Old School Meets New School

As time and technology tinker on, they either leaves us in the dust or we run alongside them, trying to improve ourselves and evolve our standards.

We’ve seen this in the realm of journalism. Major newspapers are enforcing paywalls, newspapers are cutting days from their publishing week and readers have such a vast variety of choices when choosing the news that we struggle to keep up.

Some see this evolution into the age of technology as a stab to newspapers. Other’s see this as a wake-up call, urging journalists to revolutionize and appeal more to readers.

Whatever you may choose, right now the most dangerous thing to do is remain stagnant.

Ignoring change and continuing on like it’s 1980 is doing nobody any good. It’s not giving readers the full experience that can come from quality journalism and creative technology.

Likewise, ignoring the past and assuming knowledge of HTML and embedding videos are all you need for journalism leave you without the solid background of good writing and high journalism ethic.

But what is the next thing that is going to make the reader’s head turn?

Is it interesting interactive features or more “soft news” type articles like celebrity gossip or house cleaning advice?

And when is that you care about viewership too much and lose the integrity and hard news that once appealed to readers?

Whenever I tell people that I’m interested in journalism, some of the most common responses are, “Oh, you wanna be on television? Kind of like Good Morning America?” or “The news is so sad/boring.”

It’s obvious that reader’s (especially younger one’s) have a distinct opinion of the news. It’s either that thing that pops up on your local channel at five o’ clock, or it’s a newspaper story that involves tragedy and war.

What is the next big thing we can do that attracts readers of all ages that doesn’t bore them but also retains integrity?

Putting more emphasis into online journalism is definitely essential. Sure, hard copy newspapers are nice to have and advertisements are more expensive, but more and more people are reading or watching the news on their cellphones and tablets. I admit that I only pick up a hard copy when I get a newspaper for free when I buy a tank of gas. Otherwise, it’s all read on my iPad or online.

I’ve seen many atrocious small local newspaper websites that don’t contain any special features or interactive part to their online site. Also, the interface is clunky and hard to look at.

There are other sites however that overdo it with videos that automatically play, obnoxious backgrounds and pop-up advertisements that show up with each page click.

Keeping a balance between the old and new is essential, just like with any job. It’s no secret, and it’s advice we hear everyday.

Yet why is hard news journalism so slow to change?

Don’t stand still. Think of what the reader likes right now, and be set and ready for what they’re going to want in the future. Use creativity and think of the next big thing– don’t wait for technology to blow your newspaper out of the dust.

It all seems like obvious statements, but why are we in the current state of newspaper purgatory right now?  We’re neither alive nor dead, neither needed nor unwanted.

We need to make ourselves alive and wanted. Think of what your readers want, and then one up that.

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Writer’s Block

writer's block, writing, blank

Writer’s block is one of the most annoying/horrific things that can occur. Whether writing a paper for a class or composing a poem for fun, there is nothing more stressful or time consuming than writer’s block.

For me, I’ve been stuck on things to create for this blog. Without much former blogging experience or set schedule for posting content, I just post things on a whim.

While I like having the freedom to do anything, whenever I want, that doesn’t help me stay inspired and create new content. It’s the forced, “Oh my god, I have no time!” feeling that keeps me going and makes me rush through a barrage of ideas.

While luckily, writer’s block is less prevalent for writing news stories, there are situations where I have no clue what the next step should be, or how I can fill some extra space with meaningful content.

Sometimes I just want to stick in a bland quote here or there and call it a day, but that doesn’t solve the true issue behind writer’s block, does it?

From Columbia University comes a great series of writing tips called “Break Writing.” I would suggest looking through them if you want tips on how to be a great writer, but for the particular page I linked, there are various tips and tricks on how to break past “writer’s block.”

One of the best tips they provided however was, “Just keep writing.”

No matter if it’s an utter mass of garbage, the act of thinking through something and typing it down gives enough momentum for something spectacular to conjure up.

For every crappy few paragraphs one writes, there has to be a shiny great sentence underneath the rest of the trash.

When I’m over-critical of myself, I find myself doubting my abilities and unable to create an idea that I find worthy.

I find that the great writers I’ve met in my life often have this problem. They start on a project, deem the content worthless and then decide to throw it all away when they can’t come up with what they consider magnificent.

Why do we do that to ourselves?

Creating something from nothing is always strenuous and extremely personal. When I write short stories for fun, I judge myself harshly for my work and consider what other people would think if they read my piece.

As writers, we are our own worst enemy. We are asked to delve into the depths of our minds and lay out a piece of ourselves, even if it’s fiction or non-fiction. It’s terrifying being asked to explain ourselves in words, and worse when we are misunderstood. It’s no wonder that writers often find themselves in a rut. We put so much pressure on ourselves that the free flow of ideas are hindered by nervousness and stress.

And that is why, for myself, being on a time crunch where I don’t have time to over-analyze myself is helpful when creating work. I wish I didn’t have to do that since I feel like I could create higher quality pieces with more time, but we have to deal with our own faults.

The best way to get through writer’s block? While it sounds ironic, just keep writing.

So I ask, when faced with writer’s block, how do you escape from it?

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To Travel Hopefully is a Better Thing Than to Arrive

car, traveling, driving, dreaming

One of my favorite quotes is from Robert Louis Stevenson– “To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive.”

It’s a quote that pertains to an emotion I’ve been feeling lately…

Unsatisfied.

I don’t know if it’s that college undergraduate urge where you’re ready to go out and experience life, but I feel like there’s the possibility of the world within my hand. Quickly however, reality crashes down and leaves me with broken fingers.

Student debt, high unemployment, no experience; there is an endless list of overbearing worries that make me scared of wanting more.

There was a time that I drifted towards public relations because the job market was moderate and I figured, “it was close enough” to journalism.

There was another time when there was a news writing job that I decided not to apply for because I figured I already had enough on my plate and that I didn’t need to work any harder.

I wanted to quickly quench that crawling unsatisfied feeling  by giving into “the reality” of the situation and lowering my standards.

However, I quickly realized that even if some things I want to achieve seem impossibly, why not try?

It seems hopelessly optimistic, and I’m not saying that I want to be the next Diane Sawyer or anything, but I’m afraid that our generation may start lowering their standards or goals because of the stark reality that lies before them.

And so you can study something in school that you figure will have a good job market and will turn a profit, and you can also not bother to apply for your dream job because you’re okay with where you’re at and change is terrifying.

But with just one life to live and only so many days to truly live it, what’s the point of settling for reality? Why not keep chasing that dream? In the end you may be better or you may be worse, but what was our country built on?

Dreamers.

And so I ask, is there any quote or saying that you live by or feel strongly about?

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Everything I know, I learned from Parks and Recreation

amy poehler, parks and recreation, nbc, comedy

I love Parks and Recreation. And not just because it’s humorous and Amy Poehler is the most hilarious woman on the face of the planet.

But because there are an abundance of lessons to learn from the show. From understanding our current government to achieving our highest aspirations, Parks and Recreation displays a variety of themes and morals that we will look at more closely.

1. Let your inner geek out

parks and recreation, leslie knope, amy poehler, nbc

Each of us have a thing that we’re very passionate about. And by passionate about, I mean we freak out and obsess over so much that everyone thinks we’re weird.

Leslie Knope geeks out over waffles, independent women in political power and Pawnee. The typical person does not freak out over a breakfast food item or a small miniscule town, but she isn’t afraid to share what she loves with the people around her. And they love her because of her little quirks.

For me, I love cats, clothes and musicals just to name a few things. And I’m not afraid to share stories about my three legged cat or spout off a random show tune with my friends.

It’s the things that we enjoy and take humor in that make us unique individuals.

2. Dedication

parks and recreation, amy poehler, rashida jones, ben wyatt, leslie knope, adam scott

While the world changes around us, dedication defines a large part of who we are.

Who are we dedicated to? Are we dedicated to our job? If someone asks us to do something difficult, will we live up to the task or flake out?

Leslie Knope shows supreme dedication to her friends and to the town of Pawnee. Even when she was offered a better job, she knew that her passion and love for Pawnee was what truly defined her as a person; not her salary or title, but her loyalties.

Throughout the show, no matter how strange or outlandish Leslie may be, her friends remained loyal to her and helped her achieve her aspirations. Why? Because there is a dedication between them.

That’s something important to think about, especially with our up and coming generation. Where do our loyalties lie? Is it with our family, job and friends? Do we dedicate our time to healthy relationships and helping others? Do we dedicate ourselves to our own physical and emotional well-being?

There are many different things that we can dedicate ourselves to in our lifetime. Choosing what is the best for us is often difficult, but once we make that decision, it is our obligation to uphold it.

3. Respecting different political view points

parks and recreation, ron swanson, pyramid

It’s difficult accepting other’s political view points. When I hear someone supporting a different candidate or approving a bill that I disagree with, it’s difficult not to argue. Our morals and political opinions are ingrained at a young age. When we mature, more often than not, we still hold the same opinions. This makes us stubborn as hell.

There are a diverse range of political beliefs in the Parks and Recreation department of Pawnee. From Libertarian Ron Swanson to fairly liberal Leslie Knope, they all have different morals and ethics on how government should be run.

They may disagree but they respect diverse views. Ron doesn’t like government involvement and doesn’t agree with many of Leslie’s choices, but he still respects her views.

In our current political climate, it’s difficult to have a discussion without stepping on toes and offending someone. Not only that, but we immediately assume that the other party are idiots that don’t know what they’re talking about, without taking their ideas and viewpoints into consideration.

Respect is a necessity in all situations, but especially in politics. Even if you’re not directly involved with politics, if you’re just sitting down and chatting with a friend, listen to what they have to say. Even if you don’t agree, you’re all the better for knowing multiple sides of an issue.

4. Government/Politics Matter

parks and recreation, leslie knope, amy poehler

The government plays a role in every aspect of your life. From the water you drink, to your computer and television; everything is regulated by the government one way or another. The sad part is, even though a lot of huge decision are made by congress and the president, the majority of American’s don’t even vote for president. When it comes to voting for governor, mayor, etc… the voter turn out rate is even more abysmal.

In season 4, Leslie campaigns for city council. Her other major competitor is a rich unemployed man who is the son of an owner of a large corporation that plays a massive part in the town of Pawnee. Though Leslie’s competitor is an idiot who doesn’t care about the town, his money makes him prominent. Leslie on the other hand has great ideas, but she is overshadowed by him and his money.

Even though it is just a city council chair, the election is important in the sense that every little bit matters. It’s easy to skip your political research and vote for the candidate that seems most popular or who’s on the the television more often, but that’s when we start losing Leslie Knope’s; the underdog who is thrown aside because she is overshadowed by big money. Overshadowed because people don’t care and don’t get involved if it’s not easy for them.

The next time there is a local election in your area, do your research and remember that every delegate matters. No matter if the delegate is the President of the United States or a mom running for a school board chair, take the time to analyze who would be the best to represent you. Remember, everything in your life is affected by our representative government.

5. Treat yo’ self

No matter how hard we work, we don’t consider ourselves worthy enough to reap the reward. Even if I receive a good grade or a compliment, I always think that I could have done better or worked harder.

When it comes to rewarding ourselves, the people who work the hardest and actually deserve to treat themselves never do.

In the episode Pawnee Rangers, Donna and Tom have a day called, “Treat yo’ self.” It’s a self-indulgent day where they do what they want and purchase what they want. It sounds simple, but we often feel greedy or guilty if we make a major purchase or spend our time doing something unproductive.

Ben Wyatt, a kind, hard working guy has low self-esteem and doesn’t feel like he deserves an item that he’s been yearning.

A Batman costume.

By the end of the episode, Donna and Tom who both have high self-esteem convince him that if something makes you happy, you deserve it.

I’m not encouraging reckless shopping or laziness. All I’m saying is that we all deserve our own “treat yo’ self” moment, where we either go out for our favorite meal or purchase something that’s long been desired and not feel guilty about it.

Because guess what? Even if people consider our society self-indulgent; if you work hard and fulfilled your responsibilities, it’s okay to let go and do or get something that makes you happy, even for just a moment. You’ve only got one life to live, and you might as well live it up.

And if you enjoyed this blog post, check out my other post, “Everything I Know, I Learned From Mean Girls” on my old, more personal/justforfun blog.

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The Lost Generation

light bulbs, lost, different, bright, dark

After an economic meltdown, record unemployment and skyrocketing college tuition; it is no wonder that our up and coming group of young people have been dubbed, “The Lost Generation.”

Previously used for those who were coming of age during World War I, it has now found it’s place in modern society.

We are in a climate where dreamers are forced to remain asleep. For every goal and ambition we may have, the probability of unemployment looms above us.

College tuition is well above the rate of inflation, and recent graduates are living with their parents to save money.

When a Bachelor’s Degree used to ensure a decent wage job, it now ensures that we will remain in debt for an extended amount of time.

For me, it’s absolutely terrifying to envision what my life will be like after graduation. Will the economy improve? According to polls, yes but it still will not be the same as before 2008. Will I find a job? In an industry like journalism, the pickings are slim and the competition is fierce. Will I be able to support myself and live in my own place? Well, maybe I’ll get lucky. Will I be okay?

Hell yes.

Our generation has guts. While people may assume that we are slackers and will not live up to the reputation of previous generation, I believe that we are an age group of fighters. We’ve been through traumatic historical events such as 9/11, Hurricane Katrina and the War in Iraq/Afghanistan.

And while our guts may be made up by iPod’s, Facebook and Starbucks, I believe that we are revolutionizing ourselves to adapt to new situations. For myself, I am aware of the tough times that lay before me and I’ve worked harder than ever before and I’m working harder than my parents had to. When one internship used to suffice, I’m now searching for three or four.

I see the reality that lays before me, and it looks pretty bleak. But through this mess, our generation will shine through. We’ll never be the same as we were before, but do we really want to go back? We’re hopefully smarter, stronger and aware of the impending dangers that occur with irresponsibility and lazy oversight.

So sure. High school students, college students and recent graduates are stuck with the name “The Lost Generation” due to the high rates of unemployment and massive debt that we’ve accumulated due to rising tuition. And sure, previous graduates may have had an easier time finding a job after graduation. But while the future is absolutely terrifying for us, we’ll break through and make them change us from the lost to the found and thriving.

It may be an unrealistic optimistic idea that has no real practical solution, but the only thing that we can do is fight. Especially in the field of journalism, people are clashing keyboards, jousting written words with one another and trying to be quicker and more efficient than the competition. Who you know is key, but putting up a good fight and revolutionizing ourselves for a world that is morphing “news” while also retaining traditional ethical attitudes will remain our priority.

I’m scared but excited. It’s tough to plan for what may come, but hopefully with hard work and dedication, I’ll succeed. And so my question is for you: what do you think of the lost generation and what are you planning to try and be “successful” in the future?

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Why I’m Not Going to Journalism School

When I realized that journalism was truly an endeavor that I wanted to partake in, my first thought was, “Holy crap I’m at the wrong school.”

Not to say that the University of Northern Iowa is a bad school by any means. (Furthest thing from it. I absolutely adore the school.) But for the typical journalistic path, it was definitely the wrong school to go to, when there were two other state schools that had successful journalism programs.

And I was very close to going to one of them. I had been accepted into the Greenlee School of Journalism at Iowa State, and I was ready to pack my things and head there to start a new journey.

That didn’t happen.

And here’s why:

1.) You don’t need a journalism degree to do journalism

That just goes with almost anything. If it doesn’t require a specific certification, chances are, you don’t need a degree in it. For journalism, there’s really only so far studying can get you. When I first started, I had never taken a reporting class. In fact, I covered events that included visits from Republican GOP candidates Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul without learning an ounce from a professor or a textbook.

Right now, I only have a minor in journalism. I won a journalism award this year, will be covering three beats next year and I’ll be news director of a radio station. All without going to j-school.

2.) There’s less competition

That can either be a good or bad thing. The good thing is, I can get experience at my school without competing with upper classmen or graduate students. The bad thing is, competition breeds higher quality work. But this also leads into…

3.) Experience, experience, experience

Real experience is an absolute necessity for aspiring journalists. It’s why so many programs require internships: because a whole semester of class can equal just a week of practical experience. And while some journalism classes do incorporate practical experience, but because I’m not at a j-school, I’m out looking for as much practical experience as I can get. This includes writing for the school paper, learning multimedia features, being news director, blogging and looking for freelance gigs.

At some j-schools, upper classmen status is a requirement before undertaking certain roles or productions. As an electronic media/political communications major at a school not prominent in the journalism field, I’m able to pick up experience and learn from high quality people without having to wait. I’m also not getting experience in just one thing. I have experience in a multitude of areas and I’m able to have a specification in politics.

But even while I’m content with my decision, there are many moments where I still fear not going to j-school. What will my competition be like? What am I missing from not having like minded peers? What type of journalism education am I losing from staying at UNI?

I’m still happy with the experiences I have acquired and am curious; if you’re going/have gone to j-school, why would you recommend it? Vice-versa?

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Photo Journalism

This semester, I decided to take a photo journalism class because 1.) I knew nothing about photography and 2.) For someone who wants to be a reporter, knowing nothing about photography seemed dangerous.

While I’m no professional, I can honestly say that it was a joy to capture a story through something other than words.

For our final project in the class, I had the chance to photograph a roller derby team in the local Waterloo, Iowa area. These women were total badasses. Don’t let the neon and sparkles fool you; they could beat any one up in the blink of a mascara eye.

Some other projects we had were profiles, events and lighting. The first one is a profile of a girl in my class, the second is an improv rehearsal of a troupe from UNI and the third is of Chicago during Easter weekend.

I love the way journalism can combine so many different mediums to tell just one story. From simplistic radio shows to interactive multimedia features, while some may view it as a curse, it is amazing how far technology along with experience has progressed journalism into a unique adventure for all involved.

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Awkward Situations

For the entire second semester of my Freshman year, there was a man who confused me for another student. And for the entire semester, I was too afraid to correct him.

He would come up to me and strike up conversations about thing that I was completely obtuse about. My response each time was a nod and smile, and reason why I had to leave right at that moment.

The situation culminated to the moment when he asked if he could take photographs of myself and my significant other and our child. To which I responded with a vacant stare and an extremely awkward smile.

All of this could have been avoided if I had been brave enough to tell him right from the start that I was not the person that he thought I was. But instead, I didn’t want to put myself into an uncomfortable social situation and hence, placed myself in an even worse predicament.

And this fear of the uncomfortable made me think of the times I stumbled upon awkward situations while working on stories for my school’s paper. From cold calling strangers to conversing with higher officials, there were many moments where I felt my mind racing with worry and my body shaking with sweat.

For journalists, we have to go out and do what many American’s fear. Converse with complete strangers and not only that, but ask them to help us. Help us write a story, trust us that we won’t misspell your name and please don’t come running back accusing us of slander if it is not called for.

I think of my friends, whom many are too scared to even call people they know. Journalists have to make dozens of calls to people they don’t know, often prying into the intimate crevices of stranger’s lives.

I remember an investigative story I was working on about a restaurant owner who wasn’t paying his employees, who was also previously arrested for human trafficking. Calling the restaurant and realizing that I had to confront him was a cause of extreme stress and anxiety.

What if he found out where I lived? What if he starts yelling profanities? What if he has a family to take care of, and here’s me, getting ready to expose his business?

I mustered up the courage and called. Of course, he wasn’t there but I was able to have a conversation with a manager. Granted, it wasn’t pleasant because of the nature of the topic, but I was still having a conversation none the less.

It’s terrifying reaching out to strangers and putting yourself in strange situations with them. For the man who mistook me for another student, I didn’t want to put myself in the awkward position of correcting him. For many journalists, there are constant uncomfortable situations that occur with complete strangers.

However, these tense and strange moments that we share with random people are often the most memorable and the most real. There is a reason why journalists should never interview someone they know well, not just for objectivity reasons but because comfort may ironically put a wall between people.

There’s just something about the new and unfamiliar situation that comes along with strangers that helps a story move along in an unaltered sense. It’s just you and the other person. There’s no previous history, nothing to judge each other on, just one person to tell a story and the other person with an ear to listen to it.

That’s the simplistic beauty of journalism. Just you and one other person in a massive stinking heap of awkwardness. But in the end, it creates something real and tangible that will last a lifetime.

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Summer Time Goals

As a student, summer is the time of year that I use to try and give myself some, “methodical self-evaluation,” or in less pretentious terms, “Hey, let’s figure out what we should do this summer so you don’t eat and sleep all day.” Summer is the season to look back on what has been done and either try to build upon that or let the knowledge dry up like a wrinkled whale on the beach.

For myself, I hope I don’t end up like a beached mammal this summer.

Unfortunately, unless I actually write something down and truly flesh out an idea, the millions of thoughts swarming in my heard drastically turn into a conglomerate of mushy forgotten aspirations.

And even then, I cannot count the exasperating amount of goals that have been thrown aside for things that I deem more important at the time; such as taking a leisurely nap or watching terrible shows on the television.

I mean, what’s more satisfying than making a dent on a comfy couch and stuffing yourself with stale Cheeto’s?

But this summer, my goal is to remain adequately productive while also enjoying the three months of free time that I am desperately clinging on to.

And so with that, I present my summer plans and invite you to also share yours. After all,  one is more likely to complete a goal if they have shared it with another. Or they can both procrastinate and sit in their own glory of not completing something (which can sometimes be satisfying all by itself.)

Summer Goals:

1. Blog more often and enjoy it

I enjoy writing. I really do, as hopefully made obvious by the theme of this blog, the title, etc etc. However, during the school year, I found myself remaining stagnant and everytime I came up with an idea, it would only turn into a paragraph and then I would quickly give up.

I feel like people often have this when it comes to writing. Whether it be essay or fictional story, people are quick to give up on writing. This may derive either from being forced to write in our jobs and at school, and so when we actually have free time, writing is the last thing in our mind mind. It also stems from our lack of endurance and concentration. Writing is one of the most difficult things to do; requiring complete concentration and large amounts of time.

That doesn’t sound appealing at first, but stemming off from my existing love of the written word, hopefully I’ll practice and become a consistent blogger.

2. Write Better

Writing a bunch of junk doesn’t really hold much in comparison to writing a high quality piece. However, improving is just so difficult. I’ll read a piece someone else has written and swoon over it, making it a goal to have my writing reach the same level of capability.

But like everything else, it takes practice and persistence to achieve quality in a skill. I wish that it was as simple as reading a book or spending a rigorous few weeks following step-by-step instructions, but it is so much more than that. While in college, it may have been difficult to find time for this, so hopefully the summer will bring a breath of fresh air into my work.

3. Be kinder to myself

As cliche as it sounds, we are our own worst critic. Sometimes I question how this happened to us. Is it because of our self-centered society that we think everyone is analyzing our every move? Or is it because we end up with such low self-esteem that it’s difficult to properly recognize our accomplishments?

For the past few weeks, I’ve been beating myself up over decisions I’ve made such as: not going to journalism school, not applying for a writing job, not having any internships under my belt… literally the list could go on and on. And when I whine and complain about my problems, it’s easy for my friends to point out my accomplishments but still impossible for me to recognize them. Sometimes, it gets to the point where I question everything I do and I start wondering, why bother?

Like this blog post for example. I thought of the idea, then told myself it was dumb, then wrote a paragraph and then quit because I felt stupid writing this.

Beating yourself up does not progress you as a person; it makes you give up. Embracing your flaws and feeling proud of your accomplishments builds yourself up to the point where you feel like you deserve to better yourself.

Think of a person that you know who always has negative things to say about themselves. Where are they in their life? Now think of a person you know who is proud of themselves. Where are they in comparison to the other person?

Now I just need to take my own advice.

4. Get physically fit

I hate exercising. I hate going outside and running. I hate doing sit-ups. I hate everything about physical fitness.

However, I can’t deny the nice feeling that I get after working out in the gym for an hour. Nor can I deny that a large percentage of the population is overweight and that this is costing our country a lot of money.

A lot of the things we hate doing better ourselves in the end. Laundry, studying, exercising; the list goes on and on. It’s these things that we need however, the stuff that sucks but is good for us. It weeds out the strong from the weak, those with endurance and persistence and those without.

When it comes to cleaning however… That’s a whole different story.

5. Try out food style photography

Along with doing things we hate that are good for ourselves, sometimes we need a dose of something that we love but does not have much beneficial value (or at least in the eye of the beholder.)

I grew up in a restaurant and I’m an avid foodie. I will literally eat about anything that you put in front of me, no matter the style or type. In The New York Times, the dining section is one of my favorites for a prime reason alone:

The pictures of food.

If someone tries to tell me that the pictures of food in The Times are not gorgeous, I will turn a deaf ear and continue to stare at the exquisiteness of the pictures.

The lighting, the colors, the contrasts of sharp and soft and the beautiful dining equipment; it all makes my heart pitter-patter.

And so I want to try out food style photography (as seen by my picture of my exquisite breakfast of eggs at the top.) I won’t get anything out of it other than enjoyment… unless NY Times wants me to be their newest food style photographer, to which I will say, I am more than willing to move.

But its just the mere pleasure of trying something new that I’ll enjoy that makes it a good summer goal. After everything is said and done, isn’t enjoying yourself and bettering yourself really what summer break is all about?

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What it’s like covering UNI’s academic cuts

Recently, I’ve been writing about the major academic program cuts that have been occurring at UNI. Every public university is going through a crisis: from sky rocketing tuition rates to outstanding cuts in resources, students striving for quality higher education are suffering.

But even though logically it makes sense that there are cuts happening at UNI, the community is still hurting from the loss of cherished faculty, lack of transparency and acknowledgement that perhaps the quality of education provided to students may falter.

While I always considered myself as professional as a freshman college writer could be perhaps, reporting on the budget cuts took a toll.

For weeks, day in and day out I listened to faculty and students mourn over the loss of their academic programs and for faculty, perhaps even the loss of their own jobs.

I always thought that I could handle tough stories. But after a while of writing about the cuts and hearing out people’s passionate pleas for just some recognition, I knew that I was going to eventually break.

That moment happened when I spoke to a faculty member who served the university for the past 38 years and then faced a dilemma. The program that he worked so hard on and received regional recognition for was getting cut because of low graduation rate. He was left with two choices. Leave the program he loved and created but let a younger faculty member get laid off, or retire earlier than planned and say goodbye to many years of hard work and dedication.

It was a story that I heard repeated over and over again for the past few weeks, but for some reason, it was this one man sitting in his dark office with me clinging to each of his words with only a cheap recorder in hand that it finally got to me.

After the interview, I quickly left and started crying. I sobbed while leaving the building, I sobbed while walking toward my dorm and I finally lay in a crumpled heap in my room, pained by the hurt and frustration that I listened to for far too long.

The first thing that I felt was embarrassment. I felt that my reaction was unprofessional, childish and over dramatic. Why am I so upset over the lives of people that I didn’t even know? My academics weren’t getting cut, so why did I feel worrisome when students told me about their concerns over the elimination of their courses?

And most importantly, I wondered how I could possibly give justice to something while also remaining objective?

If I could make everyone listen to the phone conversations or sit in an office with a grieving professor, I would. If I could make the administration let their voice be heard and openly explain everything that’s occurring, I would like for that to happen as well. If I could just make people pay attention to the deep core of things and actually analyze and realize what is going on, instead of merely listening to rumors or allowing their aggravations to override their emotions, that would be the greatest success.

It’s like sitting behind a window and only being able to breathe on the glass and write out a few words with your fingertips. You want people to be inside and see everything, but the few frosted words will have to do.

Recently I learned that one of the professor’s I interviewed is basically left with either a buy out plan or she will be laid off. Another person I talked to sadly told me at the end of our conversation that, “at least you will have substantial stories to put on your resume.”

At the end though, I knew I only had one job that had to be completed.

Write the truth. Make it fair. Leave everything you feel out of it.

And hopefully in the end, people will catch a glimmer of what you witnessed before your eyes.

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