One Woman Show

Yesterday was “Dead Day” for my college. It’s the magical day in which students can get a break for one day before their finals start. For many people that meant sleeping in and studying. For me that meant all of that plus my favorite pastime of performing a one woman show. 

Until the fateful day when some soul decides that they love media things as much as I do, I’m at times a one woman media show. While I’m in need a of practice when it comes to my writing, I get plenty of practice for pictures. Just yesterday I had to take group pictures for the music program, talk to students about the online newspaper, photography and video a sexual assault awareness rally, and speak  with a friend about the importance of social media presence and branding. On top of all this I needed to get ready for finals that I have today.  

Don’t get me wrong, I love ever moment of this. I know there will come a day not too far down the road when I need all the skills I’m learning now. But there are moments when it can get interesting. Like when I needed to record video and take pictures, or take pictures of a group of students and talk to students, or needed to google how to make a cosmo effect when the internet is down. for all of these instances I just thought about the task, talked to some people and pushed ahead.

One big happy informed family

Since I learned how to use computers and communicate with them I have always delighted in taking part in the electronic community. Now don’t worry, i’m pretty OK, IRL (in real life). I’m actually much the same in the real world as I am online. I have lots of friends with varied interests. We all come from different backgrounds. We each “Nerd Out” over different things and in a few cases we call different continents home.

I’ve always been told that no matter where I go I can make some sort of home out of it. I really like that about people in our generation. While we do have roots somewhere we are willing to walk outside that rooted area to take a look around and talk to some people who see the world just a little differently. One of my favorite stories to tell about online community (and yes there is a journalism connection) has to do with my last summer. Last summer was the Olympics in London. I’m very lucky to have awesome friends who are currently attending university” over the pond. So when there would be an event that might be black out over here there would send me streaming links so I could watch it with them. We would tweet the whole event through practicing interview questions and I actually got a question answered by an official Staff person. My friends and I cheered and giggled over google hangout as we recanted the events. 

I love how in this day in age things like time and distance do little to stop news from reaching all the corners of the world. When hurricanes where coming through a few months ago, friends from different countries would email, tweet, and message concerned with my location before I knew there was a problem. There are flaws in this. I’m sure many people have already started writing books on the peril of insta-journalism. However, there are moments of hope of this global community and I think they are important to remember,

Humble Pie

I want to have an honest moment. My gut tells me that I’m not alone in feeling the way I do. I was recently published in a pretty legit publication. Like this should be one of my proudest accomplishments to date. I worked for a month on this story. I’m pretty sure I earned some gray hairs for this article. I used every tool in my belt. I couldn’t wait to see my hard work (picture included) in this feature. When I got the proof however I was heartbroken.

The story that I wrote didn’t resemble the story that was published. I compared the two and while it was clearly the article I wrote, it had clearly gotten chopped up and sewn back together.

There is at length an amount of humble pie that a journalist must ingest into order to stay in the field. I’m no fool. I do not think that I (at 22 years of age) am in any way shape or form so epically amazing at writing that my work doesn’t need editing (I’m pretty sure as you read this and see errors and cringe you get my point).

When it comes to taking a critique I have a little bit of experience from some design classes I’ve taken at my college. I really feel like having to participate in critiques while in these classes will aid me in the future. The first one I ever had to go through my professor looked us all in the eyes and said “Leave your ego at the door”. The first one was the toughest. I considered myself an honest person, but who really wants to hear the nit picky problems about their work? People who one day want to be professionals, that’s who. From then on I gave my all and some people gave it right back to me.

So while I am person that can take a criticism (unless you are this one friend of mine, then no, I don’t want to hear your opinion) i just couldn’t understand this. While the publisher and editor have no need to tell some lowly undergrad student why they did what they did I feel like I can’t learn from my errors when I don’t know what I did wrong. So while friends and family alike were cheering for me, I sat in bewilderment wondering if this means that I will never be taken seriously as a journalist because of this.

I welcome any advice on this matter. Part of me feels like this is simply the screening process of the field. Other times I wonder if this is my smoke alarm trying to warn me of the impending fire.

Leading a horse to water….

There are times when I’m certain that if professionals in the field read this blog they would laugh at my idealism. I know that some of the questions are the same ones that plague everyone. I have another one for you all. How does an online news “source” like the online newspaper I’m currently in charge of get the participation from students? I’ve lead the horse to water, in the way that I’ve created social networking places that link back to the website. I’ve tried to strike up some convos, I’m done everything i know to do other than to go up to people and guilt them. While I recognize that I’m not doing such a hot job of keeping up with everything, I’m very aware that I am just one person, and I’m mainly here to get an education.

In spite of the time thing, I’m to be honest a little bummed that I can’t seem to get people to comment on stories that we are posting or that I can’t get people to interact with us on Facebook or Twitter. Don’t laugh or judge but there are times when i would like to place my hand on my hip and fuss like a mother. I know how important it is for people to know what is going on around them, but they don’t seem to get it.

Just a little while ago my professor was in the room and asked the students and I if we had heard about Boston. Most of them looked at him clueless. One asked what he was talking about and I filled them in. I was traveling when everything was breaking news but within the first two minutes of being around my ipad I was fully aware of the tragedy.

I’m fairly certain the same people in this room couldn’t tell you what is going before the supreme court at this moment, or where we are at with that oh so wonderful gun control issue. I’m 99.99% certain that if I said Alabama Accountability Act, they wouldn’t have any clue about what that means for the future education of their children and this FRUSTRATES ME!

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think any less of my classmates. They are currently working around me getting things done. But these things will affect them when they leave the “bubble” that surrounds or campus. some of it will even affect them here on campus.

My point in news is important. I’m just looking for a creative way of getting the horse to understand that the thing in front of them will nourish their minds in a way that is beneficial to them continuing on in life.

Fabricated Truth

“The most dangerous of all falsehoods is a slightly distorted truth.”

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, The Waste Books

Today went I checked my email I found an email from a professor. It was about a student from a major University near where I attend school. She was a freshman who fabricated people in over 32 articles through her first two semesters. She was discovered through routine fact checking.

What she would do is quote students that didn’t exist when it came time to get people’s opinions of issues that she would write about.

While I am a huge fan of social media, but it has it’s weakness. I’ve read many times that the modern age in journalism has decreased the time in which a story can “rest” or “grow” before it must be published. This has decreased the accuracy factor. I question often which consumers of news really want accuracy or fastness? The sad answer in this oh wonderful day in age is both.

Out of habit I tend to not take breaking news so seriously. Mainly because I know how out of proportion it tends to be. People panic and write their fears, then later are criticized for that same fear by journalists who had more time to put into the story.

When talking to some friends about the situation, they spoke of how maybe she just felt pressured by the strict deadlines that the publication demanded. While they weren’t excusing her actions they were hitting on a few points. The first is the matter of timely over truth.

The second is just the matter of ease. How hard is it in this day in age to make up a person? I saw an infographic just the other day on how researchers found that Mitt Romney had an increase of twitter followers in such a high amount that when they did some checking they found that most of the people that followed him during a certain period of time (that was not around some high pressed event or speech) they weren’t real people.

The truth of the matter is  that we as journalism students and journalist have to take our jobs seriously. I’ve heard many a tale of reporters gone bad. I feel like it takes more time to cover your lies than it does to just tell the truth.

Megan Kamerick: Women should represent women in media

I really enjoyed this video for a more reasons than I plan to share at the moment. I’ll actually be working on a project in my spare time fore the rest of the semester that has something to do with this.

Is College Worth It?

Part of my last post made me remember this video for a lot reasons.

Practice Makes….

I think my generation can be pretty arrogant at times. I was hanging out over the break with some friends who also study journalism at another school. They complained of professors who made them turn in new writing three times a week. They also moaned about constantly having to be in writing mode. This sorta blew my mind but I couldn’t judge to much. In fact during this part of the conversation I stayed silent because I felt I had nothing to contribute. It wasn’t until one friend said “I don’t know why I have to waste my talents on these baby articles all the time”. Before anyone else could speak I laughed and inquired “Who died and made you Ernest Hemingway?” (The friend didn’t know that Hemingway was actually a journalist at one time)

I think it is perhaps the greatest travesty in my generation that we think we are the corner market of our fields at 21 years old. While I do agree that youth brings innovation, I have to maintain that in order to fix or improve upon something you need to understand what it really is (I understand the implications of subjective truth please breathe). I feel like before you can call yourself a real deal journalist you have to do some pretty crappy legwork. Why? Because you get a grand appreciation for things. It also helps you understand how things really are.

For a person who isn’t a journalist, they can maintain that it’s a job so easy a monkey could do it. I would like to see a monkey capture the scene of a devastating crime or a joyous event. I would like to see that monkey record in brevity the human experience at it’s finest and worst moments. The truth of the matter is despite the closing down of many print newspapers, journalism will always be relevant. People need to hear what’s going on. Information is power, it is also a comfort and a provoker. What journalist do is just as serious a trade as anything else. With that being said you don’t just wake up one morning and say “Hey, I’m a journalist!” No, you go to school and you PRACTICE writing. Our trades are not hoobies that we can click on a few websites and become experts at. The skill of interviewing does not come from reading a book. The more I interview people the better at it I become. It’s the same with my writing, at least that’s what I hope.  Practice makes perfect, but in order to get anywhere close to that you actually do have to practice.

Getting Published

For the past month I’ve been working on a pretty good feature. It involved getting out of my comfort zone and interviewing people and it also involved some time to just sit and write out stuff even when I was sceptical the results. It was certainly a learning experience. The whole time I would write my hands would shake. “What if i’m doing this wrong?” “Was the the right question to ask?” these kinds of thoughts danced through my head throughout the process.

It finally came time to write it and I was pretty confident. As I turned it into my professor he tells me that I’ll actually be submitting it to be pretty cool publication and that it might get published. I wanted to believe him I really did. But let’s be honest here. I felt my work wasn’t of the same calibre to be printed alongside all those hard working journalists.

So while talking to friends about my feelings on the matter one turned to me and said “Where do you think they started?” While this is of course something I knew it wasn’t something i remembered during my week of worry. Theodore Roosevelt said it best “Comparison is the thief of joy” I’m forever comparing myself to other writers. I think I might need to stop spending so much time thinking about who i’m not as a journalist and just start being who I am.

Oh, so I spent all of my spring break looking to see if I was published and was saddened to see I wasn’t. When I stopped by my Professor’s office today he asked me about the email that just came….the one that said I was in fact getting published in this week’s edition! I have to check on one more fact. But in a few days I hope to share with you some very legit work!

We’re spotlights, not super heroes…right?

I’m pretty sure every journalism student has had this moment. The moment when you just feel so passionate about a cause that you want to shout from the rooftops of an injustice that has been done. You feel heat coursing through your veins as more information comes your way and people share their sides of the tale. You want to put your foot down to write something so grand that people stop and realize what is going on and they do something about it. Then reality comes like a cold front on the one day you’re brave enough to wear shorts. You learn that people are usually hesitant to act especially when it means defiance of something that has become a norm. This can be as little as the school bully who gets everyone’s money or the Nazis reign over most of Europe. It matters not where your cause places on the scale of injustice you just want something done about it. But with no brave voices, citizens, and leaders your cause just sort of dies. While you and every person must survive this disappointment you don’t know where to go from here.

As journalists we’re not supposed to take a side. We as people have sides that come from many factors, but that shouldn’t affect our work. We’re compartmentalizers who must share this human experience but not add our slant to it. While that’s about as idealistic as my point of this post just bear with me. Our job isn’t to be the white knights in shining armor; our job is to share what’s going on. Then what? Just pray that some brave person gets that heat coursing through their veins?

My freshman year, before I even step foot in a journalism class I learned about one of those causes. There is a lot of injustice in the community that I attend school in. Its perpetrators use poverty as a means to an end. There are many faces to this story but there is one that leads them all (isn’t there always?). I remembered the first time I laid sight to this person. As I took in their features I got the feeling that maybe those bad guys you see on TV really do have real life counter parts. As I continued to learn more through various people the picture being painted didn’t show much hope. There were at one time many white knights. One of them even ran a newspaper. That newspaper sadly closed by the end of my freshman year. That left only one newspaper in town that was very passive in their mentions of injustice.

Two years later, some things are changing. Some of those bad guys are getting called out, one voted out of office, others just getting a little hot under the collar. There is still the one person in charge. They continue to do as they please. I saw them just the other day. Still as arrogant as ever. They walked among the students at my school and while I wasn’t the only student who knew this person and their sins against the community, I was one of a very few. I felt ashamed because I felt that heat again. I just wanted to use my words, to inform the students who that person was that needed a police escort to the front row of a town hall meeting that they were interrupting to stir up trouble. My shame tripled as I looked around for those journalists who had been present just the year before and couldn’t find them. These days it seems like all there is to do about the problem is talk. People talk in low voices or behind closed doors. While I feel the answer doesn’t not lie in open insults and accusations. I do feel the answer lies in telling some stories. Looking at both sides of the issue and allowing people in the community to have a discussion (I warned you I was an idealist). The problem is my proposed solution is fear. Actually the problem is much more than fear, I think racism is the biggest problem of all. Don’t get me wrong. This hasn’t crippled this community. There is a lot of good done here. There are people who take the circumstances they are given and they make the most of it. They are far wiser than I, some days I just want to ask them what their secret is.

Which leads me to my question. As journalists we’re to be spotlights and not superheroes, we aren’t soapboxes (arguably). So what does a young journalist do? Swallow it like nasty pill? These days I’ve taken a spot on the fence and just watched, I’ve mostly succeeded in keeping my opinions to myself. But then there are younger students who are feeling that heat, it’s coursing through their veins. Part of me wants to encourage them; the other part wants to throw some cold water on them. Instead I stay silent. I warn them about slanting, tell them to research, and pray they give up.