Final Reflections

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A little bit of reflection, as I come down to my last week and a half at the Missourian –

Everything else aside… ignoring the grade, ignoring the stressful moments and the lingering weaknesses…

This has been the single most important class I have taken in University.

The lecture was, honestly, quite fantastic, even if I didn’t really consider that until the end. It reinforced the lab well as we learned about style and self editing and different types of stories and getting closer to difficult subjects, all the while weaving tips and tricks and our own examples and nobel prize examples and ethics into the discussion.

The GA shifts, when I actually did something – (about 1/2 the time, such are the joys of nightshift) – were surprisingly very useful, very good for me. I couldn’t hide myself away in the dark, spending hours fretting over lines. I learned to go out into the community at a moment’s notice, take the back-roads to reach the accident blocking up the interstate, follow the smoke and the red sky to the fire, get basic information from a panicking girlfriend, and go where everyone else can’t or won’t or wouldn’t. I may not be planning to be a reporter, but after this class, I actually think I could. Maybe.

And working with my beat, even though I feel like I could have done a lot more (at least in the sense of quantity), was perhaps the most rewarding. The one-on-one editing early on in the semester helped me a lot to learn about style and editing, and how much voice and description I can put into what kind of story, and what’s interesting for news and what isn’t. My beat stories were the ones closest to what I want to do with my career – when I was writing about mushroom hunting in the beautiful autumn woods, about a crazy costumed cross country run, about a civil war reenactment half a state away, about a man who took a sternwheeler from Ohio home to Columbia by river… I thought, “This is it… I really, genuinely enjoy this… this is what I want to do.”

I’ve learned a lot, about working across departments, making phone calls, approaching people on the street, feeling like I’m not some impostor who hasn’t any right to ask any questions. Feeling a little bit like an adult, like a professional – and isn’t that half the battle?

 

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Missourian Clip #16 – Fall at Devil’s Icebox

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MU student in fair condition after fall at Devil’s Icebox

COLUMBIA — MU student (//////) fell about 25 feet into the Devil’s Icebox Cave just before 4 p.m. on Tuesday.

The student, 18, had been walking with friends in Rock Bridge Memorial State Park when he went off the boardwalk to “explore on his own,” his friend said. He was climbing the fence to get back onto the boardwalk when he slipped and fell into the fissure that leads into the cave.

 (Click title above to read the whole clip)

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Even though I knew I was going to report an accident, it was strange to see Rockbridge Park filled with sirens and flashing lights.

I so often go there for pleasure that I was drawn to the story immediately, volunteered to be the one to run down there and see what was up with the “kid who fell” at the Devil’s Icebox.

As I pulled up, they were coming out of the woods with a backboard. As I ran up to the scene, they were shutting the ambulance doors.

I spoke to his friends and his girlfriend, and from what I could tell, the one who fell had been pretty lucky, all things considered. Walking off the path, he slipped while climbing a fence and fell backwards into the vertical opening of the cave.

There are rocks down there, and cold running water.

But the girlfriend said she went down there and got him, and the two managed to get up the stairs before the ambulance arrived. He was conscious, and talking to them. They said he was in pain, and I saw blood on his girlfriend’s jacket.

It could have been a lot worse.

Missourian Clip #15 – Bias Free Coalition

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City coalition discusses ways to integrate Muslims and Latin Americans

COLUMBIA — The Bias-free Columbia Coalition met Tuesday evening in Columbia City Hall to discuss efforts to make Columbia a welcoming community for people of all backgrounds. In the third meeting of the ongoing series, the presentations centered on programs that help integrate Muslims and Latin Americans.

Rashed Nizam and Arwa Mohommad of the Central Missouri Islamic Center gave a sample of a presentation they have developed to spread awareness of Islamic culture.

Mohommad, who was born in Columbia to Iraqi parents, tried to dispel myths and misconceptions about Muslims throughout the United States and within Columbia, stressing that Muslims vary greatly by ethnicity, level of practice and culture. 

She explained that in Islam, jihad does not mean “holy war” but usually “personal struggle for the sake of God,” wearing a hijab should be a choice that each woman makes for herself, and the Quran holds men and women to be equal. She also gave advice for police officers and others who enter Muslim homes and places of worship to respect gender boundaries, remove shoes and give women time to cover before entering. 

(Click title above to read the whole clip)

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Another sort of cultural story. I like the subject matter, but it was hard to report on. My story after all was not an exploration of myths and stereotypes about Muslims, but a simple report on a city hall meeting. I was torn, because the interesting parts of the presentation were anything but hard news, and the hard news itself was very dry and took up an insane amount of space, since all the organizations involved had long, unwieldy names, and the coalition was a team of about 12 different groups that needed to be named. I did the best I could, but it wasn’t easy to keep it short and interesting…

Missourian Clip #14 – Cross Country Xtreme

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Cross Country Extreme Features Obstacles, Costumes and Mud

COLUMBIA — Patches of bright colors broke through gray November woods on Saturday as dragons, zombies, brides, firefighters and other characters raced along off-road trails and through obstacle courses.

Under the mud and costumes were couples, best friends, athletes, children and at least two energetic dogs — all participants in XCX, or Cross Country Xtreme. The first wave started the 4-mile race at 9 a.m. at the Midway Travel Plaza sandbar.

(Click title above to read the whole clip)

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I did this story on my way out of town for Thanksgiving break. It was another very fun story to report on and to write – with opportunities to talk to some interesting characters and use some creative descriptions. I pushed myself a little bit to keep talking to people to get some of the more interesting stories, instead of just talking to who was the most obvious or whoever looked the most accessible, I did a little bit of both. I knew right away I wanted to talk to the mother and daughter pair, since I had already talked to so many guys, and the daughter was one of the younger runners. I thought they would have something cute to say, and sure enough they did! As with the mushroom hunting and civil war stories, this is the kind of story I actually want to write for my career, so I found it very enjoyable.

Missourian Clip #13 – Fire Destroys Abandoned Buildings

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Fire Destroys Abandoned Buildings

COLUMBIA — A fire destroyed a building Thursday night on what was once Sinclair Farm, an MU research facility on Sinclair Road.

The fire, which began at about 8:40 p.m., engulfed the L-shaped building, which was made of metal with a wooden frame, and caused the roof to cave in.

(click link above to read whole story)

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I was settled into a nice movie night, when I got a phone call from the newsroom. All the GA people were out of commission, and they needed someone to report a fire. Not having a smart phone, I had to have the ACE text me the fire checklist, question by question, as I ran out to my car, plugged the address into my GPS, and was on my way…

Yes, I snuck past the police… twice. Once by accident, and then once again to get back on the right side of the incident. Yes, I saw the building curling up like discarded jiffy-pop foil and the water falling like a spray of golden fire, lit from the inferno below. It was beautiful, and I don’t feel bad about saying that, because no one was hurt – the buildings were abandoned, no one was inside, and all of the firefighters also escaped injury.

It took them a long, long time to send someone out to talk to the media. Some of the other stations left, drove their trucks out of the neighborhood where I was standing and waiting. Next time, I’ll bring better clothing. In my rush out the door I’d only grabbed a jacket and a scarf, and I was shivering watching the steam float off the water from the hydrants and the soaked grass start to crunch, frozen underfoot.

But I waited, and finally they sent someone, and I got all the answers standing there with my notebook pressed into my side to keep my hands still enough to write legibly. I called all the information into the newsroom ahead of me, knowing we were perilously close to 11 o’clock, but when I finished, they had me come in anyway – they were waiting for the story.

By the time I left, it was midnight, I smelled like ashes and smoke, and I was still shivering of cold and adrenaline. It was a different evening than I’d planned for myself, but way more interesting!

Mid-Semester Slump

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Clips. Then reflection. Then clips. Then reflection.

My pattern’s so clear it’s even mirrored on this blog.

I’ve had great weeks, and nada weeks. Usually every other week is good, every other week is bad.

I’m not very good at consistency, I guess. 

Maybe that’s my obsessive personality. I like to give things all, or nothing.

And it’s hard to give reporting ‘all’ when I’ve got other classes, tutoring, visits from family members, friends I haven’t seen at all in the last year and things I have to do before I leave for Norway.

For a while, the pattern was working out decently for me. No, I wasn’t producing as many clips as those who applied steady pressure. But in my good weeks I was doing 2-3 stories, making up for the weeks when I did 0-1.

But the last few weeks have not been good. Two weeks ago, I had GA and I technically put out two stories – but one was a simple continuation of the garage lighting thing, and the other was a tiny press release. The week before that, I did nothing. And last week, again, nothing.

I’m well aware that this is unacceptable. And while I could cite complicating factors – my sister’s visit, a big paper and several interviews due for Understanding Audiences, too much travel, period... mid-semester fall slump – there’s no clear cut reason or excuse why I’ve been naughty.

But I’m going to make up for it. I’m staying in Columbia, no exceptions, straight through to Thanksgiving, and I’m going to make these weeks count. 

Missourian Clip #12 – Lighting Demo Problems

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Problems arise with downtown parking garage lighting filters

COLUMBIA — The show is over for the lighting demonstration at the Fifth and Walnut parking garage.

After the city received complaints from residents about the garage’s bright lights, the Environment and Energy Commission approved a demonstration of photo-corrective films by independent lighting consultant Eric Sax.

(Click title above to read the whole clip)

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I’m actually glad I’ve had this garage lighting story sequence. It’s given me the opportunity to follow a longer-term story through different stages, learn how to cover public meetings, work with officials, explain more technical details in laymen’s terms, etc. This is the third installment, and I keep feeling more and more comfortable with the whole process.

 

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