Our insecurity blanket

Our insecurity blanket

The first time I raised my hand to pitch an idea in a newsroom, I began with four to five disclaimers before even getting to my actual point. It went something like this:
“Sorry, I know this is probably wrong, or someone already said it, or it’s probably stupid, and I don’t know if it makes sense, but ________.”

And then I ended it with, “That probably made no sense, sorry, I don’t know.”

Let’s analyze this for a second, because chances are, you have either heard yourself and/or others do this same self-deprecating, questioning speech many times. And you’ve probably heard it, unfortunately, from a woman.

This type of speech is common for women in professional settings. (This brilliant WashPost article, for example, rewrites famous quotes, “the way a woman would have to say them during a meeting”. ) Not only ingenious and entertaining, but also poignant and telling.

Throughout my life, whether in a classroom, at a party or in an office, men typically make their voices known more loudly, more assuredly and more often than their female counterparts. Of course that is a generalization, and I’ve met my share of confident, outspoken women and shy, uncertain men. People of all genders suffer from insecurity or are just not outspoken. And yet women have been proven to be less confident and less likely to speak up than men, especially in a professional environment.

I read this article recently on this phenomena known as “The Confidence Gap”. While I wish it had gone more in-depth about the social and psychological aspects, overall it provides an excellent analysis of the difference between the confidence levels of men and women and, more importantly, why it exists.

To summarize (even though you should definitely at least peruse that article) there are a number of aspects that may play into this discrepancy. One example begins in the schoolyard.

Firstly, girls are taught from a young age that they are rewarded for being “good girls”: quiet, neat, calm. They are rewarded for being this “perfect” child and learn to link their self worth to this praise. Boys, on the other hand, are excused by a “boys will be boys mentality”. They are expected to be rowdy, loud and messy. While generally this means that boys are scolded more often than girls, it also means that when children are criticized, girls take it more to heart. They internalize those feelings, attributing them to a problem with their deeper selves, while boys often learn to blame external factors.

This is just one example (shortened and simplified quite a bit: read the article!!) of the way in which boys and girls are socialized to see themselves a certain way and to act based on the expectations of others. Many girls, then, learn that being quiet gains approval while speaking up can lead to judgement and, even worse, mistakes. Many boys learn they are rewarded for displaying “masculine” qualities such as competitiveness, outspokenness and assertiveness. (Both sets of these expectations cause problems for all gendered people; this particular post is simply focusing on women.)

And so, after years of sociological and psychological imprinting from a society still steeped in sexism, we reach the later part of our lives when we may be entering the professional world.

Many women, even unconsciously, have a fear of speaking in front of others because they’re terrified of being wrong. For me, even if I was 99% sure I knew the answer in class, I bit my tongue. If I had been thinking of a great idea for a week, it rarely crossed my mind to actually bring it up to someone. Even in large groups outside of work or class, I would often edit everything I thought about saying before actually saying it and then, if it wasn’t perfect, kick myself for speaking up at all.

Of course, not every woman does this, and many men may experience the same problems. Additionally, part of this problem can come from anxiety and other disorders, which impacts millions of people, no matter the gender.

And yet, as I’ve said, women have been proven again and again to suffer from this intense confidence-anxiety more often than men.

This manifests itself in a number of ways. Many females, even those that meet all of society’s requirements for being “successful”(wealthy, powerful, intelligent, ect.), second-guess themselves, constantly self-critique, underestimate their abilities and downplay their own role in their successes.

When I first started thinking about this, I kind of scoffed, to be honest. I don’t do that. I thought. And just like that, I was taken back to a moment my sophomore year during my first news reporting class. My professor told me that my article, which was assigned as a project not meant for publication, was brilliant and well researched. She told me to take it to the local newspaper (the good ol’ Missourian) and look into getting it published. I remember telling a friend and hearing him exclaim how great that was and complimenting my work. I told him that there was no way I was going to turn in that story, I had just gotten lucky and stumbled on that information, and I was definitely not the most qualified person to write the story. And I really believed that. (And no, I didn’t end up publishing the story or going anywhere near the Missourian until the next year).

During my multimedia class, my professor told me I had a gift for photography. I had been told I was bad at art my entire life, and convinced myself I had just magically stumbled across good shots. When a coworker told me I was good at interviews, I laughed and said no way, I talk too much.

Even writing this, it feels like bragging, like I should throw a disclaimer in here to make sure readers don’t think I believe I really am good at all of those things. Which proves just how entrenched this low confidence attitude really is, that even when you recognize it, it’s still hard to shake.

I’ve heard so many of my female friends and coworkers say these same negative mantras about their own work. I just guessed well and got lucky. I was in the right place at the right time. I’m not really good at this, I shouldn’t be here. I don’t really know what I’m doing. I’m not as qualified as someone else. I don’t, I’m not, I can’t, I shouldn’t…

And so on and so on with this unsure, insecure, second-guessing… well, bullshit, to be frank. This isn’t modesty. This is taking all of our talents and successes and badass-ness and burying it underground beneath excuses and inaccurate attribution. This is undermining all of our hard work and natural gifts. This is taking our incredible natures and throwing it in the universe’s face. This is dooming us to never fully grasp not only how great we are, but how great we can still become.

Because it is not ridiculous at all to say every woman I’ve met has had an enormous amount of potential. I know women who are incredible doctors, artists, mothers, CEO’s, journalists, athletes, friends, teachers, photographers, writers, listeners, talkers… And I bet half of them don’t even know it. And they should.

So I have a message for them (and for myself).

It’s time to stop starting every sentence with an apology. It’s time to stop ending every thought with a disclaimer. It’s time to stop attributing every success to some external factor. It’s time to stop telling ourselves we’re not good enough or we don’t belong here. It’s time to stop second-guessing ourselves.

It’s time to shed our insecurity blanket.

It’s time to be confident.

Today was my first day at my internship at Politico in Brussels.

When I had an idea, I called over a coworker and said; “Hey, here’s my idea.” And that was it. And it was a good one.


Photocred: Katealia Lilly


the 33 steps of writing as a jschool kid

the 33 steps of writing as a jschool kid

I never thought I would miss writing essays in high school, but I really do sometimes.

Not necessarily the having to write about whatever topic your teacher picked for you or the introduction and claustrophobic structure, and I definitely don’t miss bulleted outlines and intext citations. But I do miss the simplicity and straightforward-ness of the high school essay.

In high school it was like:

  1. Outline
  2. Introduction
  3. Thesis with three things you’re gonna try and say
  4. Three body paragraphs with an opening sentence, and then the things you’re trying to say
  5. conclusion
  6. switch rough draft with closest friend in class who won’t be too mean to you
  7. hand it in and hope for the best

Journalistic writing is more freeing, but it’s also, for lack of a better word, floopy.

This is my writing process now. And what a wonderful mess it is.

  1. Try to think of something. Literally anything.  0955e45edbe384905496c2969d96e45a
  2. Pitch fourteen ideas to editor.
  3. Get every idea shot down.spit on your neck fantastic
  4. Gather yourself from the puddle you are on the floor and rethink everything.
  5. finally pitch an idea that sticksrachel cheering
  6. realize what you’ve gotten yourself into                    nooo
  7. cry ross cry
  8. do Katherine Reed’s checklist so she won’t yell at you and it actually is pretty helpful
  9. break for coffeecoffee
  10. do a lot of research                                  laptop
  11. start calling everyone you know          phone
  12. lose your voice and get carpal tunnel from typing
  13. drink some hot tea and keep typing and calling
  14. look at the seven pages of interviews you have
  15. cry                                                                     ross 100% done
  16. take a nap and probably dream about getting kicked out of the jschoolsleep.gif
  17. gather yourself and start organizing everything. somehow. maybe.
  18. get cranky with everyone around you dont touch the computer
  19. try really hard not to tell your photographer what to do because you know they know what they’re doing but you’re a control freak and need to just take a deep breath and count to ten and not be an assholedont hate
  20. get something that resembles a story
  21. show your editor and listen to them talk like thiscryyy
  22. learn you did about two thousand things wrong find out your
  23. no matter how nice they try to be, convince yourself you are trash and everything you touch turns to trash, but try to be chill about itim fine
  24. talk to a friend/parent/attentive animal who probably doesn’t understand half of what you’re saying because you’re talking really fast and using words like “DSLR” and “nut graf” but the point is you just need to get it off your chest so thank you i think i know what i need to do now go about your business mizzou squirrelpull yourself together
  25. drink coffeecoffee 3
  26. look up after three hours and find something actually pretty decentexciteder
  27. show your editor and it kind of feels like they’re doing this to youjoey pushing ross
  28. redo half of it, fact and accuracy check, aka back to the grinder for another three hours and everythings starting to sound like this eh blue blah floo
  29. probably show your editor again and fix sixty more things stop the madness
  30. press submit and breathe for thirty seconds until you realize that you just wrote something that actual human beings are going to read and what if they don’t like it? and what if you got something wrong? and what if you didn’t say everything that needed to be said and what if
  31. just calm your shit and take a nap.      nap
  32. do it all again the next day.
  33. and most importantly: love it the whole time because somehow, there’s still nothing else you’d rather be doing. hug

Gone with the Wolfe: If we were in a movie

Gone with the Wolfe: If we were in a movie

If the Concerned Student 1950 movement was made into a movie, I think I know how Hollywood would do it. They would stick to Mizzou’s shiny campus, make Tim Wolfe the antagonist asshole, frame the media as manipulative, arrogant vultures, and the credits would roll when Wolfe, the evil, sociopathic President, resigned. Happily ever after, no more racism, no more sadness ever, and an upbeat Killers song would drown out any doubts of that.

I wish life was like that.

Instead, I don’t know what Tim Wolfe is like in his personal life. I know that in the grand scheme of things, that doesn’t matter. I understand the symbolism of demanding the resignation of a president who doesn’t understand systematic oppression and it’s necessity to the movement. I know politically and socially, it doesn’t matter what kind of person Wolfe is. But I also know that it’s not as simple as he was “the bad guy”, and I also know it would make it easier if he was, like if I knew he killed bunnies in his spare time or something.

Unlike the movies, the story doesn’t end with his resignation. After attending the Concerned Student 1950 and the MSA press conferences, it was clearer than ever to me that the next few months are integral to what kind of administration takes over this university. And a series of many different decisions impact what happens next at MU.

Unlike the movies, the setting is not just at Mizzou. The camera doesn’t pan out slowly to show the eagle eye view of Jesse Hall and the Columns and then pan to black. This is a nationwide issue. It goes beyond the walls of our campus and the implications of this week at MU will impact places we don’t even know about.

Unlike the movies, the journalists that Hollywood would likely portray as nosy and obnoxious are, both unfortunately and fortunately, not like that. Unfortunately, because, instead, many of them, including myself, deeply care about what we are reporting on. This is not about journalists. But the actions of certain protestors today forced many newsrooms to have a serious discussion about first amendment rights and where media stands when covering these kind of issues.

Today is a one of historical proportions. It is also a day of celebration, passion, joy, hope and power. And, in some ways, it is one of frustration and confusion.

I have never been so aware of the complexities that spring out of social movements. Not only are things not black and white, they aren’t even just the primary colors. They are every single color under the sun, every shade between magenta and neon yellow.

I recognize how much we have left to do as a society to achieve equality for all marginalized groups. I realize that no matter what, there will be people who are bad guys who get away with things and good guys that take the fall, but more than likely, there will be people with both good and bad inside of them that experience a little of both.

I also am beginning to comprehend the complicated relationship between the press and the people. I hate the phrase “the media”. It has become a dirty term to me. It has been used as an umbrella term to include every freelancer with a camera, every large news organization with fifty cameras, every editor trying to make sure the story is told accurately, every reporter trying to make sure the story is told with heart, every new student reporter trying to figure out journalism in general, every student reporter who is interviewing their peers and trying not to be biased.

Maybe some of them were just there “for the scoop”. But probably, many of them were there because they, and their organization, feel that this is something that should be covered and should be covered well. It’s hard to know exactly what protestors feel is crossing a line and what is not. Media attention is what brings the eyes of the nation to such an important issue. But doing this in a disrespectful way is obviously not okay. This line, however, is not only just blurry, it is also different for different people. Hence, the complex challenge of being a reporter covering this event and others like it.

While I am swelling with pride over the incredible activism and justice this campus has shown, while I am amazed by Concerned Student 1950 and their bravery, while I am glad progress has been made on the road to equality, I am also more aware than ever that this is not a movie.

There are no assigned roles. I don’t know the full cast, I’m not sure what the overall plot is, and I sure as hell don’t know all the lines. The resolution is far from here, and as far as I’m concerned, for me and for many others, these are just the opening scenes. And who knows what kind of ending it will have.

P.S. If you need any information on what’s happening at Mizzou, check out the following links.

Wolfe Resigns

Timeline of Events

An open letter about “the media”

An open letter about “the media”

With everything going on at Mizzou these past few months, I have heard people say negative things about “the media” more times than I can count. I have heard reporters being told to fuck off, photographers being yelled at and speeches made about how the media doesn’t care about the cause at hand.

I am NOT offended or hurt by these occurrences. Being cursed at after asking for an interview is nothing compared to the pain and injustices that have been done to my black peers and other minorities who are protesting on campus. What does bother me about these statements, however, is they show how mistrustful many people are of news outlets as a whole. And this has eliminated any kind of dialogue from happening between “the media” and “the people”.

I in no way want to make this about me or reporters because it isn’t. But it also is important for this cause that reporters and activists form a positive relationship.

I have sat in on so many meetings in the Missourian where every person in the room is brainstorming how we can best cover these kind of events on campus. I have seen reporters get emotional in the newsroom and out of it. This is our campus, our friends, ourselves that are being directly impacted by these events.

But when we go out into the field, we are obligated to be unbiased and professional. Newspapers cannot write pieces in a tone that suggest they’re best friends with the subject. Some of our readers may not know anything about these protests, and if the first thing they see is biased reporting, we’ve already lost them. In order to get people reading about these events to listen and take it seriously, we have to show them our reporting is accurate and not clouded by our own feelings. Logic and reasoning have to take precedence over our emotions.

And that’s why we need to be able to talk to people. Because while we have to remain impartial, it’s the people we’re talking to who bring the heart to the story. That’s why we want interviews. That’s why we want quotes and stories. Not to get “the scoop”, not to get a good story and then leave. We want to do this so people can tell their own stories, so readers can see for themselves the personal experiences of many minority groups, including black men and women, on campus.

I am not black, and therefore I do not understand what it is like to be oppressed by a racist society. I am not gay, or Asian American, or any other minority that has been the subject of prejudice at MU. I am still working to understand my own privilege and educate myself on how I can be an ally to my peers.

Because I do not have these personal experiences, I cannot write about them on my own. My personal voice has no place in a story about racist injustice and oppression on campus. That is why I, and many of my fellow reporters, ask for interviews and want to open a conversation. This is not our story, it is yours, and we need your help to tell it in the news medium. People who are not on campus or don’t have social media of any kind still get their news from papers, and this may be one of the only forums they have to become educated on current events.

I understand that some media outlets take advantage of, manipulate and do a great injustice to minorities. Especially in reporting about black rights and lives, some news outlets have shown their own racist colors and manipulated reporting to produce inaccurate, prejudiced stories. While this is incredibly unjust to black men and women, it is also detrimental to the dialogue that has to happen between news outlets and members of movements such as Black Lives Matter and Concerned Student 1950.

Many news outlets do want to report what’s happening in an accurate way. I can’t speak for the Missourian, but from what I’ve witnessed in the newsroom, we want to do our part to heal the broken relationship between “the media” and the people. But that’s nearly impossible to do if no one will talk to us. A dialogue needs to happen. Not for our sake, not because our feelings are hurt or we’re upset, but because this movement and what it stands for is incredibly complex and important and it deserves to be reported perfectly. That cannot happen without a conversation.

P.S. I am not an expert journalist. I am also not an expert on racism, activism or many other related subjects. If I have said anything that is incorrect, please let me know. I’m learning, too, and would not want to be purposefully ignorant. I also am not the official voice of the Missourian and if I have said anything problematic, it is my opinion alone and may not necessarily represent the views of the paper as a whole.

Tiny Stories

Tiny Stories

Sometimes I get so caught up in the details of journalism, I forget what it really is.

In-between calling the same source fifteen times to try and get an interview, fact checking until 3 am, pulling my hair out trying to get everything together by deadline and all the other nitty gritty parts of writing a story, it’s easy to forget what I’m actually doing in the first place. And it’s just that – writing a story.

I realized this while reading Natalia’s amazing domestic violence piece. I’ve seen and talked to her so many times over the past month, hearing about her struggles to get interviews, hunts for information and participation in many different events to find sources. When I read her article, however, I didn’t see all of that. All the sweat, blood and tears were wiped away to reveal a cohesive, amazing story. The story of suffering, resilience, hope, frustrations, and so many other things.

I think that it’s important to remind myself of this every once in awhile. Take a massive step back and, not to sound cliche, but look at the bigger picture.

It’s hard not to get caught up in the strokes and pinpoints that I’m currently focusing on and think about what the final work should look like to do that story justice. Even Van Gogh must have stepped back from his easel every once in awhile to remind himself why he was spending hours shading in a corner of his canvas in the first place.

It all contributes to the bigger picture, the end result, a larger universe made up of tiny stories.

Did Rita Skeeter have a boyfriend?

Did Rita Skeeter have a boyfriend?

Yesterday, I went to the Missouri Honor Medal, Women and the Media panel, which featured three of the most inspirational women in the journalism world and was led by Jacqui Banasynski.

I have been feeling uninspired, unmotivated and, frankly, tired of journalism lately. I couldn’t wait to be reinvigorated by these women, ready to leave the room with a journalism high.

What actually happened, however, was quite different.

The discussion began with the question of “Can women in positions of power have it all?” This was actually brought up to point out the fact that men are never asked this question and women often are and the sexism this shows.

But then the women of the panel began to honestly discuss the question. Not just in regards to women, but to all journalists.

And the answer was: No. It’s not really possible to be everything you want to be both professionally and personally. There’s always something you’re going to sacrifice, whether it’s those extra hours at the office or that school play your daughter is in.

That’s how almost all jobs are. You’re going to have to find a balance between a private life and a professional one, especially in a world that demands longer hours, more education, more time, more everything.

For journalists, however, this conversation can include so many other facets.

In the case of Rita Skeeter, the exploitative, hard-nosed, gossipy (but unarguably successful and ambitious) journalist from Harry Potter, she gave up everything for her career. Even if that career included exaggerated stories, manipulative, unethical and libelous “journalism”, I can’t help but be impressed by her dedication to her craft, no matter how witchy. (haha get it, because she’s a witch? and also, like, an actual witch?)


For example, I want to travel. I want to go to struggling places that the world is not paying attention to and make them do so.

I also want to cover issues that may not necessarily be warm and cuddly. the giant Caution sign hanging above trauma reporting, that’s still an area of journalism I’m drawn to.

How will those dreams specifically affect my personal life? If I’m traveling all the time, that’s going to make having a family much harder. If I’m covering wars, national disasters and other serious issues, it may make it more difficult to be emotionally stable for my significant other and children.

And that really scares me.


Did Rita Skeeter ever have this issue? Did she ever, inbetween getting interviews with her infamous quill, stalking Harry in the Goblet of Fire, turning into a beetle to get the scooop, and calling Dumbledore an absolute dingbat, have some kind of personal life? Did she have other hobbies besides gossip? Did Rita Skeeter have a boyfriend?

Needless to say, halfway through this panel I was mildly freaking out.tumblr_inline_np5xsgARSM1r0xdmr_500

How much am I willing to give up for my journalistic dreams? Is it worth the personal sacrifice if I also make even the smallest positive impact in the world?

I guess I’ll just have to take the advice that Barbara Ehrenreich,  Merrill Perlman and Meredith Artley gave at the end of the panel in response to the question “What makes it worth it?”

It’s an adventure, they agreed. That’s the passion that will drive you.

As with life, journalism as a whole, whether you’re covering political races, the Superbowl, national disasters, or Harry Potter’s love life, it’s all one great big adventure.