First shift

had my first GA shift today and I’ve already learned lessons!

1. Buy the right type of equipment. (Subhead: Bring it with you. All the time.)

2. Verify sources, for your sake, your credibility’s sake, and for the sake of those around you.

I got to the newsroom already a little flustered because honestly, it was just one of those mornings. I had a pitch all set up from the night before and although I thought about it, I made the poor choice of NOT bringing my audio recorder. So, when I got to the newsroom, I honestly shouldn’t have thought twice about the fact that my GA editor told me to go get it. So I went. I got the recorder (and also had to buy some batteries), and then I realized along with my editor that there was no .mp3 compatible place on my recorder, which is essential for our multimedia piece. So, I was stressin’ at this point. We were going to get some staff equipment last minute for me to use until, lo and behold, the people at the event I was going to cover said we couldn’t come. I learned quickly how much you’ve gotta shuffle on a moment’s notice. The only thing was that this was all unavoidable, had I been completely prepared! Needless to say, lesson learned.

Then, I picked up a story about some “report card” that was released by an education group. Now, I’ve covered this before, but I didn’t initially realize that this group was actually one of the ones that heats my blood. I won’t go into it now, but basically and essentially, this source was VERY sketchy and not verifiable. It wasn’t worth the effort of publishing a piece about it, because the source was shady and I had a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach about it. That bad feeling wasn’t too bad at first, but around the late afternoon (and once I’d done some heavy reading, researching and nit-picking as a journalist should), I just couldn’t ignore it. I talked to my editors and we immediately pulled the piece. I wasn’t comfortable putting my byline on work that used comprised data, and I didn’t want to compromise the Missourian, either. I should have spoken up earlier, but in all honesty, I didn’t realize the extent of the shady-ness of the source of this document. It was frustrating because a majority of my day (and GA shift, to be specific) was devoted to picking through this 100+ paged document for anything useful or at least enlightening as to what the real intentions of this group were. There was definitely an ethical decision in my horizon at the point in the day when I realized I couldn’t justify using the numbers from this document, but I also couldn’t go into why the source was so indefensible, for the sake of time. But journalism isn’t all about getting a clip at the end of the day. Honestly, I’ve learned just as much today than I would have with some huge feature or a moving life story. LESSON: VERIFY SOURCES. Had I not done that today, who knows. Probably no one—these sources are sneaky—but I didn’t see any other choice. Because there was no other choice. Gotta stick to the truth.

Shout out to the graphics editor who made the graphic. I know it took a long time and honestly, it was a great graphic. I’m sorry it had be done in vain! I don’t know how I could make it up to her. I am indebted.

Also, I’ve gotta thank my editors supporting me today. It really meant a lot to have that type of backing when things just don’t seem to go your way. But I do believe something good will come out of this experience. *Cue in suspense.

My friends outside of journalism ask why I’m willing to put so much of myself into this. It’s because even when I make a mistake and my heart sinks, or when I wake up and I’m unimaginably exhausted, or when I seem to stray from my other friends, that I can’t imagine doing anything else. It’s been hard to accept defeat and mistakes, but I’ve gradually realized that that’s part of any learning process. I listened to a TED talk the other day about learning to accept failure and be open to regret. We’re told to not regret and blindly move through life. That’s not to say that I don’t have a positive attitude towards my life; I do. My positivity is one of the things that really keeps me going. But I’ve learned, and as the TED talk described, that the low points (even if they’re as minuscule as writing ‘they’re’ instead of ‘their’ and then quickly deleting it, horrified) really are necessary to grow. That’s also not to say that you should strive for failure—it’s just a matter of having high aims and rolling with the punches along the way. I think that’s the best way to grow, and I still have to work on it. But this day really has helped. To quote one of my favorite books, “The most beautiful thing about the desert is that somewhere it hides a well.” Or to be more banal, “Shoot for the moon and you’ll land among the stars.”

I think I use too many cliches. Oh well. Onward and upward!

Postscript: I did get some content in today. Events!

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The beginning of a trend

I was talking to my mom last night—going through our weekly rigmarole about school, life, etc.—and I got to a point where I realized that I’m really at an upward curve in my life. I’ve gotten to the Missourian, which is a peak in itself, but I’ve also managed to grab a new part-time job and honestly, I feel like this semester is going to be a breath of fresh air for me. It’s nice to know that when I’m not in my room, I’ve got somewhere to be where people are passionate and devoted to the same thing that I am: the news. I went in today really wanting to pick something up, and right before I was thinking of leaving (bad idea, by the way), I picked up a crime pitch. Tony Lewis, one of eight defendants charged with second-degree murder and robbery, has his trial Monday, and a pre-trial preliminary was today. Duty calls, right?

Little did I know, but State v. Lewis was only one of many line-items of the 1:30 schedule. People grew restless and soft groans and laborious breathing started creeping into the public seating at around 3:00. Some tense moments between the judge and some defendants kept my blood pumping, but most of the pre-Lewis action harped on bail bonds and parole. After a hefty three hours and once the prosecuting attorney arrived, the motions began. Although I can’t say anything too dramatic occurred, I’m glad I got to cover it. It’s surprising how much you can learn about something, like the court system, when you throw yourself into a situation. Now, I’m no crime expert by any means, but I definitely have taken out more than I knew at noon today. I might have gotten a little narrative with my telling of the pretrial, but I was sure to stick with the facts. I’m glad I had Ben Nadler, a Missourian reporter who’s reported on these cases before, to help lead me through the court jargon and proceedings. I had him stick around to read my piece to make sure it made logical sense and was factual, so I give him props for being so receptive. It’s great to have someone willing to advise on a whim like that.

I also talked to Ben about how interesting it was that I got to dig a little deeper into a topic I’d never pictured myself covering so soon, because now it really does fascinate me. That’s one of the things about journalism that I love so much. (Let me fawn for a moment.) You get to talk to so many different people, experience so many things, witness so much that you’d never get the opportunity to embrace in any other profession. The “T” theory was described to us in class the other day about how to approach journalism: a journalist should know a little bit about a lot of things (the horizontal top line), but he/she should also know A LOT about one thing (the vertical line). I haven’t quite figured out what that specific is for me yet—Education? Politics? Maybe even crime someday?—but it’s the process that counts.

I’ve got such a great opportunity to learn so much about so many things, and I really hope my effort shows, because I really truly want to learn. I want to absorb. That’s not to say I’ll be a content mule. I want to produce good, solid journalism. I also want to report on many things (which is partially a reason why I really wanted to get the education beat; I’m interested in it but I knew that if I could focus on it, I could learn so much more). But I don’t think these things are mutually exclusive. I think you can be a good reporter on many things and a GREAT reporter on a few things you love to cover. And I think the Missourian will help me find that path, or at least put me in the right direction.

Under the sun

Here are some of my photos from our climbing trip in Red Rock Canyon outside of Las Vegas, NV. Needless to say, it was a pretty life-altering experience. I’m very fortunate I was able to go and humbled by the experience.

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New horizons

So, I’m starting out this semester in J4450, the Missourian class. I’ve worked really hard to get to this point, and upon reflecting this past year-and-a-half and even my years in high school, I’m in awe at all of my experiences. I’ve jumped from being frustrated with having nothing to be passionate about to becoming a high school fangirl for photo-j to a fanatic over reporting in a matter of about 5 years. That seems like such a long time, thinking about it now. But I’ve learned so much and I’ve changed so much, as cliché and non-descriptive as it sounds. I always struggled when I was growing up to find a purpose for myself—I carelessly (and notoriously) flew through ballet, basketball, taekwondo, violin—but once I went to a photography exhibit in New York before my high school career, everything changed. This exhibit revealed a side to me that I’d never seen before. It contained photos from the famous war photographer Robert Capa, and as I progressed eagerly with visual trepidation, I was shocked and enthralled by the photos I saw. “The Falling Soldier”, as it does everyone, became my favorite photo, and I followed my dream of photojournalism with a fierce passion.

Yet, when I decided to come to MU to go to the world’s first and best journalism school (thanks to the tour team for making it my top school!), I realized my affinity for writing. I’d always written, and I was always applauded by family and teachers about how good my writing was. (I mean, I don’t know how good a scatterbrained growing daughter’s short stories could really have been, but hey, I’m not complaining now.) I suppose I just never realized or acknowledged their praise of my writing. I’ve gotta hand it to The Maneater for getting me back into writing. I then interned at a local newspaper in my new home in Arlington, Va., and wrote for several online news sources. This is about to start sounding like a regurgitated cover letter. I apologize. But in all honesty, I re-revealed that passionate side of me when I started to report and write again. I’ve always had an addictive personality, but for the most part in my life, my obsessions were short-lived. That’s why I cherish journalism so much, because it’s been one of the few things that I have been so passionate about for such a long time (I mean, it doesn’t seem like that long, but it feels like it!) and I can’t imagine not having in my life.

Some of my non-journalism friends question my love for the profession. It’s hard to put into words (uh-oh…irony alert). Maybe it’s the deadlines or the late nights or the camaraderie. Maybe it’s the flash of excitement when you see your byline in the paper or that pang of fear when you make a mistake and hustle to fix it. I’m not entirely sure. But what I do know is that this semester, I’m going to learn a lot. I’ll learn so much in such a short amount of time, that I may go crazy. But it’s the kind of crazy that I love. I want to learn everything I can. I want to hone my skills and learn more. I want to get to know my counterparts and my editors. I want to get to know my community. I want to get the most of my time here, and I know the Missourian is the first step of many in my blooming career of writing, learning and being curious.

Robert Capa said, “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” I have always carried those words close to heart. I plan to be as close as possible.