Epilogue

Where did this semester go? As I study for finals, I feel like orientation was just yesterday.

“If you don’t like it, pretend you do. Then maybe you’ll start to.”

The dreaded Reporting J4450. Reporting for beats and daily shifts at the Columbia Missourian. My first time ever in a newsroom.

So I stuck with these words: I’m going to love it.

What brings you to the journalism school?

I like to write.

And write I did.

At first, it took awhile. As schizophrenic as it sounds, there’s a voice inside your head that mimics along your words as you write. I hadn’t written for a long time so I didn’t know if it was still possible to have it. I wondered if I could still do it.. if I didn’t do well, I would just switch to something else. That would mean a year and a half wasted towards journalism. Hell. No.

Over the past five months, I’ve learned to write news releases. Verify information. Call all sorts of people, asking this and that. Tell complete strangers that I’m a reporter. Go after what’s considered newsworthy. And most importantly, ask the right questions.

Did I enjoy this class? Eh. It was time-consuming and stressful, but I took pride in the overall result. I had very nice conversations with people and made connections along the way. I liked that people read my stories. Maybe I wasn’t a complete failure.

And one more thing: I’ve learned that stories are everywhere. And in the next month, I’ll have the chance to look for them: in Italy! 🙂 So watch out for those stories.

Thanks for sticking with me this semester!

-Claire

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Here are my latest two stories:

Elizabeth Upton remembered for kind heart, open mind

Graduating seniors found a new home in Stephens College

The first one was the second life story I had written. I was honored to write it and may the young lady rest in peace. It’s never easy to write about someone so young and loved.

The second was at my last shift at the Missourian. I wasn’t told I had to write about Stephens College graduation until 12 minutes before the actual thing. Note to self: don’t wear maxi dresses in the rain.

Earth Day & Shooting

Today was my first GA assignment for the weekend. It’s hard to believe I have only two more shifts left at the Missourian.

I was assigned to cover Earth Day, which was a lot of fun. I’ve lived here for five years and I’ve never once gone. It’s definitely something I will return to in the future.

Here’s my story. 

I actually somehow got through the road barriers and parked myself in a spot I couldn’t get out of, so guess who had to stay an extra three hours after her shift was over?

Then tonight, I was called to write a story over a shooting that happened this afternoon so two stories in one day. I’m pretty proud of myself.

Thanks for reading!

Hiatus

I apologize for the hiatus. I was very busy one week, and took a breather last week. Now to bring you up to speed:

My last GA shift, I wrote two stories. The first was a life story over Martha Honiker. I was told prior to writing this to make it as accurate as possible because this was the last story that would ever be written about her. I also didn’t want to come off insensitive to the family and was nervous no one would speak to me. I spoke to her son-in-law, who was very open and spoke to his family in the background while we were on the phone. It was a very good experience and I was honored to write a final tribute.

My second story was over local Americorp organizations that were to be recognized. I had seldom heard about Americorp but they are very present in the community. Americorps members have two different classifications: direct volunteering and capacity-building. I interviewed a one from each on deadline, but I would have loved to go more into depth with it. Basically, these volunteers live at poverty level and aim to serve others in a rather underserved community. So from Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture, there are a few Americorp members who help run it, and they offer programs such as how to start and tend your own garden. At Big Brothers Big Sisters, volunteers get to work with clients and place them with their own big brother/sister.

For my beat, I had been working on a story about the Oakland Senior Center and the Senior Activity Center merging together this summer. For a story that was supposed to be easy breezy, it was everything but. First, the superiors had a lack of interest of speaking to me because she was so convinced I was just another journalism student, so I had to find other voices. When I went to visit the center, I was led into an office and had to speak to the director until lunch was over and all the seniors had left. I initially went there to speak to a senior to find out what they thought about the move. It wasn’t until the photographer was sent there to take pictures till I found out what they really thought.

The majority of seniors were unhappy about the move because they thought the new center was from a richer crowd and they would feel unwanted there. Also, this wasn’t the first time they had heard about the idea. Last year, when the end of the lease was approaching, people from the Senior Activity Center had said they didn’t want the Oakland people to move in there.

When the story was published online (Saturday), I was contacted that morning via email by an Oakland senior and a couple others who wanted to speak to me about the real story. I’m still working out a time to meet with them but I’m very interested in what they have to say.

Quick Parks and Rec reference: when one of the ACE’s looked over my story, I told her how difficult it was to speak to the executives and she said people get touchy about mergers. I remember in Parks and Recreation when Pawnee and Eagleton were merging and how upset everyone was about it. Maybe they need a Unity Concert. 

On top of all this, I also had my Missourian Minute due that Friday. My partner and I chose Jacques Laboile from Bonne Femme Honey Farm to highlight since the outdoor Farmer’s Market was debuting that weekend. It was very fun to go to the farm and see his operation. I got a lot of good b-roll and found out some very interesting things about him. I had some difficulties with my tripod, like always, but this time it was because I was filming outdoors so the ground wasn’t leveled, my subject was constantly moving, his new puppy was running around me and knocking over my tripod, the wind, just so many things you don’t think about until you actually get there.

I had all these things go on in one week and it was very overwhelming. I slept very little, could barely pay attention in my classes because I was thinking about what I was going to do right after, who I had to talk to. In the midst of that, my phone stopped charging so I didn’t have a phone for two days and had to wait for a new one. Going to work felt like a chore because there were so many other things I wanted to do but I also needed to pay my bills.

At the beginning of this semester, I was concerned about how I was going to find that perfect balance and I was somehow able to survive it that week. I’ve learned so much at this newsroom in a short amount of time that I will take to future publications but I’m also ready for this semester to be over. I’m going to Italy in less than a month and I’ll get to write magazine stories instead of news stories.

So there’s my life in a nutshell. Thanks for reading!

Back to Work

Coming back from Cancun has been surreal. As I walk by Memorial Union, the temperature almost up to comparison (but not really) as to what I basked in the past week, it’s hard to believe not long ago I was trudging along downtown Cancun. The music, chatter and random taxis that would pull along side, asking if I needed a ride, still lingers in my ears. The vendors, the “Tu hablas espanol?”, wonderful smells of chicken and salsa verde wafting around my nose, humidity clinging to my hair and the back of my shirt, still a faint memory. It was truly an experience I wasn’t ready to leave. It is now spring in Columbia. Half my mind is in Mexico; the other is trying to grasp reality. One more month. Another semester, another year done. One more year till graduation. One more month till Italy. I’m at a weird intersection of life. A good intersection, but I’m still a confused, apprehensive college kid that questions every aspect of my life.

My story, my baby, was published while I was coming back from Spring Break. A lady from St. Louis emailed me and told me she stumbled across my story – turns out her grandfather was the architect that brought the unique German Lamella ceiling in my story, to the States. What are the odds of that. And the fact my story is being read in St. Louis.

I have another story coming out soon so I’m going to be busy with that. My Missourian Minute is also coming up and due next Friday so I’m going to be really busy with that. It’s weird to think I have a month left. I still feel like there’s so much left to do. Where did all the time go? Where did March go, and more importantly, where did this weather come from?

I guess I can’t complain. Things are somewhat falling into place, which is better than the other way around. I just hope I have the strength to push through the final stretch.

The Lost Boys

Yesterday, RJI hosted the Writers and Editors Conference. Since I was on GA shift and  had class, I only got to attend one of them. I went to Bringing up the Bones, which was presented by Kelley Benham French and Ben Montgomery. The two had an interesting discussion about their relationship as an editor and writer during the investigation of the Florida School for Boys and their struggle to shut the school down after 110 years. The story is presented as a series, from different points of views from boys who attended the school to a forensic scientist trying to identify bones of boys who were buried at the school. The story was Pulitzer finalist but didn’t win. However, the journalism and research was very well done. I highly recommend checking it out, you can find the story here.

Main Points

The verification process took them a very long time. They had to get all the stories from previous inmates and employees. The school had gotten media attention in the past, but like most news stories, got its five minutes of fame then no one cares again. The fact this was a recurring problem over the last century is very shocking. The school kept changing its name to avoid the reputation of its predecessor.

Montgomery had to make many phone calls in order to obtain documents. They had to go to court to get files, which costed $8,000 to $15,000. Their editors and lawyers were very supportive of the story and provided the resources so they could conduct the best story they could. I think what helped them the most was they had physical evidence covering the walls of this little room they did research in. It made them look like they had something and knew what they were doing.

Benham said that writing is super lonely. I agree with that. I couldn’t imagine the emotional baggage that came from this project, from speaking to sources to spending days digging documents up from basements.

However, with all this information, Benham suggested to Montgomery that they needed a narrator to take readers through this. A voice. She also said that they went through several drafts, going from 11,000 words to about 5,000 in the final edit. I’ve felt the similar pain when I get my stories edited and each time, it loses inch by inch of space. “Trimming the fat” she called it. When she says it like that, it kind of makes me feel better. I don’t want a fat story. I want a good one with the best meaty parts possible.

One thing that stuck with me the most was when Montgomery told the story about how he was interviewing one of his sources. When he was a boy, he was in line to get beaten and found a pebble on the ground. He just held the pebble and thought about how smooth and perfect it was to forget about the pain. Then, during the interview, this guy pulls the pebble out of his pocket, 55 years later. Talk about a tear jerker.

I was very glad I was able to listen to their talk. Though they didn’t win, they were able to bring to justice the many indecencies that happened at that school. Though they can’t undo them, Montgomery was able to shine a light on a tragedy that had been kept in the dark for far too long.

17 Struggles Of Being The Blunt Person In Your Friend Group

I’d rather be honest than fake.

Thought Catalog

Gossip GirlGossip Girl

1. People ask for your advice on everything, even if it’s something you know nothing about. They say it’s because they know you’ll be honest with them. And then, when you are honest with them, they usually get annoyed.

2. Nothing bores you more than obligatory small talk. You die a little on the inside when you have to talk about your job or where you’re from while you’re at a cocktail party. Because you’d much rather be talking about something real and interesting.

3. Sometimes your friends tease you about coming off as a little too straightforward, but really, it’s just that you don’t like being fake.

4. When a new person comes to hang out with you guys, your friends usually introduce you by saying something like “Don’t be scared. She/he doesn’t bite. Hahaha!”

5. And you’re just like… “No.”

6. You get really uneasy around highly sensitive…

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