Finally getting the hang of it

As far as general assignment shifts go, today was one of the best. I’m happy to say that I’m finally getting the hang of how things work in the Missourian newsroom.

As soon as I walked into the newsroom, I was handed a story assignment about a motorcycle crash that had happened the night before. Although I only had a few short paragraphs to write for the story and I was unable to get the man’s condition from the University Hospital, it was nice to be able to get something done so quickly. We had the story up even before lecture started at 9:30 a.m.!

Then I went to go cover the fire that didn’t actually happen. Our assistant city editor on duty was listening in on the police/fire scanner and heard of a fire that was allegedly burning down a house near Moberly, Missouri. She sent me to the location, which was about 20 minutes away, but when I got there, there wasn’t a fire to be seen.

I returned to the newsroom, a little disappointed that I didn’t get to cover anything as exciting as a fire would have been.

However, I was presented with another story assignment a little while later. I was told to go down to the Boone County Courthouse to receive the probable cause statement for a child abuse arrest that had happened two days earlier.

It turns out, a Moberly woman, who was the caretaker for a 12-year-old boy with disabilities had abused and assaulted him on several occasions.

Reading the statement and then composing a story was a challenge. I wasn’t sure how much of the terrifying details I should include, and I was horrified at what this woman had done to the poor child. But, I’m overall happy with how the end product turned out. Check out my  story here!

Hopefully this shift is one of many general assignment days which will be exciting and busy. Time always passes a lot faster and I have a lot more fun when I get the chance to go out into the world to report.

 

 

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No more tired ledes

During Tuesday’s lecture we had the much-needed discussion about how to format a decent lede. Coming from a high school background in journalism, I’ve been writing ledes for years. However, I’ve never really been the best at writing them.

Before entering the world of journalism, I absolutely loved creative writing – publishing a novel had always been my dream growing up. But as soon as I walked into my first journalism class, everything changed. I was told that my writing was great, but it needed to be more journalistic. I was overly verbose in my writing, and I needed to learn how to follow the cut-and-dry format that all journalists used. So, I adapted and my writing became bland and lacked emotion. Now, I struggle to write anything out of this style.

Hearing from my editor during this class, however, changed the way I’ve been looking at journalism for the past couple of years. It turns out, some of the best journalism out there is bold and risky. After being taught to write carefully and to keep objectivity in mind, it’s hard to believe that this can be the case.

One of my favorite examples that was given in lecture was former crime reporter Edna Buchanan’s “Gary Robinson died hungry.”

This was the lede in one of Buchanan’s stories for the Miami Herald, in which she described the crime scene that took place at a local Church’s Chicken restaurant. A man by the name of Gary Robinson drunkenly attempted to march to the front of the line, only to be told by the staff there that he had to wait like the rest of the customers. When Robinson got to the front of the line again, the store was out of chicken. Angrily, he attacked the worker and was then shot dead by security.

While Buchanan’s lede for this story was risky, I feel that it encompassed the story as best as it could.

As I continue on at the Missourian and in my career as a journalist, I strive to write as incredible a lede as Buchanan. Hopefully one day, I’ll be able to master clever lede-writing.

Uncertainty with the Affordable Care Act

As a reporter on the public safety and health beat for the Columbia Missourian, I’ve been spending a great deal of my time and efforts concentrating on the Affordable Care Act and the impact its repeal could have on the general public. My very first story idea, and a story I spent a few weeks reporting on, dealt with the under-26 provision of the act, specifically what would happen if it were repealed and how that would affect the students at Mizzou, Stephens College and Columbia College.

Now, with the confusion currently residing in the legislative branch concerning the future of the Affordable Care Act, the Missourian staff has decided to put all ACA reporting on hold. Unfortunately, this includes my story. Although the story was completed and ready to publish, Missourian editors decided to push back the publication date until there is a little more certainty that the act will be repealed (or rather that anything will change at all in the near future).

Despite President Donald Trump’s claim that he would “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act with something much better, it seems unlikely that anything will happen in the next year or so.

This is exactly what three of the sources I spoke to for my story told me. One of my sources, an associate law professor at MU, Sam Halabi, said that it would be unlikely for congressional representatives to replace the Affordable Care Act anytime soon due to upcoming elections. With many seats opening up in the 2018 elections, he said many representatives who wanted to be reelected would not want to be seen as the one who took affordable health insurance away from the public.

The New York Times’ Affordable Care Act long read, “Will Obamacare Really Go Under the Knife?” expresses a similar view. The article details the history of the Affordable Care Act, from the moment it was signed by former President Barack Obama to current day. It truly is an exceptional read, especially if you’ve been trying to follow the health care debate currently going on in the U.S. government.

While the future of the Affordable Care Act is uncertain at this point, there have been several proposals in Congress as to possible replacements. Many of these proposals include portions of the Affordable Care Act that are already in place, and merely take away unpopular elements.

I suggest taking a look at some of the work Congress is doing to figure out a replacement plan for the act. It seems to me like this is going to be quite a lengthy process, and one with quite a few bumps along the way. The Kaiser Family Foundation has a health care proposal comparison on their website, which is a great way to learn what’s being debated.

For more information about the Affordable Care Act, specifically in relation to the central-Missouri area, check out our previous coverage. And if you have any questions or ideas for further coverage of the Affordable Care Act, please let me know!

Sunshine Law made simple

Before this semester, I had never completed a sunshine request. But, during Tuesday’s lecture, we got the opportunity to hear from our public life editor, Scott Swafford on the topic. He gave us a run-down of the do’s and don’ts of requesting public information from our local representatives and public officials. It’s information that I will be able to carry with me for the entirety of my career in journalism.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with sunshine requests, they are the state of Missouri’s version of the Freedom of Information Act. Pretty much every state has their own version of it. Basically, under law, anyone considered to be a public governmental body is required to disclose documents and other forms of information to the public (including the press) when requested. The governmental body is required to respond to the request within three business days (although honestly they often find so many ways to skirt around this rule).

Swafford showed us the proper format for sunshine requests, saying that they should be professional and that you have to know exactly the right way to ask for what you need. Government officials often use the wording of a journalist’s sunshine request to avoid giving them the proper information.

To get the best results when making a sunshine request, Swafford left us with a few tips:

  • Always be aware
  • Know what information is meant to be public record
  • Know the custodian of records (if you send the request to the wrong person, it will take even longer to get what you’re looking for!)
  • Think like a lawyer and anticipate loopholes
  • Be persistent and insist that people respond
  • Know the appropriate cost of what you’re requesting (this way you won’t pay too much)
  • Learn to negotiate

After this lecture, I’m a lot more comfortable with the idea of requesting information. It’s not as scary as it seems, I promise. If you want to find out more information about the sunshine request system or learn how to properly format a sunshine request visit the website of Missouri’s Attorney General, here.

 

Covering breaking news

As someone who worked as a breaking news editor for The Maneater and really enjoys the thrill of a breaking news story, I absolutely loved the topics covered in lecture this past week. While a lot of what was covered were basics, there was quite a bit of information that would have been extremely helpful to have known last year.

I think my favorite part, however, was during Thursday’s lecture when we divided into groups and tried to figure out a game plan for covering a breaking news story (a fire at the Tiger Hotel) in a news room. It was not only fun, but also super informative. Turns out, I was doing so many things wrong.

Sandra Schiefer, the librarian for the Columbia Missourian, also came in for Tuesday’s class and spoke with us about searching for things on the internet. While I remember hearing from her this past summer in my J2100 class, it was great to get a refresher on it. I know from firsthand experience how frustrating it can be when you can’t find the data or information that you’re looking for for a story. This lecture and review of google searching will hopefully help me to avoid these frustrations in the future.

 

A second GA shift in the books

Today was my second general assignment shift at the Missourian, and I’m thankful to say that it was a lot more exciting than the first! I spent a majority of my last shift twiddling my thumbs and listening to the police scanners, just hoping to come across a story I could break. To my disappointment, the day was rather uneventful, and only one out of the three of us assigned to that day got the opportunity to write and publish a story.

Today was SO much better. Immediately, our supervising editor gave us each an assignment. Mine was to look into the 225th anniversary event/display that the Columbia Public Library currently has. Since I love the library and honestly could spend my every waking minute there, it seemed like a simple enough story.

The day flew by as I quickly did some research on the event that the library will be hosting on Feb. 13. The event is called “Examining Free Speech in the Digital Era,” and it revolves around the relevance of the original ideas in the constitution in modern-day America. It all sounds really exciting and I’m hoping to be able to attend the event next week!

Because the story wasn’t breaking news, I was taking my sweet time in contacting sources and putting all my research together to draft an outline of the story. This was a big mistake. Even though I had classes most of the morning, I wish I had reached out to my sources a little earlier in the day. This would have made my life a lot easier come 3 p.m. when my editor asked for the story and I didn’t yet have it. I quickly scrambled back to the newsroom after having my interview at the library and put together my draft.

Here’s the link to my story about the library’s event! My mumps story was also published earlier this week. Check it out here!

I definitely hope that all of my GA shifts are like this. It makes the day go by so much more quickly when I’m being productive and actually getting things done.

Journalist or Social Media Stalker?

Today in lecture, we discussed the topic of social media – how to make our accounts professional, the impact social media has on our journalistic presence and how to use social media to our advantage as reporters.

It really surprised me how easy it is to find people and search for things via social media. And absolutely nothing is hidden from the public eye; Once you put something out there, it’s available forever. While I have always been taught to be careful what I put on my various social media profiles, that it would come back to bite me later, it wasn’t until today that I realized how big of an impact social media actually has.

We heard a story today about how a previous Missourian reporter was refused an interview solely because she had a social media account that the source found to be inappropriate and unprofessional. I had always thought of social media as being more geared toward a journalist’s audience, but I had never considered that a source would use it to find out more about the journalist who would be interviewing them, let alone deny access because of it. This was definitely eye-opening, and it made me want to go back and comb through my social media accounts to make sure that they were appealing and journalistically appropriate. So, that’s exactly what I did!

Another part of this lecture concerning social media was a social media peer review of one of my fellow classmates. In other words, we are supposed to spend the next week looking through and social media stalking our partner for this assignment, picking apart the various positive and negative aspects of each account. While this is creepy on so many levels, I’m kind of looking forward to using my investigative journalism skills to do a little bit of undercover work!

An Exciting First week

My first week working for the Missourian was exciting to say the least. While I didn’t get anything published this week, I got started on two stories almost immediately!

After our first class and orientation on Tuesday, and pretty much hearing on repeat that we needed to jump immediately into the action, I decided to talk to Katherine, my beat editor, about what I could do this week to get started. Unfortunately, my general assignment shift (where we’re in the newsroom all day awaiting breaking news and event coverage) isn’t until next Thursday. After introducing myself to Katherine, she told me to look into and become an expert on the Affordable Care Act. She said that as a beat reporter for public safety and health, many of our stories would revolve around the act (especially with it possibly being repealed in the near future) and that it would be important to know everything I possibly could about it.

I jumped right into researching ACA (I didn’t know much more than the basics of the act going in) and my attention was instantly drawn to the act’s under 26 provision. I thought it would be interesting to see how students at MU, Stephens College and Columbia College would be impacted by the provision, seeing as there are many students who rely on their parents’ health insurance while they’re at school. I pitched this story to Katherine the next day and she loved it.

So, the majority of my week has consisted of doing research and trying to track down people who are heavily impacted by this provision.

Oh, and I almost forgot! Each Friday afternoon, my beat gets together to discuss story ideas for the week. I took on a quick update story about the mumps outbreak on MU’s campus, which I’ll hopefully have published early next week! What’s kind of funny is that I directed mumps coverage at the end of last semester when I worked as a breaking news editor for The Maneater. I’m looking forward to continuing the investigation!

 

 

Hello, world!

Hello everyone! If you’re new to my blog, this is the place where I post anything and everything journalism related. It also doubles as my very own journalism e-portfolio.

In the past, I’ve used this site to reflect on the activities and assignments of previous journalism classes, as well as various journalism conferences I’ve attended over the years. Now, I will primarily be using my blog to discuss topics presented in my news reporting class at the University of Missouri and to share content I’ve published in the Columbia Missourian.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Missourian, it’s a daily newspaper local to the city of Columbia, Missouri. As part of my news reporting class, I will be covering both local and national news as one of the paper’s public safety and health reporters. I’m incredibly excited to have the opportunity to work alongside such dedicated reporters as those who work for the Missourian! Having the privilege to write for a local newspaper is one of the perks of being a journalism student at the University of Missouri.

I came to the University of Missouri from the rather small town of Oro Valley, Arizona. While Arizona State University would have been the closer option, I fell in love with the University of Missouri campus and had heard amazing things about the journalism school here. I knew in my heart that I was meant to be a Mizzou Tiger. Now, almost two years into my time at the university, I’m entering my interest area and heading down the path to getting my degree in print/digital investigative reporting.

NPR Brings T-shirt Making Process to Life

NPR’s Planet Money Makes A T-shirt is a multimedia project worth being envious of. It not only includes elements of video and text, but also an abundance of graphics that truly bring the story to life. Who knew that a story about making a t-shirt could be so fascinating?

I particularly enjoy the video introductions that mark the beginning of each chapter. They add just the right touch of personality, while also being extremely informative. I feel that without visual elements such as these, not as many people would be interested in following the story. That’s the great thing about multimedia, it makes people want to follow the story from start to finish.

NPR also did a fantastic job of breaking this up into sections (or chapters). This allows people to skip around if they want to, or just to know what each part of the project will cover. Each section is short enough and has enough visual elements as to not be tedious to a reader, but it still gets the main point across. I found it especially interesting to read and watch the video about the process of making cotton into yarn. That’s always been something that I’ve been curious about, so being able to see it broken down in the way that it was by NPR was incredible.

I know for certain that my group’s final multimedia project will be nothing like this one. For one thing, NPR had a team of 10 reporters, had the opportunity to report on three different continents and had months to put together their project. We only have a couple of weeks, have a group of four people and are bound to Columbia. Even so, I plan to use this project as a model for what I would like our final project to be. The layout, the use of graphics and the way in which text is dispersed throughout the entire story are elements that I hope to introduce to my own project. I can only hope that it will be even half the quality that NPR’s t-shirt story is.