I had a meeting late yesterday afternoon with my editor and for once, I went home feeling victorious and proud. She told me that I handled the interview well, asked the right questions, and the pitches I had thought up (even though they weren’t in my section of town) would be great to file away for later when I reached the neighborhood they’re in.
She also told me to go on a casual coffee-run with him and be down to earth. Listen to him ramble and talk about whatever subjects interest him. Sometimes the story is more about the person, himself, not the award they get or the job they have. I thought the personal touch would be a cool twist to the profile.
So we met up at D. Rowe’s, his favorite restaurant, for a beer (well, for him that is) and ended up talking for an hour and a half. He’s such an interesting guy. Loves Seinfeld, did stand up for a bit at Deja Vu, sits up in the press box during the games – sometimes bringing his mom. It was actually more comfortable in a laid-back bar setting than a stick-straight office interview.
I’ll keep the casual setting idea for future reference – people tend to speak more freely and passionately than they would otherwise. Easier conversation, better quotes. Check and check.
It’s 5:45 a.m. and I am not in my bed. Where I am, you ask? I’m at Zimmer Radio Group’s office sitting in the Clear 99 country radio studio interviewing Scotty Cox. I stayed there observing until 8 a.m.
It was really interesting listening to the “Scotty & Cara in the Morning” show. Both radio-hosts have hilarious witty personalities. On and off air they banter and shoot sarcastic comments back and forth. It almost seemed like they were in a coffee shop, judging by how relaxed they were while talking to each other on air, but instead there were rows of color knobs, buttons and switches between three computer desktops separating them, not a small round wooden table. That, and Cara was already on her second 5-hour energy drink and first Red Bull, not a cup of steaming Starbucks coffee.
I also got to meet MU’s Athletic Director Mike Alden and Senior Associate Athletics Director Mary Austin when they came in for an on-air interview. I can’t express how friendly they both were. Mike Alden brought Scotty & Cara gifts and took the time to talk to all of us – even me, the little student in the corner. Most of the conversation was about the new football MIZ-SEC season and the stadium improvements (new turf, yes!)
Anyway, it was an awesome experience to have a behind-the-scenes sneak-peak into the radio world. Especially with two winning personalities.
Today I experienced my first General Assignment (GA) shift. I woke up shaking, I was so nervous. I left half an hour early just to make sure I got there at 8 a.m. sharp. I didn’t want to be late on my first day. I got there at 7:45 and was the first one in the newsroom.
As the other students filed in, I braced myself. I guess I expected my GA editor to swoop in and pound us with stories we had to finish in two seconds or die. Something like that. Actually, the exact opposite happened. Liz Brixey, my awesome GA editor, came in singing. She told us not to be nervous and in cases of desperation to remember WWQLD “What Would Queen Latifa Do?”
Turns out, I didn’t have to fret because today I never got a story. This was a disappointment. I’m one of those people where if I have to sit in a newsroom for 10 hours, I’d rather be spending my time wisely and working on something. I had two classes today I had to leave for, but I made sure after each one to double checked with my editor and ACE (assistant city editor) if there was something I could write, co-write or help with. After asking over three times, I decided to start researching pitches for my beat article next week. When I managed to find some good ideas, I volunteered to be the desk attendant – a job that I handled for three hours.
So here’s my dilemma. I’m disappointed because I don’t want to seem like I’m lazy, incapable of work or any other negative image. The fact is, I want to work. But after asking how many times, what else could I do? Next time I’m going to be even more assertive On the bright side, at least I didn’t have a to write an obituary or struggle through a terrible crazed day. Guess we’ll see how it goes next time!
Another pitch meeting just rolled by and although it was a little intimidating, I feel like I know a lot more about how people are finding pitches and what makes a pitch relevant. A lot of students used the internet and stemmed from interesting events they found there, but some just got lucky. One girl even stumbled upon a pitch just from calling a flyer number.
I was so relieved that I had one really strong pitch with the Marconi Award nominated radio host. Even though my other pitch was weak, at least I have something to stem off of. It was nerve-racking to have my editor “yes” and “no” each pitch in front of the class, but nice in the end to hear her tell us she was pleased with what we had brought to the table.
It’s Sunday. The week is over and here I am, scrambling. Remember that advice I gave on Friday? I should’ve listened to it. Go figure. This morning, I woke up and immediately started researching. I had back-up pitches but they all fell flat. I’m down to my last pitch idea and even though it’s not great, it’s better than nothing.
I got in my car and drove to Bluff Creek Terrace assisted living complex to talk to a woman who works there and see if she might have a story behind her. I ended up sitting for an hour with her and an 84-year-old man who has been there since it first opened. It was really interesting and they had lots of great quotes about the living complex and some of its events (like a “senior prom” – very punny). The only problem I ran into was the obvious question: how is this relevant and newsworthy? I didn’t exactly have an answer but was hopeful that with more digging, I could find out.
When I got home, I wrote up the pitches and sent them in. I felt a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. For the rest of the afternoon I could sit back and enjoy my weekend. Ahh, how peaceful.
I’ve kind of hit a wall, figuratively of course, although sometimes the idea of banging my head against a wall seems pretty tempting. Take today for example. I haven’t heard back from Clear 99 after one email and two phone calls. I feel bad because I know how obnoxious I sound calling several times. Suddenly, I’m guilty for being rude to all those irritating telemarketers. They’re not annoying, their job is.
I know it’s only been two days, but this pitch is due Sunday night and deadlines are important, so naturally I don’t want to be waiting until the last minute. What if he doesn’t call back in time? What if he doesn’t even want to be interviewed? My last resort would be to march over there and knock on the door myself (and hoping I don’t get escorted out by security in the process).
I guess this is the part where I tell you the lesson I learned. Always have back-up plans. Plural. Never leave yourself with just one. Have several in case a lead doesn’t take you anywhere, the person doesn’t answer or doesn’t have an interest, or just something random comes up and the story falls through. There will always be other stories out there, don’t let yourself get stuck on one topic.
If there’s anything I’ve learned in this first week, it’s to keep an eye (and an ear) open. I don’t think I’ve ever eavesdropped as much as I have the past few days. People talk about current trends, community events and just plain weird subjects- aka what we, as reporters, should be listening to. So, that’s what I did. And that’s how I found Scotty Cox.
My roommate works at Zimmer Radio & Marketing Group in southeast Columbia (my community region for a few weeks). We were casually sitting in our living room and she was telling me about how awesome it was that Clear 99 radio had received nominations for few different Marconi awards.
I didn’t think anything of it at the time, but then realized, hey – they just won an award that sounds interesting. I asked her to forward me the email about the award so I could do more digging. I soon found out Scotty Cox, one of the radio hosts, had won Small Market Personality of the Year. Ding, I’d just stumbled upon my first pitch-idea.
It’s amazing what you can find if you simply pay attention.
This morning, I had my first meeting with the community beat. My editor seems really down to earth and approachable, which is a huge relief as I had no idea what to expect. Basically the whole semester will be spent profiling interesting people in the community, which actually sounds interesting. The hard part is: you are assigned a small section of town and have to search to find these individuals.
I know that learning how to pitch stories will be an incredibly useful lesson, I just have to figure out how to go about it. Besides awkwardly knocking on doors (that’s gotta be some kind of privacy violation) I think I’m going to do obsessive amounts of Google searches, drive around and stop in different places, try to get out more and listen around for what people are talking about.
Fingers crossed this works out well.
So, it’s the first day of school! Except it’s Junior year this time – and for once, I’m completely nervous. This semester I have to work at the Columbia Missourian for one of my journalism classes.
I went to orientation yesterday – the whole four hours of it – and although it cleared up a lot of confusing rumors about the class, I’m still worried about it. Everyone says it’s the semester where you have no life, the one where you constantly run around like a mad-man interviewing, stressing, writing and more stressing. Sounds fun, right?
But that’s not what scares me. I’ve had internships, deadlines actually make me work harder and I LOVE talking to people. So what’s the problem? Well, it’s simple. I don’t want to fail. I don’t want to be that one person who trudges into the editor’s office, shifts her feet and looks up only to see the high arched eyebrows and disappointed eyes looking back at her.
They say that you’ll probably be working 20+ hours a week for this class. I think the hardest thing for me will be time management and fitting in 20+ hours, 15 credits of classes, oh and that life I was supposed to having? Guess that’s part of the learning experience.
Well, here we go again.