As election night approaches, I have been frantically prepping.
I will be covering Dave Spence during election night, and I am excited! It should be a great experience.
Although the odds are not looking much in Spence's favor, it will be good to hear from supporters of him. I also find it extremely interesting that Spence sued Nixon for an advertisement that defamed him by accusing him of using funds to pay for a vacation. I wonder if that had any effect on the election.
My template is all prepped, in case Spence wins or loses, and I am ready for the night. I will update my blog when the time comes.
It seems like the weeks keep getting more adventurous in Jefferson City. This week, I covered a story in Moberly, which required me to leave my comfort zone of making phone calls and instead going in for a live, in person, interview.
Some issues I had were:
1) Finding the building
2) Knowing how to deliver a story in such a short, compressed amount of time (especially when I was driving the majority of the time).
3) Finishing my story by deadline.
I need to improve on all of these elements and am feeling defeated, but not giving up. I talked to my director and he motivated me to start basing my stories off my own good judgement rather than just the facts of the story. Make it interesting and choose the part of the facts that stands out the most.
For example, I should have focused on the Moberly auction as being an event that occurred because of a failed business adventure between China and Missouri and how Gov. Nixon announced with the Mamtek CEO that money would be taken from Moberly and invested in China. That would have had a bigger impact.
Lesson learned and challenge accepted.
This week was... rough. To say the least. I find myself physically and mentally exhausted from graduate school.
But the best part of the week was covering a story on Sen.Claire McCaskill serving food at Flat Branch restaurant in Columbia.
It was a good experience dealing with other journalists trying to get a story out. I found it much easier to get interviews with people while in person (compared with phone calls and spending the whole day waiting for people to call me back).
Also, I loved hearing different sides of the political debate while interviewing dinees inside the restaurant. Most people were in support of McCaskill, but there were a few who were against her and did not like her presence.
And despite minute errors, I would say the story was fun to produce. I cannot wait to feel confident about writing stories and making good stories that my editors love.
I am fully aware of the lack of skills I have when writing radio and broadcast stories. I am so used to writing for literary analyses and communication research analyses that when it comes to writing for the public, I freeze. I need to improve on producing conversational style pieces. Ugh.
As Director Phill Brooks of Missouri Digital News says, "you are either having fun or learning something." I am definitely learning this week.
The story I produced on Tuesday was big--focusing on Gov. Jay Nixon's lack of detail in state funding for high schools and colleges involved in his "campus innovation program." The story itself was crucial, but my audio was not. I heard the same problem from three different people--that my audio was "awful."
And as correct as they are, it still hurts to know that the story I spent so much time on is worthless because of that reason. But being in radio depends on audio because my audience only relies on one sense, and one sense alone: hearing. There are no visuals. So they have to be able to hear everything clearly.
'Tis a lesson learned and an ego hurt.
Moreover, producing the story on Gov. Nixon was new to me. I have never written a political story, so it was frustrating, exciting, and interesting. Frustrating in that Nixon's office would not return my phone calls, exciting because I dug out some underlying truth in this whole "we are building better campuses" campaign, and interesting for I learned how to think like a journalist when given "soft" facts about a campaign.
Politicians and their partners might be giving me these positive highlights of their campaign, but my job entails me to dig deep and unearth negative aspects.
I think I got a little too confident from completing two stories last week; so confident, in fact, that I barely finished one story. However, the story I am working on is going to be big once I weed out more information.
The "Campus Innovation Program" announced by Governor Nixon on Aug. 1 left lines blurry for the University of Missouri Science and Technology and The Economic Development Center.
Nixon clearly defined the academic goals of the program, stating they were to build advanced programs for high school students and expand the job openings for college students.
However, Nixon did not specify precisely how the funding would be implemented. He did mention the Economic Development Center as being partner to the program.
President and CEO, Greg Prestemon, of the Economic Development Center said they were not informed on how state funding would be implemented since it is non-traditional. Traditional funding for the center comes from the Department of Education and the Workforce Development program.
Prestemon also said the issue of concern is how the money will be given back to the state if students are not hired for the jobs that Nixon set out to provide.
A lot of issues to look over. I hope to speak with Nixon's office next week, but they are avoiding my phone calls. I will continue being persistent.
It took me a month, but I am getting into the swing of things. I successfully completed two radio stories this week; both of which were interesting.
I am starting to have fun, too. There is nothing greater than finishing a story in a day. Most accomplishing feeling, ever.
I decided to change up my topic for the week and do a story on the drought situation. I spoke to the Department of Conservation, who were very informative and friendly. They gave me insight into how the forests and wildlife were doing.
One thing I wish I could have inputted into my radio story is the current "blue tongue" disease in deer caused by niche flies. Because of the limited water supply--due to evaporated ponds--deers and flies are both meeting around the same ponds and creeks. The flies attack the deer, the deer get disease, and the deer population suffers.
Deer hunting, in turn, is very popular in Missouri. Joe Jerek of the Department of Conservation says that deer is an avid sport here, and that more deer means more food for hunters and families.
I guess I could expand this idea into a story. Maybe I will next week!
Anyway, the other story I covered followed my feature, the MO National Guard stand-down. Sept. 27 was the U.S. Army's suicide prevention program, a.k.a. "stand-down," and I realized I had misunderstood the purpose of the stand-down. As a journalist, this was a horrible feeling. I was the under the impression that the MO National Guard was holding theirs the same day, but I was wrong. And I am embarassed. But I can assure my readers and listeners that this will not happen again as I have learned my lesson.
The MO National Guard is planning their suicide stand-down in October during drill week-end. The date is not specified yet, but be assured that I will have an accurate story on it when the time comes. I am excited. I am going to grab a couple veterans and get personal, real, stories.
But as for now, the U.S. Army is the main focus.
Until next week.
The story I am working on this week is an eye opener.
I am covering the University of Missouri systems lawsuit with military veteran students whom did not receive their "Heroes" discounts.
Before this story, I was vaguely familiar with the "Heroes" discounts; I did not know the specifics. I knew the military had school discounts, but I did not realize there were different types and categories.
Apparently the "Heroes" discount limits the tuition of members to $50 per credit hour.
The "State Tuition Assistance," however, is what I had thought was the only discount available to students; it applies to those military members who have served a military force. As long as members have enlisted in the military for under 10 years, they can 100% discount for a maximum of 39 credit hours. Those with more than 10, but less than 17 years receive a 50% discount. And if a member does not have a Bachelor's, they get 100% off regardless of their years of experience, which I thought was accomodating.
Here's the link for the site that had this interesting information: http://militaryandveteransdiscounts.com/location/missouri.html
Being from California, I was flabbergasted by the accessibility of school to military students with little experience. I recall a time where a military student in one of my summer school classes mentioned he had to service the military for 4 years before attending the school. I am not positive if that is a requirement, but it seemed like it was by the way he addressed the issue. So for MO to be so lineant is awesome. I tried to find more info about the CA guidelines,but there is limited information. I'll have to ask a military member when I find one.
But anyway, the information from this week was astounding. I found a lot of information about discounts, but next week I want to make my story more personalized by getting student perspective.
Until then, I am researching more about the University of Missouri systems. It is nearly impossible to get them to talk to the press. The department hears "news" and steers away. I just want to know where they stand. But oh well, cheers to tomorrow and to next week.
As my second week transgresses, I am loving story-writing. Yes, I feel (extremely) stressed at times, wondering if I will get call-backs or whether I have sufficient information for my stories.
But this week I am really passionate about my stories.
The first story I felt passionate with was the Army National Guard Suicide Stand-Down. What an eye opener! Talking to Gary Gilmore was so informative and so crucial to my story. I learned that National Guard members are closely bound, like a family, and have strong morals. They truly want what is best for one another. And the support they receive from other organizations demonstrates patriotism and respect.
I also enjoyed talking to Scott Perkins from the Missouri Suicide Prevention Project. He was very resourceful and knowledgeable about what causes members to want to commit suicide, and explained--very elaborately--the various methods in preventing suicide from happening.
I still think it is astounding how much effort the National Guard is putting into prevention methods and protecting their members.
Another stepping stone this week was sitting in on the Joint Committee on Education hearing about the pilot project. I was pretty nervous at first, but then realized how interesting and how approachable the people were. None of them were annoyed of questions. The only issue I had, however, was thinking of questions on the spot. I only asked one question, and I wish I would have asked more. That is one thing I need to improve on in the coming hearings.
Sitting in on the hearing, however, prepared me for future hearings. Now I know what to expect and how to approach a story from a fast-paced setting.
One final thing that happened this week was the realization that my story for the Department of Health and Senior Services was not meant to be, for now. I put it aside and realized that if people are not going to call me back, I do not need to sit around waiting for them. Focusing on other stories is crucial while waiting for sources to call back. If I had still been waiting, the stories I produced this week would not exist and I would have zero stories.
This is my first week working for Missouri Digital News, and it has been a learning process. Unlike everyone else who started at MDN last week, I did not have fellow amateurs with me. I am also the only graduate student working here, and have no background in journalism. Rather, I completed my degrees in Communication and Literature, which had completely different writing styles and format. I love it here, though.
The most frustrating thing is call-backs. There is nothing worse than having a story template out and ready, but waiting around all day for people you called to call you back. That's one of the most crucial things I have learned while being here thus far.
Another thing I have learned is to know potential topics before entering the newsroom, so you have background before the day begins. If you wait until the morning of, you will struggle for the whole day. Also, write out your story while you are waiting for your call-backs. That way, you save time and can submit your story as soon as you dub your audio.
I am so happy to be doing what I love, and that is writing and researching. There is no greater satisfaction for me. I will only better myself as a reporter here and cannot wait to be reporting professionally.
Missouri Digital News is produced by Missouri Digital News, Inc. -- a non profit organization of current and former journalists.