Friday, April 23, 2010

SIGNING OFF --- What I learned in B-2.

As the semester rumbles to a close, I almost feel as if I'm about to finish a fraternity pledge process of sorts.

And to a certain degree there might be. The probate show for B-2 is your first package in B-3. Instead of a crest or shield you get a lapel pin in the shape of a lavaliere. The colors for the fraternity/sorority is green (since KOMU 8 goes green). I'm still not sure of a name. Maybe Beta Beta Tau (you know B-2).

All jokes aside, thought I should share some of the lessons I learned in B-2 with those coming up behind me from B-1.

  • Approach this like you ARE pledging. This class WILL take up a lot of your time. Make no mistake about it. The semester you take this class might be the semester you think about taking that pottery elective. No offense to pottery majors.
  • Devote one day to this class. This is a major thing that NO ONE TOLD ME. Planning your schedule find at least one day with nothing else on it. No lab. No classes. No nothing. This will make your life easier. You will have that day devoted to shooting your stories and maybe doing some writing.
  • Plan nothing before your lab. This will just make your life easier. Having nothing before you lab will give you that pad to get done what you need to get done. Maybe sure up your editing of your package. Knocking out story ideas. Finishing your reporter's checklist. Even though Prof. Kyle WILL tell you this is probably your most important class you don't want to have to miss other classes just to survive this one.
  • Get your life together. I had a pledge class sister--I mean fellow student, who would always say to me: "Chrisssss, I need to get my life together." And no matter how hard she tried, things just would not get right for her. I couldnt offer much sympathy because MY LIFE WASN'T TOGETHER. I didn't always have everything done. I over-planned and under-allocated time. But towards the end of the semester, we both started to get our lives together.
  • Expect sacrifices. This class will zap you but this is why you are at Mizzou--to learn the business and Prof. Kyle will push you to be the best you can be but he already knows what to do. You will have to make some sacrifices during the semester. Instead of going home for Thanksgiving or Spring Break you might want to think about knocking out your edit test, or your video patrols or even a shift (these words will make sense soon). Some of my classmates thought I was borderline blasphemous to go no where on spring break but I was able to knock out most of my assignments and at the same time became familiar with the station, the people and the equipment.
  • Make friends. This is why this felt like a pledge process to me. You have to make friends to get things done. You don't know everything. Your classmates will pretend to know everything--they don't. However, collectively you will all know a lot. You have to reach out to people for help and reach out TO HELP classmates. This is very important. I have met some great people (Sean Hirshberg, Maurico Bush, Cynthia Yang, Alex Holley, Bianca, Olivia Wilmsen, Modupe Idowu, Nick Chaney) here in B-2 and some great friends at the station (Jessie Fowble, Becca Habegger, Ryan Takeo (AKA STAND UP KING), Sophia Beausoleil, Michael Spencer, Jena Pike, Alex Rozier, Lauren Whitney, Megan Murphy, Cate Kelly). They all are willing to help. And that is the attitude that you should have. You will never know when you need someone to crash edit for you later on down the line or make calls for you. Put out good karma and get it back.
  • Realize who are your friends. But realize that not everyone in B-2 is your friend or will share your passion for the craft. Some are very blasé about the class. Don't adopt that mentality. In fact run away from them.
  • Ask questions. People at the station will constantly say this and the good thing is THEY MEAN IT. Some times they will be stressed or having a bad day and be curt but still ask. You would rather look a fool there than in front of mid-Missouri. But don't expect someone to help you at 5 minutes to the show and they are producing. They have their own things to deal with.
  • Prof Kyle is one Bad mother--shut your mouth. He will give you this look of death and shame at times. I'm convinced his favorite word is "trifle" as in "this blog is a trifle long", "this shot is a trifle tight" or "this shot is a trifle wide." I get a kick out of it but take all of his criticisms of your work and try to be better. Sometimes you will feel dumber than PC computers during your lab sessions. You will want the whole class to disappear not only for your package to run but also for his first critique. He will lean back in the chair or start tapping his dreaded green pen on the desk and you will think your heart has stopped beating and your lungs have exhausted themselves. Sometime he will nit-pick your work. Not because he enjoys it (I think---I HOPE) but because he wants you to be the best journalist in the world. Take it all in stride.
  • Learn to separate work from you. This is a hard one. You have poured a lot into your work and when you get a criticism you might think it is directed at you personally and that you are a bad person. NO IT'S NOT. Your work is important and yes it is a reflection of you but it is not you. Learn this lesson and Prof. Kyle won't have to take out the box of tissues for you.
  • Learn to read. Read EVERYTHING you can. The newspapers, blogs, fellow classmates blogs, magazines. EVERYTHING. Not because something might end up on a current events quiz but for your own edification and that it may prompt a great story idea. And read the web page. A lot of information is there.
  • Be on time. I was taught: "Early is on time. On time is late. And late is unacceptable." Learn to be on time or early with everything. This will save you stress. TRUST ME. When you are at the station I have learned this is golden. Especially when you are finally turning packages. If you finish early go to the control room EARLY (not 2 minutes before a show) and ask if you can see your package in there. They will help because they don't want to look a fool or have you look the fool either.
  • Try to get a volunteer VOP or PA shift. I felt cheated that I didn't do this. You will be so far ahead of everyone else if you have experience shooting or editing on Avid. And it might be better to make a mistake out there where everyone knows more than you and can help you. Rather than in B-2 where your grade is on the line.
  • Make the first class. I missed it and missed some great information. I was getting points taking off for putting my name on the wrong place. Thing was I didn't know and it was no one's fault BUT MY OWN.
  • Take ownership of your mistakes and learn. Don't blame anyone for the audio problems, or the shooting or the editing. Its your mistake regardless of who did it. But mistakes are good because you should learn from them.
  • Reach back. When I first started in the business as a still photographer, my mentor was a master fine arts photographer. Every weekend and some days I would spend hours and hours in her lab just burning through paper and chemicals. They were very expensive but she wouldn't let me give her a dime. "Some one helped me, so I'm helping you," she would say. The next year I joined the staff of a leading newspaper and had a run-down bag. The chief photographer from the OTHER paper bought me one of the nicest bags around. "Some one helped me, so I'm helping you," he said. I didn't find out until later that the photographer had studied with my mentor but he didn't know I studied with her. Since then I have always tried to reach back and help. And it could be in monetary things but it can also be in time and energy. I've helped school with PR cause they just didn't know how and couldn't really afford a specialist. I've bought a first suit for an up and coming reporter. I help because without help I would not be here today.
  • Remember that you represent someone. You represent yourself, your family, Prof. Kyle, Mizzou, KOMU and the J-School. When you are out in the world remember these things. Your actions don't only reflect you but many other people and entities.

Follow these words of wisdom and one day you may make it though Beta Beta Tau and be ready for Kappa Omicron Mu Upsilon (KOMU) and the real world.

Amazing story ... amazing results

Alex Rozier won the YouTube competition recently with a story on transportation systems for the needy. But that wasn't the story that stood out. The one that got him to the final was.

Rozier told the story of a teenager fighting bone cancer for over four years.

He left us with many gold coins to pick up along the journey. The first part of the story seems as if its going to tell the story of the cheerleaders or the seniors. There aren't moments of confusion or non-clarity. It sets us up to meet this amazing cheerleader. Its not until almost a minute into the story that you find out that the cheerleader cheers from a wheelchair. It was a moment where your heart is twisted in knots and you feel connected to Amanda McDaniel.

"You try not to change your world as much as possible," she says in the report.

Then another hit. You find out doctors removed "about one-third" of her body--her left leg. With of this pain this young lady is still able to make the honor roll, go rock-climbing and even one-leg skiing. Amazing.

"We have recently learned the news that the cancer has continued to grow beyond the treatment and the procedures that we have taken," her mom drops on us.

Through all this sadness, through the mom crying, through Amanda crying, we are reminded of hope in the world.

"She has taught us that there is joy in the journey," her mom says through tears, "regardless of what that journey looks like."

You have a feeling of sadness. A feeling of connection. And a feeling of hope.

Good journalism and story-telling makes you feel. Makes you connect. Makes your heart stop.

The story of Amanda McDaniel does just that.





Friday, April 9, 2010

Transgendered sportscasters

Bryant Gumbel recently featured one of the strangest things in baseball. It wasn't a stadium. Or a player. Or even the league. It was about three reporters born men and now women covering the nation's favorite pasttime.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

I'm just a bill ...

The Missouri House passed an abortion bill that would make changes to current law including requiring doctors to report girls under the age of 18 who not only go through with a procedure but who also inquire about one.

The bill passed with an overwhelming majority and moved to the Senate. If you want to read about the bill you can read it here.

One of the reporters at KOMU had already interviewed the bill sponsor Rep. Cynthia Davis and I was assigned to get someone who voted against the bill.

I started calling those who voted against the bill. The House was in session at the time so it made it difficult to nail down someone who only wanted to talk but could also make the time. Rep. Hope Whitehead answered her phone when I called her office and she was gracious to give me a few moments. But as I got the Jefferson City, a resolution affecting her district was on the floor. So this gave me a chance to sit in the gallery and not only watch the proceedings but also the extra-curricular activities on the floor. I got to see and over hear a few representatives discuss why they should vote on a particular issue. One even got up from the back and almost ran to the front of the floor to stop another representative from speaking on an issue because "we aren't going that way."

I got an up-close look at how things happen on the floor of the house. It was an extremely interesting experience.

From a journalistic perspective, I learned that patience pays off. Rep. Whitehead gave me some great sound for the VOSOT and she was a gracious individual. She couldn't stop apologizing for making me wait.

I also got to see the lure of covering something that I thought was so boring. I watched as other reporters talked to state leaders and how they can craft all kinds of interesting stories. I almost wanted to beg to be put on the capital beat. Almost.