Posted 11/14/2014: Monday night was the first night that I felt like I was a core member of the MDN team, and it's all because I was trusted to lock up alone. Typically there has always been a senior with me when I'm working late and getting my stories approved by phone. This time, it was just me.
It took me a while to grasp the story of a meeting I had covered so I was there working late. When the last of the seniors packed up to go home I wasn't paying attention to my surroundings, I was focused on my work. When I went to grab the phone I looked around paused for a moment. I was the only one left in the newsroom.
Being alone did not frighten me, it assured me. I stopped because in that moment, I realized that I was trusted to be by myself. It was nice to know that I'm trusted to use the recording equipment and lock up all by myself. I felt big and important. Some might say it's the moment I got my MDN big girl pants! Which is perfect, now that there is snow in the forecast.
All three had major errors. When restructuring sentences I accidentally left words in places that I had meant to delete them from. Other sentences just grammatically didn’t make sense. Some sentences were similar to a toddler’s structure of sentences. Others, sadly, resembled how an alien from the Men in Black movies my brothers used to love would talk.
I was horrified at myself when I realized what I had done. It was not an accurate portrayal of how I can write. From now on I will always read the radio wraps out loud before turning them in. That way, I will be able to hear how it sounds and fix any grammar errors that I don't notice when reading in my head. This will lead the structure of them to be listener friendly.
Now that I'm older I still find myself playing phone tag. As a reporter there are many times where I will have to call sources multiple times before I can get a hold of them. There are days when it seems I go back and forth with potential sources leaving voice mails and hoping someone will get back to me. It is a constant game that is played in any newsroom.
This week I learned a valuable lesson about leaving messages: don't. Messages can be easily ignored, a phone call cannot. If I talk to a secretary I usually ask to have a message passed along to who I want to speak with and what the story is about. If instead I ask when a convenient time for the source is, I can call back at that time and become another reminder. Thus ending the game of tag.
When I worked as an administrative assistant I had to be careful where I put phone notes for my boss. If I put them on top of important folders the notes would be tossed aside so that he could get to the information inside the folders. While he never read the notes carefully, he noticed the names. What grabbed his attention most the amount of times a person called in the day. The ones who called the most would most often get a phone call get.
The same theory still applies here. If I call repeatedly, I have a better chance of having a source to talk to instead of voice mail box. Hopefully it will forever end my game of phone tag.
Close to seven years ago I moved from the west coast to Missouri. There were a lot of things that took some adjusting to: living in a landlocked state, green lake water and weather. The weather in Missouri has been the most difficult hurtle to overcome since moving. Having grown up with earthquakes people are often confused as to why tornadoes bother me so much. Earthquakes make sense to me. If the Earth shakes something will fall. Tornadoes are caused by wind, the wind that flies kites and can blow leaves off a tree. I've gotten better while living here, but I will always get to the safe place when I hear the sirens go off.
This week there was sever weather across mid-Missouri. I had the opportunity to learn the tornado safety procedures in the state Capitol. While we were working on our stories we had a live stream of a news station describing the weather patterns so if needed, we could move to the basement. For a while it seemed fine. The dangerous parts of the storms were off to the west and it seemed as if the storm was going to weaken before it reached Jefferson City. All of a sudden a hook was approaching Jefferson City and a wall cloud was spotted near the Capitol.
Quickly we gathered our things and headed into one of the conference rooms in the basement. Luckily all it turned out to be was a severe thunderstorm and no one was hurt. Later as I getting ready to merge onto the highway to head back to Columbia the radio stopped playing music and switched to a severe weather alert. The meteorologist said a wall cloud was seen to the west of Jefferson City and that everyone should be cautious of the storms. Unlike in the newsroom I was by myself and began to slightly panic. I quickly turned around and went to a restaurant near the Capitol building and waited out the severe weather. When I was in the restaurant I was able to calm down. Being inside and off the road was an immediate relief, but being around other people also comforted me. I learned that in a crisis I am good in a group, but that maybe I shouldn't be by myself if I can avoid it.
This week it took me until nearly the end of the day to get my three radio wraps approved. After working on the story for almost two weeks, I wanted to make sure they were perfect before turning them in to be approved. This led to me calling my editor at home to get my radio wraps approved. These were the top five thoughts that popped into my head during our conversation.
2. Take a deep breath. Always before reading a wrap. Also when reading the wraps. You can't read if you don't have oxygen.
3. Slow down! Sometimes I get nervous and read too fast. I needed to remember to rest, and breathe.
4. Silence is golden, right? The pause after you finish reading your wrap is the longest three seconds of your life.
5. Oh yeah! I'm the (wo)man! Getting those stories approved totally made my day.
After I got off the phone I laughed to myself and wondered why I had been so nervous. It was no different than handing my story to the editor. What I was most concerned was not seeing the editors face while reading it. Face to face conversation is still my favorite way to edit but technology is fine in a pinch. Lesson learned this week? Calling to get a story approved is slightly nerve wracking, but totally worth it in the end.
This semester will mark the third semester that I've been enrolled in journalism classes. I thought for sure that I had basic grasp of how to interview. From my limited experience I have learned how to prepare questions ahead of time, make sure all equipment that you need is properly working, and know the directions to where you're going ahead of time. Classes are great learning environments, but nothing is better than actual experience. I've learned a lot these past few weeks reporting for MDN, but this week I learned a valuable lesson about interviewing.
While researching the transportation of crude oil throughout Missouri I thought what sources I could get quotes from. I found a contact for one of the railroads that transports oil in Missouri and a man from MoDOT who is in charge of trains. Both men had different views of the transportation industry: commercial and safety.
After interviewing both men I saw a pattern in their responses. The pair of them wanted to get across the message that the main goal of their organizations is safety and prevention. I thought that tied the story into a pretty red bow and would flow nicely.
What I should have realized sooner was that this was the same side of an issue. Both men were sure that they had the appropriate steps to prevent an accident in Missouri. What I should have been concerned with was finding a different opinion of oil transportation.
This week I learned a very valuable lesson in journalism. I learned that two perspectives are not the same as two sides. In all honesty, I'm a little disappointed in myself that it took till first semester junior year for me to learn that difference. From now on I am going to think of different opinions of the situation instead of different perspectives.
Lawmakers don't sit in silence. While a bill is on the floor, members of the House and Senate can individually rise and speak about their thoughts on the bill. While one member is speaking to the floor, I thought lawmakers would sit in rapt attention. However this is not the case. In the House lawmakers turned to other members sitting around them and would talk throughout the entire time the bill was on the floor. Some members would choose not to be in the room until it was time to vote. It was an adjustment to the preformed idea of how voting works in the legislature.
2. Gavels are very loud. During the veto session I jumped guard when House Speaker Tim Jones called for order. I heard the gavel from the press gallery, and assumed that someone had dropped their bag on the floor behind me. I thought I had just been startled out of deep thought, but the next time the gavel was struck I was startled again! The point of the gavel is to call the floor to order, and to rouse the press out of their concentration as well.
3. Coffee is your best friend. Wednesday is typically a long day, for no other reason than its the halfway point of the week. As a coffee lover, I definitely always have at least one cup a day. For the veto session, I needed many more. The Senate adjourned slightly before 1a.m., and the House adjourned after 1a.m. Caffeine was my crutch to staying alert and focused throughout the late evening.
Working during the veto session was a big learning curve. It was a day that required energy and focus. I learned a lot about the importance of deep breathes. At the end of it all, I am very grateful that I got to cover it. The hustle and bustle of the Capitol building was extremely enjoyable. I can't wait to see what the rest of the semester holds!
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