or a college student worrying about the “real world,” we never stop and take a breath.
I think the lesson here is to make yourself stay in the present. To tell yourself that whatever the future holds can wait, and now, this exact moment, is more important. Lately, I’ve been putting away my phone and taking things one step at a time. When I’m in class, I try to only focus on class and tune in to what the teacher is saying. Especially with interviews, I need peace and quiet so I can hear and transcribe what the person is actually telling me — even if that means I have to sneak into the break room, another classroom, or even a closet (I’ve done it before, no joke). The message is clear: If we focus on the present tasks at hand and really listen to what is going around us, we’ll be more productive than we would if we solely focus on the future.
I volunteered for an extra GA shift today and for the first three hours it was wicked slow. (Wicked: aka a Bostonian term that has a range of meanings from “very” to “awesome” depending on its usage. It can also be used with a stream of swear words but we won’t go there…) I guarded the front desk with a fellow reporter and friend, updating our blogs and playing around with the Missourian computer’s photo booth. To see our adventures, click here.
At around 2:45, my ACE Jacob, came over and told me about a massive accident that had happened on U.S. 63. A moment later, the Missourian phone rang — it was a MU journalism professor headed on her way home and had pulled over at the accident site. She was taking photos. This is the first on-site accident I have ever had to report. I donned my highlighter green “Press” vest and went to check it out.
It was cool to talk to the highway patrol troopers and get to see what actually happened instead of just gawk and wonder from the inside of a passing car. I’m glad the professor/photographer was there because she filled me in on what I missed when I was on my way over. Essentially, a red Ford Focus didn’t yield to traffic when trying to cross U.S. 63. I was surprised how courteous the firemen and police officers were. But the trooper was very straightforward when he said to the four press people, including myself, “ok, you have two minutes for questions.”
I think the most important lesson I learned was to be respectful, listen to the officers, and let them talk. We asked them “what happened?” and it was easy from there. Afterward, we politely talked to the two owners of one of the vehicles but they declined.
The good thing about reporting on scene was the people you needed to talk to were right there. There was no calling, hunting down people and wasting time waiting to hear back. What you needed to know was right in front of you.
Check out the accident update here.
As the title states, today was a good day. I have a vacation to get to but I figured I’d share this real quick before I do.
- The Epic Mineral Beauty story came out online today and Lauren is so excited she’s already posted it on facebook multiple times and called me to thank me. I knew I liked her : )
- I got a call today from a possible freelance job offer with Columbia Business Times for next semester. I have an interview next week!
- I’m actually getting organized in terms of looking for summer internships. (This is kind of a big deal).
- Had my first over the phone interview with an upcoming Missourian story about a flower decor designer
- Set up interview times on Wednesday and Friday with Sorella Foods secondary sources and an MU student who created her own business from a fundraiser she started to raise money for a mission trip to Africa.
Now I’m going to enjoy the next few days lounging on the beach, eating way too much food and spending time with my family. Happy Thanksgiving!
I found out that despite my geographic change in location, I’ve still been on my laptop way too much for this to be considered a break. Today, I finally got ahold of my second (and final) source for the Appalachian story, did a quote check and sent it to Abbott. She said it’ll be published around Sunday, when I’ll be doing my voluntary GA shift.
But really, I haven’t been able to sleep and the main problem is. I’m really, really nervous about internships. This week I want to start applying and looking for summer internships but I feel like everything is up in the air. I don’t know exactly where I want to go or what I want to do yet. And it scares me that I feel so behind. I wish I could have a sneak peek preview of my summer, just so I can assure myself that I will be fine and it will all work out. But on the other hand, that ruins the fun of the surprise. I guess the only thing I can do is keep working and keep the faith. Also, I need a break so I’m going to hit the beach and stop looking at it from behind this window and laptop screen. See ya.
I’m waiting for boarding to begin in CoMo Airport so this will have to be a brief post. Hope you don’t mind bullets!
- 10:30 It’s been a crazy morning, including picking up my (still broken) car at the auto shop, going to class and then…
- 1:30 meeting with Jeanne! I think she can feel my excitement a) because I’ve cranked out these stories b) because I’m actually proud of these stories and c) well.. come on… it’s Friday before Thanksgiving break. Anyway, there were a few things to edit and shape up on the Epic Mineral Beauty story and one other source to add to the practically done Appalachian Trail piece. Oh, did I forget to mention that my Amy Stephenson Get Lost Bookshop artist story came out in print today?! Picked up a few copies on my way out : )
- 2:30 Finished final edit of the Epic Mineral Beauty story. It’s set to publish on Tuesday! Yay!
- 3:15 Finished editing the Appalachian Trail story but couldn’t get ahold of the second source. Oh well.
- 3:15-3:30 Packed like the speed of light
- 3:30 Left for airport after quick stop at Picklemans for a sandwich (girl’s gotta eat!)
- 4:00 At airport.
- 5:00 OFF TO FLORIDA. PEACE, MISSOURI!!
My productivity has continued! Woot! The Caleb story is all written and cq-ed and sent in to my editor to look over. Turns out, she really likes it! Yay! Meanwhile, I have a finally completed my last quote check with the Epic Mineral Beauty story and that is all done too! I’m hoping with the small, slow staff of Thanksgiving, both of my stories will be in print next week over break.
Next stop: Work on my vegan chef story, pack my bags and head to Florida. Calgon, take me away.