June 23, 2005

TIME OUT: Questions?

I've discovered another way journalism helps me outside the newsroom.

As a member of my college's diversity initiative, I'm on the selection committee hearing presentations by diversity consultant firms. Sitting through hours of presentations, I realized how journalism prepared me to ask questions -- real questions.

"Since you said the initiative may to take 3 - 10 years, what specific steps will you take to reach students currently enrolled in two-year programs?"

"Aside from targeting students on campus from 9 a.m. - 2 - p.m, how will you reach students in evening and weekend classes, attending our off-campus sites, and distance learners?"

Restating source-provided information in the question offers him or her a chance to clarify, provide a better understanding and -- answer the question.

People, which most journalists are, like to believe they ask good questions, but they don't. It takes skill and an understanding of human behavior. Some ask questions for many reasons having little to do with the search for knowledge including to show their cleverness, to make statements, to be adversarial or to show favor.

When a reporter repeatedly says he or she didn't get good quotes from the source, ask to hear the questions. Before the reporter heads out to the interview

Any questions?

June 20, 2005

QUOTE/UNQUOTE: Non-traditional Students

This is one of my favorite quotes. Its gotten me through some hard academic times. Maybe it can help you, too.




In your temporary failure there is no evidence that you may not yet be a better scholar, and a more successful man in the great struggle of life, than many others, who have entered college more easily.

-Abraham Lincoln,1860

June 7, 2005

INTERNSHIP: Size Matters

I submitted my piece on El Centro's 30th anniversary today. As ususal when I started writing this weekend I had too many words and sources. However I kept getting this feeling I needed more. I tried contacting others sources but they were in meetings or just didn't want to talk to me. I guess the journalism gods were telling me to just finish the damn story.
In an industry where we measure by inches, I've counterintuitively learned bigger isn't always better. But how do we know when its big enough? Journalists never finish their stories, we just surrender to the deadline.
I haven't mentioned Josh in this posting? He brought me a paper with one of his stories. I'm so proud of that kid.

June 5, 2005

INTERNSHIP: Silver Linings

Finally!

Josh sent me an e-mail yesterday informing me The Star published my story last Wednesday. That's something I should have found out from someone at my bureau.


My first story published in The Kansas City Star. Unfortunately you must register as a user of the website to read it. It's free.

Reading it over, its pretty much what I wrote. However it now contains a factual error, more being verbs and a lede that ends with a preposition -- which I usually don't do.

Yes, I'm pointing out a half-empty glass while reminding everyone lemonade comes from lemons. Despite my Debbie Downer demeanor in social settings, this negative and slightly paranoid quality helps as a journalist.

I'm working on a story about local organization celebrating its 30th anniversary. At the event, I found myself in the path of the mayor of Kansas City, Kan. Taking a deep breath and a small step to the left, I stopped him in his tracks and fired off a few questions about the urban core, immigration and the unified government.

Unfortunately, in my haste I forgot to press record on my voice recorder. With handwriting as bad as an editor's, my notes read like a first grader's handmade Mother's Day card. So I either paraphrase the mayor or follow up the quotes with a phone call Monday.

June 3, 2005

INTERNSHIP: Inequalities

I need to initiate a difficult conversation with my supervisor.

When I interviewed for the internship my nose for news immediately told me something was wrong. Disregarding this instinct, I let things slide. Pushing forward (and my doubts aside) I accepted my post with its limitations. After all, I'm just an intern and they know what they're doing, right?

"The word 'slave' is so degrading. Why don't we call you
'intern.'"

New Yorker magazine Feb. 16, 2004


Yet even before our internships officially start, Josh's supervisor gave him a desk, e-mail, voice mail and server access. Josh is already being published, working choice story assignments, becoming familiar with the software and most important -- he's learning. Josh is a good man and after a year of overcoming management's obstacles at The Campus Ledger, he deserves a chance to shine.

My difficult conversation comes from knowing the inequities of our internships. Three years of college newsroom management experience taught me that a supervisor cannot treat every staff member the same.

Having researched and written style guides and policy manuals, I know they set the minimum standard. Conversely, they don't set the maximum level of supervision and guidance either.

Individuals in different departments with various levels of experience demand specialized attention. Treating everyone equally is not the same as treating them fairly.

I, like other interns, simply want the basic tools others have to do their jobs. We want to learn the minimum standard so we can exceed it. We want the same chance to learn and shine.

June 1, 2005

INTERNSHIP: Episode I

I'm into my second week as an intern at The Kansas City Star. I work in the Neighborhood News section serving Wyandotte & Leavenworth counties.

My friend, Josh, also serves as an intern in the Neighborhood News section though he works in several bureaus in the Johnson County area. Our internships, through our college's journalism department, don't officially start until the summer session begins June 6 however he's already gotten some work published.

I, on the other hand, had my first assignment exiled to the editing Phantom Zone from which copy rarely returns.

This summer interns will struggle to find their place in newsrooms and we could use some guidance. However, we realize sometimes its up to us to teach ourselves.

Well, if anything, I'm resourceful.

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