Posted 04/27/2011: Easter in San Diego was wonderful. A much needed respite from what has been an extremely chaotic semester, and especially, last couple of weeks.
For the first time, our family got to spend the night in our newly renovated vacation house. Situated in the beautiful Anza-Borrego desert, two-hours east of the roaring Pacific, lies our home.
Its design is definitely mid-century modern style, with retro lighting and an original slump stone fireplace to boot.
It really is gorgeous. Far cooler than our house in La Jolla.
When I said that to my dad he replied, "It definitely has something, doesn't it." It certainly does.
And concerts are one of the only things I'm willing to spend loads of cash on. (Other than clothes - I am my mother's daughter, afterall.)
Well today is April 20th. And that means that Steve Aoki, one of my favorite DJs, is in town - ready to bestow upon our ears some much needed musical bliss. And I, lucky girl, am in possession of a ticket.
However, with age comes maturity, and unfortunately with maturity comes better decision-making skills.
And in my case, those skills have forced me to forgo the concert in favor of term paper-writing.
I'm sure that his show will be wonderful, unforgettable, fabulous beyond reason, etc. But, this "serious student" won't be able to take part.
Thank God all my friends going have Twitter.
And, according to AP Style, following her next birthday she will no longer be called a girl, but a woman.
She just returned from college visits, her favorite so far is UCLA - though I'm pushing for Berkeley (that way when I move to SF after graduation, she'll be close at hand!)
I can't even believe I'm thinking about all of this. Tracy off to college, my graduation. Ugh. Mind blown.
My confidence and conversation skills make for a relaxed and pleasant interview, and somehow my demeanor allows the interviewee to remain calm, even in the face of some uncomfortable questions.
Phone interviews, however, are different. On the phone you have no smile, no body language to comfort the person on the other end. Nothing, really, to offer in the way of kind glances and encouraging nods.
And, as I learned on Wednesday in doing interviews for one of my enterprise stories, not being face-to-face with a subject it difficult to communicate as easily, especially when asking controversial questions. Prior to the start of the interview, because I am working on this story with a Broadcast student as well, we made sure to ask for permission to re-broadcast, as we always do. Unfortunately for us, we didn't record ourselves asking our source. At the conclusion of the already uncomfortably rocky interview, I restated the fact that it could potentially be rebroadcast for radio, just to double check it was alright. I never would have expected him to say no, especially after already having agreed at the start. I was wrong.
He flat out denied the fact that he had agreed to begin with, and then refused to allow it! It literally felt like a slap in the face.
I couldn't believe it.
We ended up coming to an agreement that should any of his quotes be aired, we would notify him in advance.
Lesson learned: always record from the very start!
Over the last year at Mizzou we have seen a number of occasions when Twitter has been used to spread unsubstantiated rumors as news. As a university with one of the most outsanding journalism programs in the country, but also as reporters, this trend can not continue.
In the fall, there was the whole "There's a gunman on campus." debacle.
A few weeks ago it was "Brad Pitt is at Mizzou." And then swiftly, "Brad Pitt was at Mizzou and so was Oprah Winfrey."
Come on, people. Use your common sense. I'm pretty sure that the stars did not so perfectly allign that Brad Pitt and Oprah Winfrey happened to, coincidentally, show up at Mizzou on the exact same day. And doesn't Oprah have some sort of brand new television network to run? One would think that would cut in to her available CoMo vacation time.
"Mike Anderson to Arkansas" was the most recent Twitter-fueled rumor to take hold of our campus' internet server.
The Maneater even reported it as true, quickly retracting the Tweet, and story, in favor of a Tweet reporting it as speculation. The source for the story? A tweet.
At MDN we have a social media/blogging policy: "Do NOT report as fact a rumor, suspicion or an unsubstantiated claim." The fact that this even needs to be stated is horrible. It should be obvious that as journalists what we say, no matter the form, has the potential to be taken as fact. It's our profession to spread knowledge through truth - not questionable statements via Twitter rumor.
The fact that this has happened, not once, not twice, but THREE times now is an embarrassment to our campus, to the program, and to our profession.
Wednesday there was to be a rally, held in honor of the 10th annual Disability Rights Legislative Day, an event I was very much looking forward to covering. One of the major issues the body supports is the closing of Missouri's habilitation centers, a hearing for which I covered two weeks ago.
On this day, there was another story I wanted to cover - the hearing for the CARE act, put forward by Rep. Jeanette Oxford.
With the rally at 11 and the hearing at 8, I thought it all seemed doable. And it was going just fine, until just before starting on my rally story - I was informed that my recorder had been erased. All of my quotes from the rally were gone. I was in shock.
No quotes does not an interesting story make, and after running around the Capitol for an hour desperately in search of someone to speak with (to no avail) and a midterm which I had yet to begin studying for the following morning, I called my ACE Kiki.
We reached a decision that the story could wait until the following afternoon, at which point the legislators would have returned to their offices and I could make some phone calls.
And then she called again. My story had to be turned that evening. It was going on the front page of the Columbia Missourian.
With the help of a lot of deep, DEEP backgrounding, a lot of phone calls, and a few contacts I had made during the rally, I was able to make it all come together and turned the story.
So, lesson of the day? Technology is fickle. Don't trust it. Write down quotes.
... Oh, and don't wait until the day before your midterm to start studying - unfortunately it didn't go as well as the story did.
The Weiss family's cousin Michael is what they call "severely retarded." And was placed in the Nevada hab. center at the age of thirteen, twenty years ago now.
His level of retardation led him to become, at times physically violent; on numerous occasions, hitting his mother. The family's inability to handle him at such a young age, pushed his mother into a severe state of depression, and is what caused the family to look into the state's mental health system.
It is in the hab. centers that Michael has truly found happiness. At home in a safe environment, Michael is surrounded by friends and people who care for him. His family visits as often as they can, though the drive from St. Clair to the center is a long one.
After a month working for MDN in Jefferson City, I can't believe how much I've learned.
Before this semester I had never written an article. Ever. For anything, anyone, anywhere. Not being on the high school paper or the Maneater staff has always made me feel at a disadvantage to everyone around me, and I've been self-conscious about my lack of skills as a reporter, but getting thrown right in to the belly of the beast is the fastest way to learn - and so I have.
It really hasn't been a game of catch up, as I thought it would be. My stories aren't the best, but they aren't the worst either. A reassuring thought.
And much to my surprise, as far as my interviewing skills go - I seem to be way ahead of the class (no pun intended).
All of this has added to my overall level of confidence, little by little, my writing is becoming less reserved. My creativity is starting to appear. And I like it.I am really proud of the job I did on my most recent story, about a bill that's going to cut the budgets of statewide elected officials by 5 percent.
Oh! And my AP style is getting better - thanks Alysha!
And, I finally introduced myself to the person Jamie Hausman and I refer to as "the Phantom." He's the mystery figure who plays the piano at night in the lobby.I sent him an email, and we're working on setting up an interview/recording session for a multimedia project. It should be really cool, I'm excited about it.
Until next time, that's all folks!
This past week, I got the chance to report on a bill that was approved by the House Judicial Committee. As a renter, it was of particular interest to me because the bill proposes to raise the amount a landlord can charge for a security deposit.
For college students, this is a serious concern - as if we don't have enough things to worry about with tuition, the rising prices of books, the rapidly shrinking job market, everyone telling us that our majors are a wast of time (Yay, journalism!), and just the exhausting task of finding a place to live - now we have to worry about the increase in the amount of money landlords can charge us in our security deposits, that in my experience, is usually used to cover normal wear and tear - which is not the point of a security deposit fee.
Just from perusing Craigslist, the average cost for a three bedroom house in Columbia is around $1000/month. Currently - the limits set on security deposit amounts is at most equivalent to the amount of two months' rent, so based on Craigslist - about $2000. With this new piece of legislation, which proposes for the security deposit limit to be set at three months' rent, that would be raised to $3000. That's a lot to ask up front in a town where homes are mostly leased out to kids under the age of 22. Hmph.
I don't know if you heard, but last week - Mid-Missouri had quite the snow storm blow through. It offered us a lot of really interesting opportunities as far as out of the ordinary stories go. In researching topics for stories, I found out that the chemicals used to de-ice roadways negatively impact the surrounding environment, the plants, soil, and even the aquatic wildlife. I thought this was going to be a really great topic for a story, especially because I found a number of reports detailing similar problems that areas in the Adirondack region of New York had been experiencing - including the listing of an entire species of fish, the round-headed white fish, as endangered due to the chemicals entering their water supply.
Unfortunately, this week was also one for lessons, and hard ones at that. I learned that sources aren't always easy to find, that even though you think you have all the information you could need to craft a beautiful story - without quotes, without confirmation of the legitimacy of said facts, you've really got nothing.
And so, after hours of phone calls, and being transferred from one person to the next to the next, and to the next, the story sort of just fizzled out.
So, to the back burner it goes. Until next time.
Our editor, Phill Brooks, has assigned me to the health and environment beat - two topics I'm especially passionate about. Today that included a story about the state of Missouri's first round approval of a bill that would allow for the drug testing of TANF recipients based on 'suspicion' - a topic that caused an extremely heated (and pretty much party-line) debate between Democrats and Republicans. Republicans support the legislation, while Democrats oppose it. Quite the topic for my first story ever.
It's been a long 12 hour day, but I honestly can't wait to come back for round two.
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