SoWT 5: Clovis Randomness


Well, I've been back in Clovis for about a week. This week I pack and head back to Waco on Friday. It's been a fast two weeks here, but it was good to have a little time to recharge before going back to school.

Today I got to see two very dear friends of mine from a long time ago. They moved my freshman year of high school, but we have kept in touch from time to time. The mother-daughter team just never ceases to amaze me at how encouraging they are. They are ladies who love the Lord and fill others lives with joy. You know that old song about letting "your little light shine?" That's what these girls do. They are warm, bright lights for Him. Forget self-help books and the 10 "easy steps to find happiness" -- go spend an hour with these women and you will leave deeply touched and smiling from ear to ear. Such beautiful servants of the King.

In other news, we have had two birthdays this week: my dad's and my grandma's. Thus, there has been a lot of cake in my life recently. Not to mention family. My little cousins are growing up so fast!

Also, I have come to the conclusion that backyard barbecues are my favorite thing about summer. There is so much to love: the food (i.e. watermelon), the outdoor games, the Hawaiian decorations, the talk of all that has happened during the school year and excitement about the year to come.... It's a tradition I will miss a lot after this summer.

See, this is my last summer, really. At least my last school break. After this spring, I will (hopefully) have a job, working year-round. I probably won't be home much, if at all. These two weeks were my last summer at home to just be a kid. I'm a grown-up now, or at least, I will be soon. I know I still have Christmas break to come back and spend a few weeks with my family before I head off into the world, but Christmas is a whole other set of traditions and fun.

The other day was also my last time to buy school supplies. This time-honored trip is, ironically, one of my favorite things about summer. It is centered around planning and anticipating and organizing - all things that make my Type-A heart flutter.

School supplies in college differ greatly from the watercolors and scissors we used to buy, as I told my sister who is going to be a freshman at Baylor. For example, some of my most time-consuming back-to-school shopping has actually been buying furniture for my new apartment. A new mattress led to a new bed, which led to a new sheet set and quilt, then I might as well get a matching dresser to the new bed since I need one anyway and why not get the bedside table to match? It's like the children's book, "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie."

I have also been searching for a new laptop and considering buying an iPod Touch. With the furniture-domino-effect described above, I am definitely price-shopping on these. The laptop needs to be light weight, thin, and small, but fast, with a lot of memory and storage space. This is not an easy combination to come by, though it seems like the ideal laptop to me. I don't know enough about computers to understand why these can't all be offered in one model. There are 20 models that seem very close to what I need, but they all have one flaw or another. Such is life.

Rumors have it that a new iPod Touch with a better battery life is coming out in September. I think I am going to wait until it comes out to buy one. First, I want to see if the battery life really is better because that is our main complaint with our 6-year-old iPods. (Yup, 6 years old....we are talking about the first ones that had video here. Back when 30 GB was HUGE) Secondly, if the new fourth generation iPod Touches aren't worth the hype, then hopefully the current ones (third generation) will be cheaper.

I've also been writing for The Lariat 's Welcome Back issue. We are doing a huge issue for the first week of school so we have all been working already to make sure we have everything before our orientation next week. We will be working 9-5 all next week in preparation for the new school year. Until then, we are gathering all the content we can so we have less to stress about when we get there.

That's really been my life in Clovis since I've gotten back from D.C.: seeing old friends, family life, shopping, being a techie and writing for The Lariat. Sorry it's not as adventurous as past posts, but more exciting stories will come with the move back to Waco and the new school year. Maybe even my last school year, depending on if I go to grad school someday. Still, this is the beginning of the end of my days as a "college kid."

New Media vs. Old Media

Well folks, this journalism program is almost over. We graduate tomorrow. I worked my last day at The Georgetowner today. It is so bittersweet. Chances are this is my last blog post as part of the program, though I may do an update this weekend on tomorrow's activities. I also have a list or two in mind for this trip like the Italy and England ones I've done before. Check back for more this weekend, but until then: here is my final blog of the Semester in Washington Journalism Program at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

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We are told that there is a war raging. One that will define the future of the Fourth Estate, and thus, democracy itself.

Jefferson, Franklin, Madison and the rest of the Founders knew that communication with the People was the essential element of functioning democracy. How will people know to vote and what/whom to vote for if not for a means of communicating across the growing number of states?

"The Media" is as old as town criers and messengers sent across ancient civilizations. Print journalism is nearly as old as the printing press itself. Yet, the world never really saw anything like the change brought about by cyberspace.

It's true; the internet deserves to be the change that divides the history of journalism into old and new. Perhaps in a few hundred years, there will be O.M. and N.M. to denote years in the media's past like B.C. and A.D. Who knows?

What we do know is that the media is not dying. Nor is it already dead. There will be a need to refer to the present struggles of the field as old and new because it does have a future.

There will always be a need to communicate. People will turn to the most credible sources they know to receive information about the world around them and far away. The difference is that instead of shuffling through newspaper pages to find movie listings, classifieds, comics, sports updates and special deals at the store, they are currently turning to their built-in Wi-Fi laptops. These laptops also provide consumers with a gateway into the world of news aggregation, with the ability to get their world news from BBC, politics from Politico and financial news from Wall Street Journal all day, constantly updated in 140 characters.

Already, the tool of the laptop is being exchanged for smartphones that have many capabilities that not only improve on their predecessors, PDAs, but deliver information faster and more portably than the laptops themselves. Granted, this technology all has a long way to go before it can be deemed reliable, easy to read or cheap, but there is no doubt that it's sheer potential is already changing the way the media world defines itself.

Don't be deceived by the above example, either. While the major players (BBC, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, Fox, etc.) do have an important role, they are the antithesis of the true value to democracy that this new media world provides. Without saying that it does do this, but the internet has the potential to, in fact, save pure journalism, contrary to popular belief.

Imagine, a world in which asking questions or making comments on a news report is not as pointless as yelling at a television or writing in the margins of the newspaper. Not long ago, this would have been a revolutionary idea. Now, it is quite normal (and a debate in and of itself) for a news outlet to have a comments or feedback section on their website, if not on every article, video and social media profile.

What does this mean? Accountability for the watchdogs. The ability to present more sides to a story than a journalist can gather. A public doing its own "relating," thank you very much. 

Yes, the change is costing jobs. Jobs that I will soon be applying for. Yet, in all the chaos and misuse, we cannot lose sight of why we commit journalism in the first place. It's not about us. It's about the public we serve. We must provide what they need and want to know, in the best way possible, or all we are doing is preserving ourselves instead of democracy. 

There will always be ranting bloggers and pointless tweeters with news about their cat or their breakfast or their hatred of all we do as "the media." Before new media, they wrote letters to the editor and called in every other day at 4:55 p.m. (and always when we needed to call every business in the area that closed at 5.)

Still, there is an essential need for the media to transition into the new world, just as their audience has or will. As Dana Priest said in a recent live chat Q&A with readers on the Washington Post's website: "web journalism does NOT mean opinionated blather. It can mean more journalism, presented in a different fashion."

Let us never lose sight of the place of technology, no matter how dramatically it affects our field. It is a tool. Nothing more. We do need to learn to use this tool to the best of our abilities, but at the end of the day we will still be doing what we are called to do: present the truth as objectively, and from as many sides, as possible. We will tell stories. We will speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. We will shoot and write the first draft of history. 

The tools we use will always change. The principles we live and work by should not.


BBQs, Going Postal, Rain and Haikus

Last Saturday was the official alumni weekend for my program, SIWJ, so we had a barbecue at my professor's house. It was good to get to hang out with Andrea and Amos outside of the classroom. I always like getting to know my leaders on a more personal level to better know how they think and make decisions. For those of you who have taken the StengthsFinder, yes, I am a huge Context person. :)

Sunday, I went to the DC Metro Church for the last time. It was kind of sad to leave. I liked it a lot, but I miss Antioch even more so I am kind of excited because it means I will soon be back at ACC.

After church every Sunday, I go to museums. I am a big museum fan so this is usually a highlight of my week. This week, I went to the National Postal Museum. I realized that I would not be able to go when Jennifer was working so I thought it best to go on a Sunday than not at all. It is very close to Union Station so I walked around the shops of the station a bit before I headed out. It was a good thing I stayed around because it started pouring down torrential rain as soon as I was about to leave. I was going to head to the National Aquarium which is not as close to a metro station. I also did not have my umbrella. So I just decided to get a bagel and stay at Union Station a while.

That evening I went to Momiji, one of my favorite restaurants in D.C., with Ashley (see Oxford posts). She has just arrived in D.C. for a late-term internship with a senator. We also stopped by FroZenYo, a frozen yogurt place.

Today, I started my video haiku. It is probably the hardest part of our final project for me. We are required to make a video about ourselves in Final Cut Pro. I am not super experienced or naturally talented at this, so I am going for a slideshow. I intended to include film as well as photos, but it doesn't really fit into my plan for the way I want it to turn out.

It will be a long week working on it, but at least I have all the photos I want to use after tonight!


The Freedom to Inform


I am not really a reality show person. I haven't really followed a TV series since Gilmore Girls ended. I don't anxiously await the results of any sort of competition from week to week. 

However, I was enamoured by The Washington Post's "Top Secret America" this week. The series, which ran Monday through Wednesday, sparked my interest in Freedom of Information issues. Despite my love of journalism and involvement with SPJ, I just have never been bitten by the FOI bug like I have been this week, thanks to the way the Post chose to present the information. I don't even know why I clicked on the link in the first place, but for some reason that Post tweet really stood out from the constant news updates that make up my Twitter feed.

And from that moment on, I was hooked like a Lost fan.

I really admired their reporting, their dedication, their faith that investigative reporting is not dead (contrary to popular belief) and their insistance on excellence. Others have agreed that they will likely be up for a Pulitzer. Maybe it is just the community I am in at the moment, but I kind of feel like we are discussing Emmy nominations after seeing a really great movie.

Beyond the actual reporting, I was captured by the way the story was presented, both online and in print. As journalists across the world are realizing, it doesn't matter how well we report something, if it doesn't appear to be reader-friendly, no one will read it. The Post did the unthinkable - presenting a huge story to an American public that thrives on 140 character shots of news. The 30-second video streamed on the web is more common that the family around the radio or TV for the evening news hour.

Instead of presenting it well in only one medium, the Post presented their findings in a variety of ways with maps, charts, lists, databases, video (a documentary by Frontline will air in October), photos, tweets and (my personal favorite) a Q&A with Dana Priest and Bill Arkin, all in additon to the massive three-part story itself.

The Q&A was such a special time for a cub like me. I really enjoyed reading the feedback the reporters would get and how they reacted to it. For example, someone asked a question about ethical lines with an ad on a page. Priest responded that she didn't have any control over the ad policies and hoped she never would. haha Such a reporter.

My favorite Q&A moment, of course, was when she answered my question. I asked how they decided on how to present the material. She said they wanted to prove that the web can be a legitimate source of information. Actually, she said it better than I could.... 

Q: I love the way you have conveyed the information. In this world of multimedia, tweets, online updates and short-form journalism, it is hard to present an in-depth piece like this. How did you decide how to present your coverage?

·         Dana Priest writes:

A: First, it had to be simplified so people without expertise could understand it; needed to boil it down to specific conclusions that the facts supported; needed to be written in a way that, we hoped, would keep people reading; needed a web component that was even more in-depth because we wanted to show, as our little experience within this series, that web journalism does NOT mean opinionated blather. It can mean more journalism, presented in a different fashion.

I agree, Ms. Priest. Thank you for helping to make it so.

Deeper Inside Washington

Sorry I haven't posted in a while. It has been a busy couple of days.

Last weekend, I got to cover a play. Caitlin came with me as we experienced our first bit of the Fringe festival. After the play, I went to the bus stop to pick up one of my best friends, Priya. Then we all three went to Chinatown for real Asian food.
 
She lives in Philadelphia, so she is close enough that we can spend a weekend together when we have time. Sunday we went to the National Zoo. I was a little sad that the pandas were asleep. If you have seen my dorm you know that I really love pandas. :)

That night Caitlin and I went to another play for The Georgetowner. This one was a bit better than the first one because it was an experienced Shakespeare cast. For both articles check out The Georgetowner's website.

This story package (which also included a calendar of events and an intro article by Nicole) had to have a pretty fast turn around because our deadline was Tuesday. So I designed this page, the calendar, a "web exclusives" teaser page and finished my photo story page over the next two days. It all went very fast, but the more design I do, the more it brings back my old love of it. In all my years of working on publication, I have discovered that I love taking the raw elements of content (copy, graphics, photos) and combining them to form something that is both functional and beautiful.

Speaking of both functional and beautiful, I have been working on our latest assignment, our WordPress portfolios, in all of my free time. I want this portfolio to really shine. I know that I won't have time to work on it much at all once the semester starts and my job at The Lariat gets going,  so it is really important to me to get it done now. WordPress is a bit more difficult to work on than other sites I have worked with, but I know that just means it has more capabilities and looks more professional. Andrea (our assistant program director) is helping me a lot with it though. I tried to make one for a required photoblog last fall, but I gave up because nothing I did seemed to work. I refuse to give up this time. I will conquer WordPress!

I actually want to learn a lot more about web design. Maybe even do it as part of a design job some day. If I have learned anything from this program, it is that I am not limited to starting as a reporter and working my way up the food chain like it has been in the past. Of course, there will be some not-so-great jobs to start out with and I am prepared for that, but there is so much more out there than the typical corporate ladder.

Speaking of jobs, we got to meet the deputy press secretary for the President yesterday. I could tell he was chosen for his PR expertise. I was also a bit proud of myself for being able to recognize it. Saying it was a really cool experience being inside the White House's press briefing room doesn't even begin to cover it. I was thrilled. I sat in the seat reserved for NPR. Though I don't think it is my dream job after hearing about it more in detail this week, I definitely have a healthy respect for the importance of that room and all it represents: free and open government.

I don't know how many of my peers recoginized it while we were there, but that room symbolizes something special. The right of the American people to know what is going on in their government. Of course, it is still restrictive and only gives the press bits and versions of the truth, but with hard work on the part of the reporters sitting in those special chairs, it is the closest the world comes to being honest with the people that live in it.

Arts and Entertainment Editor, here I come!

I am a music minor at Baylor for a reason. I love covering the arts. It is my favorite section, my niche, my forte. It is visually exciting, design-friendly, always reinventing itself, never dull, expressive by nature and requires going to performances and gallery openings (versus crime scenes, council meetings and disasters. Yes, I'm looking at you, hard news lovers.)

As a musician and former actress and dancer, I can appreciate the long hours put in by performers, especially children who give up so much to be great at their art. While performing is very fun and addictive, even for kids, it can be frustrating to know that your friends are all free to run and play while you are rehearsing 24/7.

However, having experience as a performer and as a visual artist through my photography and graphic design work, I don't cut any slack for art that doesn't measure up. As a journalist, I'm not afraid to speak the truth. At the same time, that often includes giving credit where credit is due and I have to say, that is probably my favorite part of this field.

Though I have been doing A&E journalism for a while through my coverage of academic arts and the CCM scene at Baylor, I officially start my job as A&E editor with an interview with a band made up of Baylor alums. I am also going to review their new album. Don't want to give too much away just yet, but you can look for it in the "welcome back" issue of The Baylor Lariat.

Even more imminent, I start my career as a theater critic tomorrow evening with my coverage of  the DC Fringe Festival for the next issue of The Georgetowner. I've done some fun pieces this summer, but this is the first one that I have really felt like "Yes! This is what I want to do."  Hopefully that feeling will continue as I actually start work on writing and designing this piece. (p.s. I get to do all of the design on this as well! I have really been bitten by the design bug this summer. I've always loved it, but now I am really thinking this is something I can run with in the future.)

A Capitol Fourth, part two

After such a great first half of the weekend, I had to continue the fun on the actual Fourth. I tried out a new church, which ended up being even more like Antioch than the last two churches, which was great. I even found myself wondering, if I had longer here, how I would feel about getting involved. My goal for next week is to go back and have a conversation with someone. I have yet to do that.

That evening, Jennifer and I had a picnic dinner at the Washington Monument, soon joined by Christian, one of our Baylor friends. We had a perfect spot for the fireworks, right underneath them. We were so close, my camera couldn't fit all of the biggest ones inside it's view. It was a great show and the area we sat wasn't as crowded as I expected. The crowds became more obvious with each block we walked back though.

I had work off the next day since it was a holiday and after writing an article with Caitlin in the morning, I joined Jennifer at the Air and Space museum. We went to an IMAX using her Smithsonian id to get a discount. yay! Then we saw the other parts of the museum I had been too museumed-out to see the other day. We then made it to the Natural History Museum and walked around there until they closed. If you need to know what this was like, imagine Night at the Museum 2, but nothing comes alive. haha Just kidding, but yes, this is the same museum as in the movie. After a dinner at Fuddruckers, we decided that we both miss Baylor and its fun, intelligent, family-like community. :)

A Capitol Fourth, part one

This was a fabulous weekend in D.C. A once-in-a-lifetime type of weekend, seeing as it was the nation's birthday and I am in the nation's capitol.

The whole weekend started off with class going to tour XM radio. Then, Friday night I went with Jennifer (see Oxford posts) to a free jazz night in the Smithsonian's sculpture garden. It was really fun and she introduced me to two other Baylor students I didn't know that are here for the summer. We went out to a great chicken place in Chinatown, then walked around the monuments as they were lit up against the dark night.


Saturday, I toured the American History Smithsonian. I know, I'm crazy, it was the day before Independence Day and very crowded. But you know, it wasn't as bad as DisneyWorld on Thanksgiving or something like that. I have been to very crowded places, and while that qualified, it was not the worst I have seen.

It was special to get to see the First Lady's dresses, Dorothy's shoes, the flag and all of the other things i haven't seen since I was here after sixth grade, almost ten years ago. Hard to believe it's been that long, but it's true.

After spending most of my day there, I went to the Air and Space museum. It was cool, but by that point I was a little museumed-out  so I had dinner at the McDonald's there (it's kind of a tradition, every time I have been to DC, I've eaten there and my family has this thing with eating at McDs in famous places)

After dinner, I headed over to the capitol because I had heard from a friend that there was a rehersal for the Capitol Fourth concert. I sat on the steps in front of a nice looking young woman and close to two couples.
I listened to the event people test the sound system for Gladys Knight (who, unfortunately, did not attend the rehersal, so they had a lip syncer to test the lighting and camera angles). They played "Grapevine" and "I will Survive."
Soon, David Archuleta (the real one, not just a recording) came up and sang the National Anthem. I called my sister so she could hear it. She loved it. :)
Jimmy Smits was the announcer. He made the night fun, even in the tedious, slow-moving parts. The National Orchestra played "God Bless the USA" and everyone sang along. It was magical.
Soon after, we are clapping along to Cohen's "Yankee Doodle Dandy" with the Marine Corps Band.
David Archuleta was up next, with a dedication to the troops, singing "Stand By Me." He's so great.
After David, the National Orchestra and Lang Lang, the famous Chinese pianist, played Rachmaninoff's 15, the theme from "Somewhere in Time." I always have loved this piece, but I finally figured out that it is the base for another song by Lorie Line that I played non-stop in high school.

Throughout the night, I made a Ukrainian friend named Marta. She has lived in the US for 20 years, but still travels all over the world as an international relations specialist or something like that. She went to Georgetown for grad school and stayed on this side of the pond. She gave me travel advice for Lela, who is going to Kiev when she studies abroad in Russia next semester, and for me here in D.C.

About that time, Reba McEntire came onstage. As huge Reba fans, Marta and I went up closer to try to get a glimpse of her onstage (it was far away). Reba was so classy and confident, like always. She sang more songs than anyone else and was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for the Arts, the highest honor Congress gives to an artist. She was beautiful and very much herself in jeans, a flag t-shirt and her signature auburn hair.

After Reba, Marta and I talked more. She seemed very familiar, but I can't place why. After a long, but good, day alone, I was warmed by her kindness. Usually I have to ask all of the questions in my 30-minute friendships like these, but she was a good initiator and we had a good conversation with the two couples next to us. One were both DC natives with a daughter in journalism school in South Carolina. The other were an Israeli and a Peruvian from Houston. They made for a fabulous group of international friends to spend the patriotic evening with. Wouldn't have been truly American without them. haha

Though sometimes travelling alone can be lonely, it allows me to meet the most wonderful people.

Inside Georgetown

Thursday night Caitlin and I went to a community meeting with our editor, Garrett. The three of us had already had a busy week at work with deadline on Tuesday and paper delivery on Wednesday.

Garrett told us to expect high drama levels at the meeting. He actually said at the end that it was less exciting than he was expecting, but there was enough controversy to remind me of community meetings in my hometown.

The only item on the meeting's agenda was the conversion of a historic house for the blind, the Hurt Home, into a 15-unit condominium. The element that surprised me the most was that the controversy was not so much about the use of the building as the number of people it would bring to the community. Audience members wanted to keep their territory from overpopulation, it seemed. (And for good reason. Georgetown has a horrible traffic problem, almost all day long.)

It was also very clear that the audience in attendance did not want the condos to be rented to Georgetown University students. Not since a special history lecture at Oxford  have I heard of such division between "town and gown." Garrett said tensions are also much higher during the school year. Baylor is very different. Although there is definitely a "Baylor Bubble" and not every Wacoan is a fan of the university, the influential community members in Waco are largely supportive of the university. This could be because they are mostly Baylor alumni and the university's sports generate large amounts of revenue for the city, but still, it is a very different atmosphere than Georgetown, where there is a strong division.

Georgetown politics are still new to me, but so far I have found them highly entertaining.

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Earning Trust

I have been really happy to be assigned a spread in the next issue of "The Downtowner," the younger version of the publication I work for, "The Georgetowner."
I am gently, slowly, earning their trust. I actually had a substantial to-do list this week, though I missed Tuesday for filming on the Smithsonian project and Wednesday we had a barbecue and staff meeting. Even the barbecue furthered my good fortune of purposeful work: one of our photographers asked me to do a graphic for his column after I designed a graphic for the spread I was assigned.

One page of the spread was a collage of photos the same photographer has shot in the last two weeks (the production cycle for the two publications). He saw me design the graphic for it one day and we have had several professional conversations about where we want the page to go visually. The opposite page on the spread is a calendar of "Up & Coming" events in the District. When I explained to him what we would be doing with that, he offered to supply photos from last year's events to match the announcements of their reoccurences this year. We now have a photo calendar. (or will, when I get it put together)

I have also been working on getting a digimag version of the publication on our website. Instead of reading the articles as just text with a photo gallery at the bottom, readers can flip the pages, look at photos and see the design as it was intended- together as one publication. I used a program through www.issuu.com. It was easy enough after I combined the pdfs of the past issues (I did every issue since April.)

While I did/am doing this, Caitlin is doing the same spread for The Georgetowner and researched a way to sell our photos on our website. So we will not only have a digimag, but be able to sell our photos and make money too. Every day this internship gets more like life in the real journalism world and I am proud that we get to help to make it even better.  We all have our strengths and weaknesses, but as we figure out what those are, this machine becomes more "well-oiled."

I just pray that all goes smoothly on Monday. We need a good, solid deadline week to apease The Great Printer. Of course, as our luck goes, we only have four more weeks after this deadline passes, meaning two more production cycles (not counting the one we are halfway through). Then we try to write down as much advice as we can for the fall's interns, but the staff knows it will all just start over again. Like chalk murals, internships build something cohesive and beautiful, then the rain signifying the end of the season of life washes it all away for another group of artists to try their hands.