WHEN A WRITER’S VOICE SHINES THROUGH #J4450

Hey, blog!

I am coming off of my latest general assignment shift, which was yesterday. I did two stories about two very different things, a murder case and an after-school program at a local elementary school. Talk about opposite sides of the spectrum! But I had a really great day working with other reporters, so I am content with this shift under my belt.

In class today we talked about leads, everyone’s favorite thing that’s simultaneously the bane of their existence. Leads are so important because you want to tell the reader what’s happening, but also draw them into the story.

For me, leads are my favorite thing even though they challenge me. One of the things I am really proud of as a writer is my creativity, but I often feel like I need to stunt my “vocabulary urges” for the sake of hard news and AP style. I was overjoyed when we talked about using creativity and vibrant verbs in leads today because that’s what I want to do!

I want my personality to come off in my writing and I feel as though readers connect with these kinds of stories more. As my professor said, a really good lead has a clear sense of the writer’s voice shining through.

Going forward, I am always going to remind myself to use that creativity and read my lead a couple times over to evaluate if I could make it snappier.

Finishing off the week feeling good and excited to dive into my next story!

KEEPING HOPE ALIVE WITH SOLUTIONS JOURNALISM #J4450

Hi, blog.

I just wanted to pop by and write about something really awesome we discussed in class today.

Journalism has a reputation for being very negative. A lot of articles are really good at highlighting the problems plaguing the world – which is what we are supposed to do. But it creates a lot of apathy towards journalism and an active desire to avoid consuming news to reduce those negative feelings.

The topic we discussed today was about how we combat this. Bad things happen, and those negative topics need to be addressed. There is no way around that and it is one of the main components of journalism to be a “watchdog”, calling these things out when we see them.

But, with solutions journalism, it is the way these stories are framed that makes the difference.

If we tell people this is the issue, and look at all the ways people are trying to fix it, that re-enlists some hope back into the flow of news. It’s something that really made me think about news in a whole new way. If we do it right, we can empower the public to get involved and contemplate how they can get active in helping with the issues we cover. We can remind them their voice matters.

Just a cool concept I wanted to touch on. I am definitely going to be conscious of this going forward and try and turn my “the world is ending” pieces into “this bad thing is happening but these are ways to help” pieces.

A CHANGE OF PACE / COMING TO THE END #J4450

Hi blog.

I have a little two-for-one post in store for y’all today.

The first topic I want to address is this was one of my off weeks as far as General Assignment shifts. I was in the newsroom a lot less because I am just so slammed with other coursework. But of course, I still was working on stories for Boomtown this week, just in different settings.

I appreciate having these weeks where I don’t work GA shifts because it gives me a mental break, which is really important in my life. I am a very intentional person when it comes to my mental state and my work to rest ratio. I am very productive for the most part, but it is also important for me to slow down sometimes to give my mind and my body the time it needs to refresh and recover.

I am feeling very replenished and ready to go into this week and work again!

The second topic I want to address is that I am finally approaching the end of my time working on Boomtown. This has been such a great experience for me to connect to people outside of my college bubble, and I am once again left in great appreciation of the people in this town.

I know I am young and still learning and am so grateful that these people have taken the time to sit down and talk to me about things they care about. I feel like this city has a real working relationship with the press, and I love that the Missourian can serve this community in that way.

I can’t wait for Boomtown to come out and to finally reveal my experiences writing all of my stories.

Have a wonderful week and I’ll check back in shortly!

SHOW DON’T TELL #J4450

What’s up blog, you’ve caught me in a good mood!

Just dropping in to write a little update on one of my stories I have been working on for Boomtown.

A quick synopsis: Boomtown is one of the Missourian’s special sections. It’s sort of like a mini-magazine, and this one is about living your best life in Columbia over 50.

I am the author of the public service section, which encompasses things like volunteering and other ways to help the community.

I don’t want to give too much away, but I’ll take it back a few days to something I heard in my reporting class this week. My professor said that the best stories can show you something as opposed to telling you. It seems a little ironic, as reporting is all about using words to tell stories, but this weekend I got exactly what she meant.

I’m working on a story about a local volunteer organization and stopped by a meeting of theirs just to observe. I wasn’t getting quotes or interviewing more sources, I was just focused on intently listening and immersing myself in the setting.

It totally changed the idea I had for the introduction of the story. The conversations and exercises I heard sparked an idea in me, and after writing up my first draft earlier today, I was so thankful I went.

Just being around a group you are covering can teach you a lot about what they’re about in unexpected ways. With that said, I am so excited to review this with my editors and peers and fine-tune it to really show our readers what this group is like.

A small reporting success has officially been recorded in my book. All smiles here!

HOW TO BE HUMAN? #J4450

Hi, blog. Me again.

This post is going to relate to social media use in the journalism world, something we discussed in class a few days ago.

I brought up a point in class about how journalism and social media are so awesome but work so weirdly together. We are constantly told to be professional, which ends up looking like a lot of retweets from different news organizations, tweets of our work and so on. But we also feel pressure to present a witty and engaging version of ourselves to our audience of readers. I am current! I know what that meme means!

But oftentimes, we feel as though these two things are mutually exclusive. We can’t joke or express things we care about without compromising our integrity as an objective journalist.

I, for one, think a balance of the two is ideal. We are people just like everyone else. We are going to love things and want to express them. I think my most recent tweet was about cheese-crusted tacos. But it was a quote tweet featuring an article from Texas Monthly. See? Balance. 

At the end of the day, we are human. And we love this job because we think humans are really interesting. Plus, it’s good for news reading humans to know that these journalism humans aren’t robots.

I’m going forward and using my best judgment on what to put out into the Twitterverse. Keeping it professional, but not erasing my personality.  So, expect a few more cheese-crusted taco tweets in between my news-related posts!

JUMPING RIGHT IN #J4450

Hi, blog!

It’s me again, I’ve been away for a bit.

I had to go out of town to deal with some personal things. This wasn’t a journalism teaching moment in itself, but it did teach me a lot about being able to have a work-life balance. I took care of everything I could before I left, and because of that, I could be fully present in the moment with my family. I’m feeling super thankful for what truly is my reporting family at the Missourian, especially to my fellow reporters for being so gracious and covering for me when I had to be absent.

I came back to Columbia on Saturday, just in time to make my first general assignment shift the following day. It was Super Bowl Sunday yesterday (GO CHIEFS AM I RIGHT?), and both my ACE and I were anxious to start the watch party. But it was by no means a slow day in the newsroom.

Football and stories collided as I got to write an awesome piece on Col. Charles McGee, who was a WWII veteran and a Columbia College alum. It was so cool to see someone from my college town get up and accompany the referees at the coin toss, which was nationally televised.

I got an email from a reader about a slight date correction and it was honestly so lovely and sweet. I was talking about McGee receiving his college degree after fighting in three wars, which he left another school to do. I got the information from another press release written by his airmen group, but they were off by a few years. The person who corrected me was so kind about it and was a personal friend of the colonel. So I got to learn even more about him and was so appreciative of a reader who wanted to let me know I needed to change something but was so gentle about the notification. Mistakes happen, it’s a part of the journalism lifestyle. Although it was not a major one, it was a good teaching moment.

I’m back and fully immersing myself in some other reporting things I am doing for our special sections. I’m super excited to see where my stories end up going!

That’s all for now!

ONE WEEK DOWN #J4450

Hello again!

The first week of school is officially over. We ended in the chilliest way possible, with our first snow day. But just because school was canceled, that didn’t mean that story brainstorming was.

This week I worked closely with my editor, Jeanne Abbott, on some story ideas for Boomtown. Boomtown is a magazine-style special section of the Missourian that focuses on how to live your best life over 50 in Columbia, and I am in charge of the public service section. This includes things like volunteering and other activities that lend a helping hand to the community.

Over half of my ideas were slashed right off of the bat, but they needed to go. Sometimes it’s hard not to go to the cliches or the first thoughts that pop in your head about whatever topic you’re working on. But that’s a part of the journalism process, refining your ideas from start to finish.

I’m dealing with some personal stuff this week as well, and have learned that work and life balance is important at all times of the semester. I have been working hard on my story topics, but have also been able to be communicative with my professors and editors about a sick family member who is close to the end of their life. I am thankful for my editors and professor being so understanding and willing to work with me during this uncertain and shaky time.

I just wrapped up contacting some sources for my story ideas and got a couple of great responses. When a story starts to take shape and you connect with a potential subject—that’s the stuff right there. It’s like drinking a large coffee with eight shots of espresso in it, it really gets my brain going. I find myself constantly saying thank you to the wonderful people of Columbia for being so responsive (even on a weekend).

I’m really excited to see where these stories go and look forward to reporting back with an update later this week!

Until we meet again!

CARRYING ON #J4450

Good evening internet.

The first of my final days of junior year is almost over. I polished off the evening with a hot meal enjoyed with friends and have now settled into my desk for a bit of homework. Yes, mom, they do give us homework on the first day.

One of the classes I am taking this semester is what’s known as J4450 – a.k.a. news reporting for the Columbia Missourian. Yes, I am back, and it is so weird being on the other side. But it’s also going to be fun, especially being on the community beat. It’s almost more of a magazine staff writer position, but more on that and all my future stories (eek) later.

A part of this class is to blog regularly about our experiences writing stories, thoughtful reflections on journalism, and more. So for the next sixteen weeks, watch out for those. They won’t be horribly long, I swear!

My first assignment is to give the world a little introduction, so if you don’t know me yet, then here’s a bit about myself and what I am doing for this course!

My name is Liz Goodwin and I am a junior photojournalism major from Dallas, Texas. This spring I will be a community reporter for the Columbia Missourian, which is located on Mizzou’s campus. Go tigers!

I have loved all things related to photography and writing since I was in elementary school . I still credit my fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. McKay, for being my original mentor. She encouraged me to go for it, and I don’t think I could have ignored her inspiration even if I wanted to.

Some personal passions of mine are cooking, the outdoors, and anything related to storytelling. I love watching movies, reading books and articles, and listening to podcasts. I’d probably want to host my own podcast if I didn’t loathe the sound of my own voice so much. Why is it that listening to it on a recording can sound so different from what I hear in real life? Is that an unbreakable curse that 99% of the population faces?

So, I choose to tell stories in a different way: through words and photographs. I am excited to see where this semester takes me and glad to be back in the newsroom.

Bye for now!

 

2020 VISION (SORRY, HAD TO)

Sup blogosphere.

It’s 2020. It’s a new year, a new decade, and a fresh start for many of us. Personally, I am not looking for a blank slate, but to build on the life I built for myself in 2019.

I did a lot of cool things and experienced a ton of personal growth last year. I traveled across the country with the people I care about most, published my first big story at the Missourian while working as a staff photographer, and worked my butt off at an internship at D Magazine. As much fun (with some tears shed) that I had in my professional and personal life, I also prioritized myself and honoring my emotional state. I voiced my opinion more than ever, spoke up when I wanted something, and let myself feel things in their entirety, even the not so fun things. It made me a better-rounded person who was more capable of being open and caring for others.

Looking forward to this new year, I want to dive deeper into the trends I set in 2019. I don’t really believe in new year’s resolutions, but I do have a word that pretty much sums up my “2020 vision” (there it is baby!): nourish.

In order to grow, you need to nourish yourself. I plan on nourishing my new found love for different mediums, my desire for new experiences with people I love, and my body.

I’m aiming to transition to a plant-based diet (plant BASED people – ain’t no way a Texan is giving up queso and BBQ permanently) and haven’t eaten meat in a WHOPPING three days! Huge! I like the idea of a plant-based diet because it gives me the freedom to eat meat and dairy sometimes, just less. There’s no way I could go vegan, but I am interested in the health benefits of cutting down on animal product consumption and if that works for my body. I am even hoping to add a food photography section to my website because I LOVE food, and those who know me really know that. It deserves a presence here once I move into my house and have access to a kitchen!

I want to try new things and honor my desires, even if I am not good at them at first. My main thing with that is video. I discovered how much I liked it on spring break last year (that video is posted a few blog entries down) and I want to pursue it as a hobby. I often forget how much fun it is to be creative with my camera (and with my writing), and I don’t want to forget that. That’s what makes this whole thing fun, being able to do things on both sides.

I kind of started this whole “honoring my desires” trend off at the end of 2019 by chopping five inches off of my hair.

chippity chop

I have always wanted to go short but was too scared to do it. I guess hair and change don’t go together naturally for me. But I did it! And I have NO REGRETS at all. I can’t believe I didn’t do it sooner. 

And that’s the kind of energy I want in 2020! Going for it, full-sending it as the kids say. Because why not?

 

 

ANNA’S SENIOR SHOOT

Hi all,

I am currently writing this holed up in my room as it snows relentlessly. This is the first big Missouri snow of the semester and I am not mentally prepared to have to bundle up in layers before heading outside.

If you can believe it, it was sixty degrees and sunny for most of the weekend. I had a little senior shoot with my good friend’s sister, and it felt good to be behind the lens again in a creative way. I told myself that year 21 would be the “year of the creative.” I guess I am working on it.

I just wanted to do a little photo dump. Please enjoy!

TACKLING A DIFFICULT TRUTH

Hi friends,

It’s finally time for me to write about something I have been working on for the past two months. To those who are close to me, thank you for listening to me cry and worry about this story and how others would interpret it. I hope this blog post gives you a little insight to where my brain was at during the process of investigating this topic and how I had to do a little soul searching of my own.

Let’s talk about faith.

I was raised in the United Methodist Church since I was little. I always felt like it was the right fit for me based on how open and accepting the church was and I loved all of the staff and people I made close relationships with. My experience in my youth group really lead to me coming to terms with what I believed and how I saw the world.

Fast forwarding to Christmas break, I was back at my home church for the usual Sunday service with my parents. One of the pastors brought up an event called the General Conference 2019, where the topics of LGBTQ people and ministry would be voted on. I was very taken aback to hear those words spoken aloud in a worship space. In my experience, the topic of human sexuality is never explicitly discussed through sermons, the reason being that so many people believe different things.

After I got back to school and the conference began, I was frequently checking the hashtags and browsing the chatter about what was happening. I even hopped on the live stream to listen to people debate about where the denomination should go as far as including LGBTQ persons.

When the decision came out that the Traditional Plan was passed, I couldn’t shake a feeling that came over me. It was like a thousand pound weight sitting on my chest and it wouldn’t let me sleep. Shortly after 3:00 a.m., I was determined to write a story about it.

Something about telling stories through words and photos is so cathartic to me. Some people find it difficult to sit down and read through an entire news article or a full documentary, but I can’t tear myself away. I feel so attached to the subjects for just a few moments: I cry with them. Granted I cry at the Extra Gum commercials (you know the ones I’m talking about. If you don’t look them up), but there is something so raw about realizing the humanity of other people that just makes my tear ducts get a little over-excited. I feel like I know them for just a second, and that’s what I want other people to feel when they read or look at work of mine.

I probably sent over thirty emails and facebook messages to people in the Columbia, Missouri area to try and talk to them about the decision and what it meant to them. To everyone that reached back out to me, thank you for pushing through the undoubtable pain and confusion you were feeling at the time. Craig, Jen, Kimberly, Madi and Jacob, the entire congregation of Hallsville UMC, MUMC, and Community United Methodist, thank you for letting me into your lives and your sanctuaries for a short moment. Your voices will hopefully echo across many towns, and be heard by people who are also struggling with this decision.

I want to say that I still love the Methodist church despite this decision made at the General Conference. I feel lucky to be a member of a faith where people can have different opinions.

Writing this article wasn’t about how I feel about the decision, but about how the decision was affecting the community I live in. There is real pain here. I think it’s easy for so many people to dismiss this issue as something that doesn’t affect them. But once you know someone that feels less than because of this, it breaks your heart in half. I don’t know a lot of people in the LGBTQ community, especially older adults. But as I got to know Kimberly and Jen it struck me how insanely great parents they were. They love their kids, they love each other, they want to make people happy and do good for the world. They remind me of my parents or my grandparents. And after talking to them about some of the struggles they have endured both internally and externally, I cried in my car on the way home.

There is also real hope here. Madi Denton and many of the other pastors I spoke to are gifted with patience and understanding, and promoting honest and open discussion over something I know Christians struggle with every day. This story goes way beyond my article and is something I know many congregations are grappling with.

My hope is that Methodism can overcome this. I know the God that I believe in is one that ultimately believes in love, and that love is for everyone. This story is not to shame anyone or present the Christian faith in a negative light. The Methodist church does amazing things for this world, maybe just as a denomination it has a little more soul searching as to what Jesus and John Wesley would tell them to do.

This entire experience is a prime example of what makes me feel fulfilled. I genuinely connected with my sources and gave people a way to share their voices with the rest of the community, and that’s what journalism is all about at the end of the day.

To close this absurdly long blog post I want to include a quote that I read somewhere in the literal hundreds of tweets I read about this decision.

“I would rather be excluded for who I include than included for who I exclude.”

Read my story here. A special thank you to Jeanne Abbott and Brian Kratzer, as well as my hero Liv Paggiarino for spending hours helping me edit this story.

That’s all for now!

FELT BROKEN, TOOK A BREAK.

When being tired and overwhelmed becomes your normal state of being, that’s your body telling you to slow down.

I had been experiencing that for the past couple of weeks. Meetings and midterms and long-term stories (more on this later, very exciting and scary) were forming a small mountain in my planner, and I just didn’t know where I was going to fit it all in. I felt a little lump in my stomach forming as I planned out my days and definitely had a few stress cries.

Thank you to whoever plans Mizzou’s break schedule, because having a week off after an extremely intense school schedule was the greatest gift ever.

I went to Kiawah, South Carolina with my group of girl friends for a week and made this video (video? what? a new medium?), so watch it if you’d like. It is definitely a little cheesy but I had a ton of fun making it. I can’t wait to share my upcoming blog post about a long-term story I am working on that should be published soon, so stay tuned for that!