It’s quite possibly the hardest thing to do, telling the unwilling stories. Wither it’s just people who have no desire to be known or people who refuse to document an experience. My first week as a online newspaper editor has been less than hopping. I was encouraged by the emails awaiting me the day after the launch…but since then it’s been nothing.
I keep encouraging people, in that nice/stern way…..I admit I knew this was how it would be at the beginning. Everyone prays that they are the exception to the “it takes time to build the house” rule. This publication is just like all the rest. We have to build an audience with constant (relevant news). The question is how do we provide news to an age group that can’t even tell you about what’s happening in the town around them?
This is my current challenge, to tell the stories of some pretty amazing people, and encourage them to tell their own stories and to use their voices. Stop laughing at the idealistic journalist. While I’m learning how to navigate the people who could care less, I occasionally come across people who want to tell the stories of others. For instance, a freshwoman that I’m pretty chatty with was talking to me about a trip she a few others students had taken that weekend. They had attend a shape note singing meeting at the Alabama State Archives. I followed their adventures throughout the day on their Facebook and Instagram accounts. The freshwoman was so animated about all the things she had done and just being in the state capital. That energy that she had in infectious, especially when you got to see first hand what shape note singing was. I encouraged her to write about her experience and before I knew it she had a draft waiting for me in my inbox.
Now if I could just find some more souls like this…..
So during the epicness that was making a Kickstarter video this weekend I messed up a LOT. One of my classmates thought it would be cute to put all that mess up footage together to make an outtake video.
This past weekend my best friend and I got a crash course in kickstarter video making. We are both on staff for our college’s literary and art magazine. We volunteer to venture forth into this this new frontier. What resulted was pretty decent (minus the part were I had to do all the talking and getting filmed). I joked that I never wanted to hear my voice again. I really enjoyed this learning experience.
They say we learn best from our mistakes….they were right. I knew the moment I hit send I had made a pretty decent mistake. I put myself in an article. It’s ok, you can breath, I didn’t write an article that was completely biased (I would sooner stop writing). Here’s what happened:
I was tasked with writing an article on an annual weeklong community service project at my college. While writing this article I thought long and hard about what I wanted readers to take away from the article. The event had become slightly less grand in these modern years than it was three years ago when it started. Back then students spent every moment of the week building houses, fixing ramps, and other things that veterans of the event would later describe the immense tiredness that they felt. What they could not recall was the names of the people they helped. They saw them for those few days and then never again. (I could continue on and on about this subject matter and my feelings on it but I won’t). This year’s focus was more on relationships. Getting face to face with the people you were helping. I wanted to tell what the students and I had done (I participated in this event), but I knew it wouldn’t be on the same level as the first year it was done. I also wanted students to feel proud of their work.
So while writing this article I make a mistake. I put an anecdote in the story in which I mentioned that I had spent the summer interning for a non-profit in the community and gave a quote from the leader for this event and someone I consider a role model. The anecdote and quote was about not trying to do everything for everyone, about the futility in trying save the world that we should strive to make the world 1% better and everyone else should do the same.
That was possibly ok for the Alumnae publication that requested and printed it and maybe it was ok for the online newspaper. It was not however good for the local weekly that picked it up. Of course no one has said anything to me. That kind of feedback in foreign to me. Which is something I fear, that without feedback I won’t be a good journalist. I get tired of being told “you did good” and not see any conviction of this sentiment what so ever in the eyes of the one that praises it. But that is a post for another day. But I know I did something wrong. I knew deep down that I had no need to be in that story. Every time I shake my head in shame.
The objective however is to move on and learn from this…though I’m certain I won’t be making this mistake again.
As I’ve shared in previous posts the online newspaper came out a few days ago. At the launch party I was tasked with explaining and sharing the website with the guests. That was possibly the toughest talk I’ve ever given. I’ve always thought of myself as having the ability to speak decently without much effort. I have no problem making presentations in class (save for some handshaking and voice wavering that I can’t seem to control, but most people never notice it). This time however things were different.
In journalism you have to present some sort of take away from your article or story. The “So what” factor; How does what you are writing affect the reader of viewer? When I was showing off the website it felt just like that moment when you have two pages full of text and not a “so what” in sight. I wanted the people to care just as much as I did. I wanted them to take a gander at this communication resource built just for them and feel some form of excitement. However in the crowd of people I found some faces that just stared blankly. As a student would question to their friend nearby later “Why does all this even matter?”
I admit I felt discouraged for a few moments. I looked over at the screen that beamed the project that myself and some pretty cool people had worked months on and sighed. Then I remembered that two page and no “so what” moment. It just takes time and some good editing.
It seems that the purpose of this blog is getting slightly altered. I’m still talking about journalism, but I’ll be talking about the things I learn as I fulfill the editor position for the online newspaper. It won’t be like those anon. accounts you see on twitter. I won’t be complaining about people’s writing abilities. I’ll actually be talking about lessons learned from my perspective.
The first lesson is about the social elephants in the room. This is something I thought I would be dealing with at a much later date. However the problem it seems is already here. I’m a big believer in freedom of speech. I believe people (especially students) should express themselves. If students don’t learn to voice how they feel about certain matter, then they never will. Then what happens in a few years when those students become good old taxpaying citizens? How will they know how to say that they feel that this elected official is doing wrong, or that this aspect of community life needs improving? My goal is to not only create an environment of knowledge but to allow students a place to tell their stories and voice their opinions.
What I seemed to have forgotten is the culture of the area that I serve in. What happens when one persons disagrees with the editorial of another? I’m sure you’re coming up with a pretty respectable scenario in your head. I wish I could say the same about me. I’m no authority on the matter, but having lived with this generation my whole life I just don’t see that ending well. That’s the most positive situation I can come up with. The worst case would be if some student got so ticked and they brought their parents into the situation. I believe that within my generation we can become so great. However in order to do that we have to observe some traditions of our past. Like the honorable agreeing to disagree. I see so many people getting upset over an Alabama vs. Auburn Facebook status than I do for the Israeli/ Pakistan conflict.
My conclusion on this matter is that I will grow a backbone. I thought that after having spent a summer teaching middle schoolers that I had one, but then come these moments. Moments when I more afraid of being the bad guy than I am for doing the right thing. I know I can do this, I also know that in the real world I’ll have to deal with an issue very similar to this. Like I said in the previous post (test drive the future) I learn by doing…this is going to be VERY educational.
When it comes to learning, I’ve always been the type that liked to try my hand at what I was learning. For me I learn best when I try, make mistakes, get corrected, and then try again. Especially if it’s a skill that I might could use for the future. One thing I don’t like abut some classes I’ve taken in over 15 years of learning, is classes that I only get told how things work. As you can guess already, I’m not so grand at theoretical sciences and at times math and I are bitter enemies.
When it comes to journalism, it’s been hitting the ground writing since that first class. Granted I wrote maybe two articles that semester, I still got my feet wet. This past semester was a new semester within itself. Almost every two weeks I would be working on a new story or press release. I really enough that constant work. To me it felt like these are things I will actually do when I get out of school. I feel the same way about building websites. While I’ve been getting journalism experience I never really knew what that deadline heat felt like. That was until my college’s newspaper went online…and I became the editor. Honestly there are times when I look at the plaque that has my name plus the phrase “Editor-in-Chief” and I want to turn it over. It’s not that I don’t think I can do this. It’s just I dreamed about doing this kind of thing and now I actually am. The day is actually here and I don’t know how I go from kid dreaming of this to actually being here. Now I’m at this place when I look at that golden wooden thing and repeat my mantra “Earn it”.
When it comes to editing articles, it’s not as hard to do as I thought it would be. It’s not hard to find the mistakes in the works of others as it is my own (very much like life if you ask me). As was the case with most of the things I’m going to talk about, once I got going and did it, it wasn’t very hard and I actually enjoyed doing it. There was one point when I was so engrossed with an article was editing that I completely missed my friend coming up to me and trying to talk to me.
The newspaper for which I am the editor, launched a few days ago. I can only compare my feelings of that day to possibly my graduation. Both I and many others have come a long way to get to where we are today. Countless hours of work have been put in by many people. I know that countless more are ahead of us. I have until my graduation day to make this paper, a resource for the students I serve. I don’t know if you have figured this out about college students, but it’s a little difficult to get them to care about a school paper. But if they could read previous editions and realize that this new generation isn’t so different than the one before (technology is of course excluded in this argument). Sometimes I will read these old editions and just pray, that somehow someway my words can equal the greatness of theirs.
My First Published Press Release
My first Press Release was published today on my college’s website!
A few weeks ago in my reporting class we covered the ever delightful topic of Social Media. It was perhaps one of the chapters that I usually know a ton about. While I did learn a lot about some of the techniques journalists should use on social media (we’ll be going over that in the next post). There was one topic that my teacher kind of stayed on: Twitter.
Here in my school’s bubble twitter isn’t that well used. It’s just now growing some but not so much. I got my twitter account a year ago at the urging of some journalists friends who are out and about practicing the profession. In case you haven’t been able to extract this fact: I’m a wordy person. It’s something I’ve been working on of the late. My friends felt it would be a great way to condense what I had to say. I confess that I nearly cried on my first tweet. How was I supposed to say all I needed to say in 140 characters of less? I sort of gave up on it for a while, but then would occasionally pick it back up. These days however I mostly post something daily or every other day. I’ve to- date tweeted 2, 044 times. It’s been a pretty grand experience. I remember first starting and I was quite frightened to be “tweeting” strangers. We were talking about PR stuff, but it still felt strange to me. I’d heard too many horror stories of social networking to feel safe. After a while though it became pretty cool. One day I asked a follower of mine a question and was answered by one New York’s top Fashion PR people. I then understood why twitter was so awesome.
Now I’m the kind of social networker that makes sure all my accounts legit. What I mean is I don’t post something that would get me in any kind of trouble. Lately we’ve been bearing witness to some companies who have slipped up when it comes to their twitter accounts. I’m a big fan of the “If you can’t show it to your mother, then don’t post it” train of thought. So when my professor asked if I had a twitter I of course said “Yes”.
After some explaining of the mechanics of twitter my professor asked me about what assignment I’d like to work on for the chapter. While I could have easily said “I’d like to write a blog post” and turned in some old post from my Tumblr blog. I decided to practice Live Tweeting.
Live tweeting is when you attend an event and tweet form it in real time. Many companies and organizations are adopting a live tweet platform for events such as conferences. It not only helps to fill in the need for some up to the minute PR coverage, but it can also fill in the downtime between sessions and workshops. It helps continue conversations that have transpired in those events and can help people who are not attending to see what all the fuss is about.
I decided to live tweet form my college’s Constitution Day. It was a little strange for me. I chose to sit in the back of the chapel and being the smart phone-less person that I am, used my laptop to tweet the event. I was shaky at first just trying to cover the basics. But when it comes to passionate people and politics things got good. For the next hour, I was not only able to work on my tweeting abilities but I was also able to word on writing leads, attributing quotes and finding sources for government programs that where talked about. I was also able to fact check what was said. Time flew by and I found myself having participated more by doing all that I had.
Feel free to follow me on twitter! @thesuperrare
I think perhaps it might be best to explain why I’m even here. Not on this blog, if you’ve read any of my earlier posts you know why I have this blog. I’m talking about why I’m studying Journalism. This year Forbes released a survey that concluded that Journalism in the 5th worst career a person could pursue. In fact Journalism has slowly been declining as a profession since I was born in the 90’s. So why would a first generation college student dare study a profession that isn’t exactly the must beneficial? The answer is simple: passion. I know you’ve heard this a million times but go out on a limb here and listen to a million and one.
When I was a kid I would read some news stories and I would become so interested in what they had to say that I would actually learn about different things. My first view into politics didn’t come from my family. In fact I learned some of the basics of politics when I was still in elementary school.
I had read an article on the then upcoming election. It was a powerful editorial on how young people where giving up their freedoms to vote because “they didn’t feel like it”. I spent a whole afternoon in the library looking up different things. By the time my mom had come to pick me up for the day, I felt I was well enough informed. I sat up with her that night and watch a presidential debate. It was boring but I wrote some things down and was back in the library then next day. I was a sight to see. Scouring through dictionaries and encyclopedias trying to find things like “Foreign Policy” and “Healthcare Plans” (They didn’t let us use the internet at that time). On the ride home that afternoon I looked over at my mom and said with my voice shaking “Mom, I’m pretty sure you’re a republican, but just in case you’re not please don’t vote for Al Gore, he really didn’t invent the internet and his foreign policy stinks.” I was never able to get my mom to reproduce the look of shock that passed over her face (not even in my teen years).
Out of all the things I enjoyed about reading newspapers, I think the section I enjoyed the most where the editorials or the special interests section (it really depended on the newspaper and how they had things laid out), In those pages the most interesting people would come to life before my eyes. Sometimes they would be someone famous but more often than not they would be some everyday person that was doing something extraordinary. The first one that really stuck with me was a bee keeper, another was a woman who ran a women’s shelter, hundreds of people I will probably never get the chance to meet became dear friends to me within those pages. There were times when I would get frustrated at the writers. sometimes they would leave out details that I wanted to know, others I felt as thought they just din’t capture that person like I felt they should have.
After those days no matter where I was or who I met I would right an editorial in my head. I would start by capturing the environment around me. Then I would move on the the person what they were wearing, then why I felt they were important. By the time I was done I felt that I had captured the essence of the person.
This is why I love journalism. Making your stories come to life. Showing people across the street or across the globe why something is important. Sharing information, sharing in the human experience. This is why I love and study journalism.