THE MARRIAGE OF PRODUCTIVITY AND SELF-AWARENESS IN THE MIDST OF A PANDEMIC #J4450

Hey, blog.

I didn’t have class today, which was somewhat nice because I got to sleep later than I am used to! So instead of breaking down what I learned today, I am going to share some ~personal reflection~ with y’all.

Yes, I am a journalist. But I am also a college student. I was settled into my routine, my sense of independence, and my ability to know myself and structure my environment in a way where I would be the most productive. I had my friends close, and spending time with them was a much-needed laugh and mental break from my work-related responsibilities.

The coronavirus has changed, well, all of that. And I have had a lot of conversations with people about how all they complain about is not having time, and now we have SO MUCH time, but they have suddenly become less productive. They don’t understand it and also feel guilty about it.

I am also going through this. I know when it is time to buckle down and grind out a project or a story, and I don’t have a problem doing so, but I know I am not being as productive as I can at school. I think a part of that was finding my new routine at home, in my high school bedroom that usually means I am on break. But it is a routine that is different and not as ideal as my one at school.

I think people struggle with cutting themselves some slack. This is a major world event that we are going through, and frankly, it sucks for everyone. So many people have it worse than others and I feel fortunate that I am not dealing with this issue closer to home, but it does impact everyone in some way. And the mourning or sadness or sudden decrease in productivity you experience is valid and normal! So I am trying to set boundaries for myself and attempting to be more actively aware of how I am feeling and what I need to stay sane while getting things done. And that’s something that has really helped me so far!

I have my next GA shift tomorrow and am working on some other stories, so I am hoping I will have a good week with that. See y’all soon!

PRESSING ON#J4450

Hi, blog!

I am just popping in to write a quick something about a story I did the other day related to everyone’s favorite newsworthy topic, COVID-19.

There is an equestrian center in Columbia that was bringing two of their miniature ponies around to local neighborhoods, dressed in full unicorn attire. They were doing so to brighten people’s days during a scary time. According to their description, they were following social distancing practices by only going yard to yard and not letting anyone pet the horses.

But not everyone was in agreeance that this idea was beneficial for the community. Someone anonymously reported the business to the Boone County Health Department, and the pony program was promptly ordered to cease their in-person operations.

Many people were mad.  Some were grateful, saying it was what was best to slow the spread. But the core thing about this story that stood out to me is how they adapted their mission to spread cheer during this pandemic.

They decided to do virtual pony appointments for all families who wanted to participate. Out of all of the ways Zoom is being utilized right now, for business meetings, conference calls, and virtual happy hours, I think signing on to stare at a horse wearing a unicorn horn has got to be the best use of your computer’s webcam.

It brightened my spirits to see how this program was able to think on its feet and shift their methods to accommodate for COVID-19 conditions. I love stories like that!

That’s all for now. Be back soon!

 

HERE WE ARE#J4450

Hey blog.

I haven’t written in a while. Here’s why.

This time two weeks ago, I was still at Mizzou. I was still living with my friends, going about a somewhat normal life given the current circumstances. Then, my housing unit I lived in decided to close. I had 48 hours to get up and get out.

I am writing this from my house in Texas, where I will be living for the foreseeable future. I never would have thought I would be in this position right now, but so much is changing that at this point, anything could happen.

If I am being honest, I am struggling. I need to be social to keep my mental state relatively sane, so being cooped up in the house hundreds of miles away from my friends is effectively my worst nightmare. It feels weird doing college things in my high school bedroom, under my parent’s roof when I am used to a more independent lifestyle. I am mourning the loss of the rest of my junior year, which was going to be tough but at least we were in it together. I also know a lot of people that are being hit close to home by the disease, with a lot of friends and loved ones knowing someone who has COVID-19. That’s the worst part, knowing that someone I love is sad and not being able to do anything to comfort them.

I am also experiencing a sensation I have never felt before: wanting to turn off the news. I am a journalist, so I should want to be more up to date on COVID-19 than anyone, right? Well, wrong. And I feel disappointed in myself for feeling this way. I love journalism and its value now is more apparent than ever, but I am finding myself to be really overwhelmed with anxiety and sadness about our reality. And I’ve come to accept that is what makes me human, and knowing my limits of negative news consumption is something I have unfortunately been forced to test out recently.

I am adapting to the situation more and more every day, and there are a lot of silver linings. I can cook again (yay!), be with my family again, and spend more time walking around outside than usual. If staying home is the most difficult thing I am asked to do in my lifetime, I am lucky. It doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its challenges, but I am adjusting accordingly.

I have my first remote GA shift tomorrow and am feeling much better mentally about it than this time last week. I am taking this all one day at a time, and choosing to see the bright spots in a world of uncertainty.

To end this vulnerable post, I’ll insert a quote from my all-time favorite book / movie series.

“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”

– Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

PANIC, PRECAUTION, AND BEING FLEXIBLE #J4450

What am I going to do now?

That’s the question that’s been running through my head the last two days.

COVID-19 is changing things. It’s dominating the news on all levels, and cities and states all over the map are trying to deal with a new threat to the public health. And it’s hitting close to home too.

The Missourian is staffed by reporters that are Mizzou students, and we take this as a class. Mizzou has moved to an all-online platform for the next week as a precautionary measure. That means big changes for our newsroom, as we are moving to a mostly remote working-style.

I can’t lie, I am a little overwhelmed. I get a news alert every 15 minutes about how the situation is changing, and it is very nervewracking to be so far away from my family at this time of uncertainty. But I saw a tweet yesterday that made me think about this situation in a different way.

Schools are closing, sporting events are being canceled, and flights and travel are being suspended. And naturally, we are covering it. This is huge news, there is no other way around it. And it is so overwhelming. The public is, well, freaking out. Everyone doesn’t know what to expect next, but I think there is a lot of hope in this situation that is going unseen.

These changes, although they can seem overdramatic, are a form of national solidarity. We are taking preventative measures to combat this situation escalating, and I think that is pretty great even if it is tough in the short term. People are saying that the media is making it seem more intense, but that is not “the media’s” intention (I could write a whole other blog on that phrase but that’s for a later date). We are covering this to keep people informed, give them the best medically-backed advice we can, and explaining how these actions, although scary, are for a common good to “flatten the curve”.

I want to end this post by saying one last thing. Staying informed is important, but I would be remiss if I didn’t say that staying informed on such a scary topic has effects on your mental health. A lot of my friends are nervous and I don’t blame them. Sometimes you need to mute your notifications, step away from the screen and enjoy some quality time with your loved ones. Stay up to date, but don’t forget to surround yourself with things that make you feel good.

Take care of yourself, mentally and physically. We will get through this together!

TAKE CARE OF OTHERS AND YOURSELF #J4450

Good afternoon blog.

Today in class, we discussed covering traumatic events and interviewing trauma victims. It was pretty heavy, to say the least, but we touched on a lot of points that I found to be quite helpful.

One point that really stuck out to me was our tendency to comfort someone who has witnessed or been a victim of a traumatic event. It is totally normal to (and I would argue that you should) want to comfort someone going through something horrible, but it isn’t appropriate to say you understand what the victim is going through. Our professor said it’s because trauma and normal grief are so different, and while they often exist together, they are not the same.

Another thing we talked about is how the repeated coverage of traumatic events can take a toll on journalists. Repeated exposure to graphic photographs, interviewing people going through horrible pain, etc. can impact your life in a big way. That’s why it is important to monitor your emotional state and step back or talk to someone if necessary.

We also talked about the tactic of covering mass shootings, and how there is a “no notoriety” campaign that is gaining popularity. This is because of the contagion effect that happens after intense coverage of a mass shooting including the shooter’s name, photograph, and detailed background of their life. In the no notoriety strategy, we would eliminate the publishing of the photograph and name of the perpetrator.

Intense coverage like this walks a fine line of informing the public and re-traumatizing the victims of a traumatic event such as mass shootings and big accidents. I think we need to evaluate the news value of publishing certain things and if it essential for the public to see a graphic photograph or other materials that might do more harm than good.

It was a tough topic today. But these hard discussions are essential for us to do our jobs well and serve our community as much as possible.

ELABORATE ON THAT, WOULD YOU?#J4450

Hey blog.

Happy Sunday. I hope it was filled with good weather and relaxation, as I know mine was.

This post is related to politics and journalism in a way, but it starts with something a little closer to home. This weekend, I was with my friends having a casual evening. We baked a cake, watched a movie, typical stuff. And then we started talking about politics.

It’s election season, so our ads are dominated by political campaigns and the headlines are filled with updates on Democratic candidates, new presidential policies, and more. It’s hard to miss and even harder not to think about.

Most of my friends are pretty similar in political views. We tend to migrate to the middle, some more right-leaning, and some more left-leaning. But as we were having a very mature discussion on political issues (yay us), we started talking about something that got me thinking about journalism.

As college students, we are very wrapped up in our own worlds. We try to stay up to date and informed on political issues, but sometimes it’s hard for us to really know what’s going on and even harder to know what candidate to vote for. That’s a void I think journalism can fill with the right approach.

Vox, for example, does a great job of putting out explanatory pieces on current issues in the world, political and beyond. They’re a great resource for me when I want to know more about something. I think those kinds of pieces would be especially helpful during election season because it would keep people up to date and also let us make our own choices about candidates based on a full explanation of both viewpoints on an issue. And this doesn’t just go for college kids. A lot of people want to be informed but are so daunted by the task of hunting for information about these issues that they choose to sit election season out. If journalism wants to encourage political participation, we need to do a better job of explaining all the avenues.

Journalism is supposed to inform the public, and I think an increase of explanatory journalism would provide the public with quality coverage on the stuff that matters as opposed to the constant horserace coverage we see today. I personally think that horserace coverage has its time, but needs a sisterly companion of explanation by its side every once and a while.

I’ll be keeping an eye out for more pieces like this, as I love them and think they’re a great resource for people who are trying to open their mind to different viewpoints.

A new week starts tomorrow. I’m hoping it’s a good one!

ASK ME ANYTHING #J4450

Hey, blog.

It’s Super Tuesday! I hope everyone made it out to a polling place today if it was your election day. Missouri’s primary isn’t until the 10th, so I have a ways to go. I still get notifications about Texas elections, even though I am ~technically~ no longer a resident. Every time I have to unsubscribe or change a setting it makes me die a little inside.

Speaking of elections, we talked about something somewhat upsetting in class today.

A few years ago, a Missourian reporter was at a local polling place asking people what brought them out to vote that day. That isn’t a dangerous assignment by any means at first glance, it’s in broad daylight in a public place and an event that’s important to the community.

But this reporter was verbally harassed, intimidated, and spat at during her time there. She left feeling shaken and sad, which I don’t blame her for. I am certain I would feel the same way.

The person that did this to her did so because they hated journalists. They don’t trust us and think we are up to no good, following a secret agenda with no regard for the real truth. And although that occasion is extreme, it reveals a troubling sentiment from the public about journalism.

A lot of people don’t really know how we work or what we do. They don’t know about the research, the interviewing, the follow-up questions, and beyond that we do when we cover something. And their suspicion of the process, especially when it relates to politics, leads to a lack of trust.

So how do we fix that? That’s what our professor asked us today. When it’s someone who is being aggressive towards you, the best strategy is usually to disengage. Safety is the number one priority when there is concern about a physical threat. But what about the people who are just suspicious?

What are you going to use this for? Don’t all journalists (insert false statement here)?

Actually, no.

If someone has questions or doubts about the journalism process and you feel like you can, stop and chat with them. Tell them about the process, about what you’re doing out there. Try and let them know you are just observing, and are willing to answer any questions they might have for you about the process of formulating a story.

If you create an open dialogue, you can hopefully clear up any confusion about the journalistic process and create a sense of understanding and trust between reporters and readers.

It’s safe to say I learned a lot in class today. In “other news”, I am also working on a new story that I am already excited about. It’s a complete 180 from my previous work with the Missourian, but I am looking forward to seeing where it goes!

Bye for now.

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!