It’s not always easy to balance journalism and a personal life. Sometimes, it’s nearly impossible. My prescription for Zoloft ran out, so I’ve been without it for about a week and a half and I’m starting to feel it. My anxiety is worse, my motivation has dropped and everything seems so much more difficult. This is just one of those times when I’m challenged to put aside my personal problems and work harder on the story in front of me. I’m 100% sure others have had to struggle with a lot more than some anxiety when working on a story and I’m also 100% sure they still kept their head up and did it. So if they can, I can too.
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:
- Thesis with three things you’re gonna try and say
- Three body paragraphs with an opening sentence, and then the things you’re trying to say
- switch rough draft with closest friend in class who won’t be too mean to you
- 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.
- Try to think of something. Literally anything.
- Pitch fourteen ideas to editor.
- Get every idea shot down.
- Gather yourself from the puddle you are on the floor and rethink everything.
- finally pitch an idea that sticks
- realize what you’ve gotten yourself into
- do Katherine Reed’s checklist so she won’t yell at you and it actually is pretty helpful
- break for coffee
- do a lot of research
- start calling everyone you know
- lose your voice and get carpal tunnel from typing
- drink some hot tea and keep typing and calling
- look at the seven pages of interviews you have
- take a nap and probably dream about getting kicked out of the jschool
- gather yourself and start organizing everything. somehow. maybe.
- get cranky with everyone around you
- 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 asshole
- get something that resembles a story
- show your editor and listen to them talk like this
- learn you did about two thousand things wrong
- 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 it
- 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 squirrel
- drink coffee
- look up after three hours and find something actually pretty decent
- show your editor and it kind of feels like they’re doing this to you
- redo half of it, fact and accuracy check, aka back to the grinder for another three hours and everythings starting to sound like this
- probably show your editor again and fix sixty more things
- 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
- just calm your shit and take a nap.
- do it all again the next day.
- and most importantly: love it the whole time because somehow, there’s still nothing else you’d rather be doing.
There are a million different opinions floating around campus and the nation right now about our school.
Out of all these different perspectives, I think there is one thing that we can agree on when it comes to our campus specifically.
A conversation has been started at MU.
Some parts of that conversation might consist only of discussion about why classes were cancelled yesterday. Others might be about the tents on the quad, or why Tim Wolfe resigned, or what Jonathan Butler went on the hunger strike for.
Whatever it is people are talking about, at least they’re talking. Racial issues are something that many of us were taught not to talk about. As a white person, this was my experience. When we were little, our parents would be embarrassed by our questions about skin color. In school, we didn’t talk about how few or how many black teachers we had. Even saying someone was black as a physical description of their appearance seemed taboo at times.
And now, the conversation has been opened. These topics aren’t seen as taboo anymore – these issues have always been real and relevant, but now the dialogue can be the same way. I have seen examples of people being afraid to discuss racism at all for fear of being called racist themselves. That fear has been, if not completely dismantled, at least pushed aside because of the immediacy and openness that Concerned Student 1950 and other protestors have created.
Many people may have avoided conversations about race in the past because they were uncomfortable. When there are protestors on our campus quad and in speaker circle, emails from administration being sent out, students and teachers discussing events in the classroom and national news outlets turning their cameras to Mizzou, comfort zones and avoidance of this conversation no longer exist.
And that is a very good thing. Because what else are universities for than opening our minds and educating us? One of my professors told us this today; “College is a time for us to try things, to open up our minds and see things from different perspectives and decide what kind of human being you’re going to be. Not what kind of job you’re going to have. You’re all going to have job eventually one day. But you’re going to be a person 24 hours a day. So the real question is: what kind of person are you gonna be?”
So, Mizzou, I hope the conversation continues. I hope it is positive, open-minded and constructive. I hope you develop a skepticism for what you think you already know. I hope you listen to your peers who are protesting and try to understand their perspective, whether it adheres to what you have believed you whole life or not. And most of all, I hope as you decide what kind of person you’re going to be, it’s a good one.
photocred: Ellise Verheyen for the Columbia Missourian
Last night, I scrolled through Twitter for three hours, unable to put my phone down for more than a minute. I’m sure this was the experience of many of my peers as well.
Threats were posted on the social media forum Yik Yak and Twitter exploded in a frenzy of fear, anger and confusion. Rumors were spreading rapidly that the KKK was in Greektown. There were multiple accounts of people were driving around campus in pick up trucks terrorizing black people.
There are many things to discuss here. I will hit a few that I feel are most important.
- I am so sorry. I am so sorry to my black peers. I am sorry that your skin color makes you a target for hate and harm. I am sorry that you are being forced to decide between going to class and being safe. I am sorry that Concerned Student stood up for equality and the reaction is death threats to every black student on campus. I am sorry that my race is responsible for your oppression.
- If you are a black student, please be careful and safe today.
- The struggle between sifting through rumors to get confirmed information while still addressing people’s fears and concerns is one that I feel MU alerts lost. As a news outlet, the Missourian today is discussing our role is separating rumor from fact while also ensuring people feel that something is being done about these threats. Although obviously I am biased, I feel that news outlets did a better job of keeping students constantly updated, while MU seemed overly concerned with only posting enough information to keep people from panicking. People were already panicking. It was their responsibility to keep us informed at that point, and they did not.
- It was very interesting to start to see an accuracy checking system emerge from Twitter. People began asking where people got their information and calling it out when it was incorrect.
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.
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.
Today was another long day in the newsroom and I’m starting to appreciate the fact that there is a variety of food a block away… #thanksChipotle