Take A Chance Tuesday

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When I was considering accepting my current position as field editor of an agricultural newspaper, I honestly didn’t know what I was going to do. I’m from a rural area in northern Indiana and am familiar with agriculture, but I have never been a farm kid.

Although corn and beans fields surrounded the house I grew up in, my family didn’t farm. I even considered joining 4-H when I was in school but when it came down to only having the time to do athletics or 4-H, I chose athletics. I also considered joining FFA but at the time the organization mostly consisted of farm kids and I didn’t feel like I would fit in.

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I wondered if I would be able to keep up writing about something that I wasn’t overly familiar with. I thought there is no way I’m going to be able to talk with farmers, political leaders as well as business professionals and educators who live and breathe agriculture.

After a few days trying to decide what to do, I decided I would take a leap of faith and accept the position. I realized that, yes, I was scared about asking a stupid question about the industry or writing in a way that showed I was learning, but more than that, I was scared of moving for a job and finding out I didn’t like it. And I didn’t want that to stop me.

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Fast forward five months and I can tell you everything has worked out. I am incredibly happy in my position and have been pleasantly surprised at how kind everyone in the industry is. I can ask questions and those farmers and political leaders I was nervous to talk to and they will not only answer them but they’ll go above and beyond to give me the background of the subject.

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Along with, the overwhelming kindness I have received from coworkers, interviewees and everyone in between, I am happy that I took a chance.

By taking the position I have been given opportunities that I never would have had if I said no. I’ve been able to travel around the state and meet different kinds of people including a Colts football player, a Nascar driver and a Nascar team owner. I’ve experienced a historic barn tour as well as a boat tour of the Ohio River. I’ve also attended a wine festival and a restaurant opening where I got to sample different food dishes and then write about them. These are just a few of the experiences I never would have had without taking this opportunity.

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I never would have been paid to do these things without saying yes to the position and I am beyond thankful I did. I hope that others considering taking a chance on something will do so!

Have you had a similar situation? If so, tell me about it!

There’s something about a thank you

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We have all been told before we shouldn’t do something for acknowledgement or reward. I believe that is true – we shouldn’t do something for the sole purpose of getting something in return. However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t absolutely wonderful, when you do receive a thank you.

Without realizing what I was doing, I started a “nice notes” folder in my email. The folder includes thank you emails I have received. (Of course the thank you emails are listed under some random, unrelated folder name.

As a journalist. if you get something incorrect like *cringe* misspelling something, you will receive a call. If you word something in a way someone doesn’t approve, you get a call. If someone sent you something and it hasn’t appeared in the newspaper in what they deem a timely fashion, you get a call. It makes me wonder if they realize we aren’t evil gremlins who have the sole purpose of ruining their life, printing malicious lies and doing other evil gremlin things.

However, that being said, every time I receive a thank you email, phone call or card, I can’t help but feel validated. It reminds me there is a reason I ended up in journalism and no, it’s not the pay. I get to talk to people daily and figure out what makes them tick. Of course there will be mistakes. Whenever I’m having a bad day at work where I’ve received seven calls about how the media sucks and I suck, I turn to those emails and a yoga class and know that for every negative remark I receive, there is a silver lining in there somewhere – I actually enjoy what I do and sometimes, just sometimes it is appreciated.

So now it’s my turn to thank all the people who took the time to thank me. At the risk of sounding like a needy twenty something who is unsure of her ways – it made a difference.

Forgetting how to write

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For the past several months I’ve been juggling an editing position with a reporting position. Each had their perks, but trying to do both was stressful. I felt like the wheels of a spinning bike at the gym when the tension is too loose; out of control and going 90+ mph. 

When my editor asked me if I’d like to go back to writing full-time, I had to think about it. I was getting experience in the editing department but, at the same time, my BA is in journalism with a minor writing. While editing I had trouble finding the words I needed to write stories. Fast forward three weeks and I don’t know why I even paused. 

I’m back to writing full-time and loving every minute of it. While I was doing both jobs, I temporarily forgot to write. I was trying to complete too many things. I would sometimes wake up in a cold sweat thinking about a nearly impossible deadline the next afternoon. I’m happy to say that has changed since resuming writing. 

Yes, some days can be longer than others. Yes, sources can be hard to reach. Yes, it involves multi-tasking and yes it can be stressful. But none of that matters because I love it.  

Even more than that, I love talking to people and getting to know their stories; asking questions I don’t know the answer to and then writing about it. 

Here’s  to getting my [writing] groove back. 

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A conversation with a TV, radio broadcaster

Next in the Collecting Conversations series is Bradford, a twenty something who describes himself as a TV/radio broadcaster with big aspirations. He is currently employed as the news director at DC Broadcasting in Jasper, Ind.

Bradford is a recent Indiana University graduate who says looking for employment for six months before landing in Jasper really slapped him in to reality.

“Everything in life is a competition,” he said.  “You have to earn what you get in this world. That was the biggest lesson I learned and it really has changed me since I left school.”

He said the hardest part of being a news director is overseeing an entire department from top to bottom.

Bradford first got in to broadcasting his senior year of high school.

He said he reluctantly agreed to try a broadcasting class after his mother told him he was an amazing talker and ought to give broadcasting a try.

“I fell in love and never looked back,” he said.

After his high school broadcasting class he said he knew right then he should get away from everything else and focus on honing his broadcast skills.

He’s had numerous internships throughout college, including one with WRTV 6 in Indianapolis.

“Through all of my internships I’ve learned to enjoy my fields and understand the challenges that go with it,” he said. “Now, as I begin my professional career, I’m truly excited to see where my career takes me and the things I can accomplish through being a news broadcaster.”

He is also looking forward to the people he may meet who he wouldn’t meet in his normal life.

He describes the best part of his job as being able to gain experience at what he does in order to get better every single day.

Through high school classes and four-years of college he received both good and bad advice from professors, students on broadcasting.

The best advice he ever got was to stick with it and never give up.

“The business can beat you down and make you question everything about yourself I you allow it to,” he said. “You have to be strong, fight hard every day and get better everyday. It isn’t always easy, but it can be very rewarding if you work at it hard enough.”

The worst advice he ever received was to make the news. He said ‘your job as broadcaster is not to make news.’

“You don’t create what is happening around you in the world,” he said. “You take what you know is going on and that is how build news. You can build and develop news from stuff you know is happening, but you can’t ‘make’ news from nothing.”

He also has developed advice of his own. Advice he would give to someone wanting to get in to journalism is to ‘grow the thickest skin you possibly can.’

“Thin-skinned people will not survive in this business,” he said. “People from every walk of life will criticize you, question you, dislike you, anything you can think of. You have to take it in stride and drive yourself to be the best that you can be everyday.”

Like any other new twenty something, it’s easy to question new careers, but Bradford said his internships and love for what he is doing helped him stick with it.

“When you love what you’re doing, it is a whole lot easier to stick with it than if you didn’t like what you were doing,” he said.

Career advice he would give a twenty something is to start looking for work ASAP.

“Getting the first job in broadcast, or in journalism in general, is the hardest thing about this business. Nobody wants to trust a college graduate with a reporting job,” he said. “It’s very challenging to get in the door. Never give in though. Fight for what you want and you’ll eventually break through.”

A look at a few of the questions:
What is your dream job?
My true dream job is to anchor the CBS Evening News and follow in the footsteps of Walter Cronkite and the man that was running the show at CBS when I was young: Dan Rather.
Scariest thing you’ve ever done?
This will sound silly, but riding on a rollercoaster. I literally thought I would fall out of the car and splat on the ground and be dead. It was the most panicked I’ve felt in my life.
Favorite book at the moment?
When the Game was Ours by Jackie MacMullan. It’s the story of Larry Bird vs Magic Johnson from the perspective of the two players. It’s my favorite because I am a competitive person by nature and these are two of the greatest competitors of all-time in my book. Learning from them through reading about it is an honor for me.
Proudest accomplishment?
My proudest accomplishment was winning an indoor drumline state championship my very first year of marching. I was the big kid that couldn’t hack it as a marcher. I was going to be the downfall of the group. Yet I wound up helping the group to win it all. Never felt so proud. I still have that gold medal too. I’ll never let that one go.
Where do you get your inspiration?
My inspiration comes from basketball. Watching players compete at the highest level striving to be their best and winning championships is the stuff that drives me. I want to be the very best at what I do because if I’m not striving for that, I won’t last long. It’s such a competitive business.
Where do you see yourself in two years?
In two years, I hope to be better at what I do than I am today. That’s all I can ask for. Whatever works out job-wise during that timeframe is what will happen.

Bad rep

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Last night I attended a black-tie gala for work. It was a good time with good food, drinks and occasion to dress up. After the gala I went in to a gas station and waited patiently behind a police officer who was talking to the cashier. Their conversation went as follows:

Cashier: I saw you on the news.
Police officer: Oh, yeah? I was on the news a few weeks ago too. 
C: I love watching the news, weather. It might be weird but I do. 
P: I don’t follow myself and read or watch myself anymore on news outlets and I most definitely don’t read the paper.
C: Oh, I don’t either they get everything wrong.
P: I don’t believe anything they say. 

This conversation went on for five minutes. By this time there were five people in line behind me and I was chuckling at the irony this convo was happening right in front of me (because I work at a newspaper).

The police officer looked behind me and said, oh you better ring this girl up she looks like she’s dressed to go somewhere. The cashier then asked me why I was dressed up. It was my utmost pleasure to tell them both I had just come from a work event…for the newspaper.

The looks on their faces were priceless. The cashier turned white and the police officer started mumbling something like “oh, um,” and then he scratched his head. I started laughing and told them both to have a great night as I walked out the door.

I told my brother about this and he laughed and said I should have told the police officer, “It’s okay I talk about police officers when they’re not around too.” But alas I did not.

The reason I’m even writing this blog post is not to vent about the experience but to clear something up for people who might mistakenly feel the same way they do.

The newspaper gets a bad rep from people and I think some honestly believe news outlets are lying about what is going on in the world like it’s a conspiracy theory (It’s not, I promise).

Newspapers, magazines, television and radio broadcasters most likely studied journalism in school. In journalism school, we learn it is our duty to seek truth and report it, minimize harm, act independently and be accountable.

It is also said journalists have a duty to be watchdogs for the public. While in school, we are taught to seek the truth and tell it accurately so others may know about it. We are also shown the ramifications for plagiarizing or falsifying information. My point is journalists are simply seeking the truth of what is going on and reporting to their best ability.

It’s not a ploy to make a mistake. It’s not a ploy to get a fact wrong. We are humans. I’ve made a mistake in print. I’ll make more. If someone is making a mistake in print or printing false information, you can pick up a phone and tell them and they will change the mistake and print it correctly.

Merger would affect current, future journalism students

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I’ve talked before about the fact I attended Indiana University and studied journalism. The journalism school at IU, located in Ernie Pyle Hall, is facing a merger that would result in the school losing its independence and merging with Indiana University’s College of Arts and Sciences (COAS).

Hearing news of this made my blood boil.

I spent four years, countless hours there. I attended 8 a.m. classes and stayed on campus all day because I also had a 5:45 p.m. class. I took naps on the furniture, read books with the glass doors open overlooking the courtyard, used the computer lab and checked out video, camera equipment. I took advantage of the resources offered.

Provost Lauren Robel announced the proposed merger of the school and several other programs at her “State of the Campus.” This has caused a Facebook page to be formed to save the journalism school and people are encouraged to sign a petition and contact university officials. Robel silenced objectivity by refusing journalists inside a meeting on Feb. 21. The meeting was held in Ernie Pyle Hall, where the Indiana Daily Student is located.

I plan to take action and hope others do too.

I attended mandatory freshmen courses in the dreaded lecture hall and made friends I kept throughout my college career. More than that, I learned. I learned more than I knew at the time and probably more than I realize now. Visual Communications with Claude Cookman, creating a magazine with Nancy Comiskey, war and the media with Steve Raymer, sports reporting with Terry Hutchins, Indianapolis star sports reporter, and magazine reporting with Zak Szymanski were just a few of my classes taught by brilliant professors.

I also worked for a year in the school as a writer for the website and alumni magazine. My boss, editor, Gena Asher was brilliant. I was able to interview professors I never had and learn new things about the ones I already knew.

I met people, talked with people, and learned from others.  I worked on PowerPoint presentations with group members until my contacts were dry and eyes were red. I studied, quizzed other students about subjects we were about to be tested on.

I grew. Indiana University has one of the best journalism schools in the country and to take its independence away is ludicrous. It isn’t just a place where people are let loose without guidance. They are sculpted into journalists. They are allowed opportunities to network and get the careers they desire.

I am outraged journalism students could miss out on the experience I had. Merging the programs and allowing the possibility of someone being lost in translation is a horrible thing to rob future, current students.

The merger would affect future writers, reporters, radio broadcasters, television broadcasters and publicists who will be delivering news all over the world.

I now work at a daily newspaper in northern Indiana and the Indiana University school of journalism and all those in it helped me prepare for it.

Journalism isn’t dead yet, but taking away the school’s independence is similar to shooting the first bullet.

old media vs. the plan b

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I was just watching Parks and Recreation on NBC (which is ten times funnier because I am actually from a small town in Indiana and can envision all of the things on the show happening in real life). Rob Lowe aka Chris Traeger is dating the town’s newspaper reporter (well, he thinks they’re dating, they like each other but have only been on one ‘group hang’).
Lowe is trying to figure out what they are without rushing to put a label on the relationship and says “Why did I fall for someone from the old media?”

After this statement I laughed out loud, yes, actually out loud, alone in my living room, and not just an ‘LOL’ text you send to a friend when you didn’t really laugh out loud.

I laughed because I’m a community news editor. I laughed because I work for my small town’s community newspaper in Indiana, much like the one depicted in the television show. I’ve heard it all, through college professors suggested I venture into radio, broadcast, online, design, communications and public relations, because, God forbid I go into the “dying newspaper” business.

During my internship in Pennsylvania this summer I even had people ask what attracted me to a business that isn’t as good as it once was. Many of these people were seasoned middle-aged male reporters who have worked for a newspaper for years. One of the men, who had been a reporter for 20 years, said he used to go into school classrooms and talk to children on career day about working for a newspaper, but with the current newspaper decline he said he couldn’t do it anymore. Another guy who has worked for the paper for 40 years signed my “goodbye/goodluck” card at the end of the summer thanking me for my work and wishing me luck as I move into my first “real” job by saying “good luck, have a ‘plan b.’”

Have a plan b? Is my current job so unreliable I need to have a back-up plan? I don’t want to have a back-up plan and I’m not entirely convinced I need to have one.

Sure I need to be flexible and well-rounded so when I do want to get another job I have appealing experience, resume and clips to make myself attractive to the employer. I also will agree I need to keep an open mind, and I will.

However,  I refuse to believe the newspaper is going to become obsolete. Yes, I know it’s easy to find anything online and it drives ratings down, but when talking to an employer the other day I said, and truly believe, there are four reasons people will always buy a newspaper.

1.) The Sunday paper – I don’t care if this is an old, tired tradition but I know countless people who don’t have a regular subscription but purchase the Sunday paper. I think there are people who buy it for the content, sports, ads, comics and thick, juicy content.

2.) Obituaries – Sure this might be morbid, but newspapers will always be purchased by families, friends and co-workers who had a loved one who has passed away and has their obituary on A2.

3.) Athletic and educational accomplishment: Parents love to cut things out of the paper and place them, with the help of a magnet, on the refrigerator. Or scrapbook. You get the point, parents will buy papers when their children are in it.

4.) Knowledge –  I think people generally want to know what is going on in the area they are living.

Call me optimistic or naive, but I refuse to believe newspapers or dead. That being said, I will still laugh, really hard, at a Parks and Recreation jab.

ex-poet, ex-pianist turned reporter

I’ve been slacking. My last blog update was a month ago.

What’s been going on since then?

I had a birthday and turned 23 (exciting). I also accompanied my cousin Rachel to a wedding in Ohio and crashed the event, Vince Vaughn style (way more exciting).

I fell in love…with New York City and Jon Hamm. I love everything about NYC and I spotted Jon Hamm as he came out of a Broadway play. And yes, Don Draper is just as handsome (if not more) in person.

Well, with the fact that my internship ends on Friday, I have been relentlessly applying to job openings.

On top of that, I have been covering a range of stories at work including car accidents, a bomb threat, a Cub Scout day camp and I went on a 2.5 mile hike for story.

My cousin, Andrea came to visit me and we explored mountain towns, drove around listening to music and witnessed the senior citizen nightlife of Hazleton when DJ QB comes to the Timbers Lounge. (Note, those senior citizens out-danced and out-drank everyone there).

Oh yeah, and I accepted a full-time reporting position. I am happy to say that I am looking forward to the challenging atmosphere that the newspaper business brings. Even though I am a young twenty-something, it doesn’t escape me how lucky I am to have a print job in a profession that is becoming more and more digital.

Well folks, that’s where I have been the past month. Here’s to finishing an internship and beginning a career.