General Assignment Tales

Yesterday I had my first GA shift, which means basically I plant myself in the newsroom and have stories assigned to me or I generate story ideas. I got there at 8:00 AM, which is difficult for me, I am not a morning person. But when I arrived there was not much happening. So I settled in, ate some mac and cheese for breakfast (disgusting, I know but I didn’t plan out breakfast well this week) and started looking at stories and thinking about story ideas.

At 10:00 AM I was beckoned over to the editors’ desk by Katherine Reed, and she gave me a story about a fast food worker strike happening in Columbia the next day (today). I was thankful that it was a semi national story, with an exciting event and passionate people involved. Those often make really great stories, so I hopped right on to researching it. The research went fairly well, I just looked up the groups mentioned in the press release that were involved around the country and wrote up some of the figures and facts in relatable terms.

It was then that the waiting started. I had three different sources, the press release, a local reverend who was assisting in the Columbia strike, and a striker who I connected with through the person who wrote the press release. I got the reverend on the phone fairly easily and the person who wrote the press release, but then there was this long wait on the striker, because he was being protected by my connection to them. There was an embargo on the story and she didn’t want people’s names or places of business mentioned before the strike, so I had to talk it over with editors, and then we played phone tag for a while, but I’m happy I waited for the striker to be connected with me because he was the key stakeholder in the story. The strike wouldn’t be happening at all without people like him, and he was obviously very passionate about it. Passionate enough to reveal his name and place of work despite the risk. We did end up holding it until 6:00 AM because of the embargo, but it didn’t diminish the story at all.

So at 8:00 PM, after a 12 hour shift, I felt good about what I had accomplished and it was a great experience to talk to people who are willing to put their livelihood on the line because they’re that invested in a cause. It was refreshing to say the least. It made me wonder what causes I believed in enough to make a sacrifice such as the one my subject was possibly making. What causes would make you do something as risky as that?

Tweet Tweet

In my social media peer review, my peer could not find my twitter account. I had a bit of difficulty finding hers as well, but I was persistent and eventually I came across the correct person. Even if she had found my twitter she would have probably suggested I use it much more. I’m not one to just get on twitter and look through tweets. They all come on too quickly for me to go through them and I end up feeling overwhelmed. Sigh.

Another obstacle I have with the twitter craze is that I don’t have a smartphone or tablet. My only mobile form of accessing the web is on my laptop, and it is a rather cumbersome thing to carry around with me when I don’t absolutely need it. I can’t check it in line at the grocery store or while I’m riding on the bus. I see now why my lack of a smartphone is an obstacle.

In the past I have linked to my blog through twitter. Doing so only requires me to hit the little blue bird button right after hitting the blue and white “f” for facebook. I don’t have to actually sign on to twitter. Same for sharing articles or funny videos. I don’t have to be on twitter to share stuff. I just don’t get the benefit of reading the news on there. But the Poynter article showed me that I really need to do much more with my twitter than just share some of my stuff every now and then. I need to be active on it if I’m going to have an online following and persona.

Wish me luck. I feel like this will all come easier as soon as I get enough monies to have a smartphone.

Battle Rising

It is the fourth day of the first week of classes. And I am still trying to get my schedule in order. I’m trying to figure out when I’ll fit my paying jobs in around my time at the Missourian and studying. And of course I had an oil change and had to replace two tires this week for my beloved vehicle. That makes two trips to the car doctor in one week. But hopefully I’ll get my schedule set for the next coming weeks, because I need to start writing articles. I don’t like being behind, but that’s usually my luck for the first week of school.

Today however I learned that I’m going to be working extensively on Battle High School. I’m excited about this since I went to Columbia Public Schools, and it’s the new school in town. If I were in high school now I’d be attending Battle, so I’m very interested in how it shapes out to be.

Having gone to CPS I also know a few of the faculty and staff over at Battle after they were shuffled around to cover the new school. Thankfully I was a good student, so this won’t burn any bridges between the Missourian and Battle.

The staff photo class for the Missourian is currently working on a big photo project called Battle Rising, which is obviously about Battle High School. So I think it will be easier to get visuals to go with the story. Not to mention I’m in the photojournalism emphasis and know quite a few of the photographers and photo editors. And if need be I’ll always have my D-SLR with me to snap some images to go with my text. Overall I think the situation will work out in my favor, as long as I embrace it.

Like a Rolling Stone

It seems I’m everywhere and nowhere at once recently. How does that work out? It doesn’t. I say this because I’ve really only been in Missouri for the past 14 years of my life, but these past 14 years have contained the most defining periods of my life.

I feel as if I’ve been nonstop since I entered college, more specifically the Mizzou J-school. I’m particularly invested in the Missourian at the moment, since I’m taking the dreaded News Reporting class. Usually dark clouds form over people’s heads as they talk of it. I can’t say I’m any different. I’m in the photojournalism sequence, and therefore I am not particularly interested in covering daily news with a pen and paper at length, or with a laptop nowadays. My strength is in the visuals. I like writing, but only as long as I can express my opinion. I know, I’m picky and childish that way, but it’s hard for me to be objective. My parents have instilled too much confidence in me.

Dreaded or no, I’m required to take the class before Staff Photojournalism so here I am! I’ll be reporting about my various moods and experiences through this dear blog, which has been repurposed many a time with patience. I spent my summer at Missouri Life and blogged about my experience there on this blog as well. When I went into my internship, I thought that keeping busy over the summer would prepare me for the Missourian. I think I was quite wrong in that assessment.

Missouri Life’s deadlines aren’t nearly as strict since they only publish every other month and plan out their stories practically a year in advance. I also did less immediate news reporting and more photo gathering and long story forming. It was a set up I liked, but alas it has ended. I just hope I don’t have to cry miserably every week, because it seems a strong possibility with all of the obligations I have. Keep me in your thoughts throughout this semester, because I’m probably going to need it.

And So My Watch Ends

Yeah, I am leaving off with a Game of Thrones reference. However if I were truly in the Night’s Watch this would mean that I’m either dead or a deserter. I promise you I’m neither. I was only contracted to be at Missouri Life for the summer, and Winter is Coming.

Ohhhkayyy. You’ve witnessed my obsession too plainly. So let me continue by generically saying I’ve learned a lot this summer. About photojournalism, writing, regular office hours, how to bring lunch to work, and even editing. And all of it just reassured me that this is the path I want to take. I like being whisked around to different assignments, using my judgment to select photos worthy of my editors’ perusal, and I really enjoy getting to see places I’d never even imagine going to on my own.

The traveling I did for Missouri Life reaffirmed what I’ve thought about journalism for quite some time: it’s for those of us who didn’t get to experience it firsthand. I don’t describe the juiciness of a burger or capture a smile for my own benefit (although it is fun), it’s all for the reader who relies on my image and my words alone to share the experience. And who knows? Maybe it’ll encourage one of you to go try the new Mexican place, or take a day trip to Glasgow. Essentially, journalists are here to serve. Whether it be the hard hitting news you need right away for safety or general knowledge of your community, or the fluffier stories that just give you some hope for humanity. Each has its purpose and that gives me, the journalist, purpose. Thanks for liking knowledge and new stimuli viewers! Without you I would be even more desolate and penniless.

Here are some photos from my most recent excursion to the southwest part of this grand state.

The last courthouse in my Unique County Courthouses story: Jasper County in Carthage, MO.

The last courthouse in my Unique County Courthouses story: Jasper County in Carthage, MO.

Nathan Boone Homestead, outside of Springfield, MO.

Nathan Boone Homestead, outside of Springfield, MO.

Mo' Beef in Springfield, MO specializes in Chicago style Italian beef sandwiches, but I had to try the chicken parmigiana sandwich. Om nom.

Mo’ Beef in Springfield, MO specializes in Chicago style Italian beef sandwiches, but I had to try the chicken parmigiana sandwich. Om nom.

You can’t tell me none of those places look intriguing. I’m a foodie and succumb easily to my vice, food porn, so just looking at that sandwich turns my stomach on full beast mode. It’s embarrassing; people can hear me.

What could also be construed as embarrassing is that I took my mumsy with me on this voyage. She’s close to retirement, and likes to ask off work, and I sure wasn’t going to drive 8 hours all by my lonesome. She’s also very reasonable, a logical Spock-like creature if you will, and she decided we needed to stay overnight and drive back the next day. Praise mumsy for that insight, considering how tired I was by the end of day one. It’s always good to have a road companion, they can help you with directions, argue you with you about where to eat, stop at ridiculous antique malls that require two people to go in and joke about everything they see, and they’re someone to share the fond memories with down the line.

So I encourage everyone to pick a magazine or newspaper, and read about what’s going on around you. It doesn’t have to be in your hometown, state, or even country. (I prefer space travel.) It’s just important to see the options available to you. Looking at a computer screen thinking about how bored you are isn’t hip anymore. There really is no excuse not to experience your community. And community is in varying degrees of distance, depending on your comfort zone, but test that zone every now and then. I’m happily surprised every time I do. And if you need a little guidance, just look to the articles, they usually point you in the right direction.

Marriage

“Today, I am woman,” Aster said to herself as she braced herself against the car door. Everyone had been shocked that she waited for marriage, and at twenty-seven? In this day in age it was truly unheard of outside of certain religious sects. Yet she had been patient. She had truly saved her maidenhood, (oh god am I calling it that?), for the sanctity of the celestial marriage bed. “It had better be white, with crisp cotton linens,” Aster thought indignantly. “I’m not giving it away on something cheap and shiny.”

Aster didn’t do overdone, grand, or even elegant. Simple. She was simple, but not simplistic, easy-going, but not easy, and tidy, but not anal. “Oh no, never anal,” she thought.

The ceremony had been as concise and understated as Aster. Fewer than twenty people attended; there was no crude dancing or rowdy drunkenness or even a suggestive best man’s speech. All went according to plan, unlike other weddings, and everything had its place, even the kiss was poised and practiced, down to the quick slip of the tongue at the end to suggest Aster had grown up.

And she truly had. Or was about to at any rate. Here came her man. Her husband. The one who had waited five years to wed and bed her, with all the patience of a steer to the slaughter. Aster had never once felt his pressure, barely even his longing.

There was a time in their first year of courtship that he had gotten spectacularly drunk. Aster, as a good girlfriend, was his designated driver. She had thrown him on his bed best she could and had turned to leave, but his quick hand lost all it’s quiver as he reached for and grasped her upper thigh. He became surprisingly certain, as only a man with a burning passion would in that state of disability, and gathered her hips into his arms, pressing his warm face against her firm bottom. The sudden hot breath against her backside made Aster tingle promptly, but she remembered her celibacy almost as quickly and attempted to push him away, but in her twisting his right hand had wound its way up her skirt, finding the cotton underwear and pushing it aside, groping for her wetness.

It was then that she screamed. It was a piercing, arching scream sure to wake not only the neighbors, but to disturb the people on the street as well. It was what he needed to sober up, and he blindly apologized, his eyes not quite meeting hers. She knew he was ashamed, and decided in that moment not to shame him herself. She forgave him in an instant, and the event had never been spoken of again. Sex itself had never been spoken of again, until the engagement. Aster thought it too tempting to discuss for him and he followed lead, unwilling to lose her, especially due to his bodily immaturity.

So here they stood, four years later. The hot sun beat down on them at the southern California resort. They had flown out of their small midwestern town immediately following the ceremony. Aster had insisted on waiting until they actually reached their honeymoon destination for her, uh, deflowering. Privacy was another important factor to her. It could not be a hotel room the first time. It had to be its own building, for she feared the pain would force her to gasp and scream. And that would not do for quiet, simple Aster to have the whole floor sonically witness her virginity vanishing.

The bungalow was nice, but not luxurious. It had a bit of an ocean view, just barely enough to justify the price, and fresh, bright linens that suggested cheeriness and warmth. The deck doors were thrown open to let in the ocean breeze, and landscaping privately contained it. The sight of the outdoor bed was enough to make Aster blush and glance and her new husband in dismay. She had not expected the great outdoors to bear testimony to the act. But when she returned indoors she was relieved to find a four-poster canopy in the bedroom. “This,” she thought, “will do.”

Her husband heartily agreed. He scooped her up into his arms with a little dance and landed them both gracefully onto the bedspread. He kissed Aster’s ear and whispered, “Are you ready?” Was she? Aster didn’t hesitate for fear of changing her mind. She hurriedly shook her head “yes” and the lovemaking commenced.

Afterward, Aster did not feel much of anything. She was not disappointed, not hurt, and not ecstatic; she was not even embarrassed at all the blood soaking the white sheets. What disarmed her the most was that she did not feel love. She gazed at her dutiful husband, already cleaning up the bed and telling her not to worry. She had felt love for this man many times, why was now not one of them? It worried her, but Aster decided not to dwell on it too long. “You’re just shell-shocked,” she thought. “That’s all.”

The next day the couple ventured out to a remote airfield. This was part of their pact in married life, to take adventures together, to trust that everything would be fine as long as they were together. Today their adventure meant jumping out of a plane. Neither of them had skydived before, so they thought it was an excellent way to usher in a life of adventure and trust in each other. That’s what hurtling to the ground was supposed to mean, right?

Aster could tell he was stupidly excited. It had of course been his idea, but she went along with it. She did not want to appear to be a wet sandwich on their honeymoon. Aster believed people were supposed to glow like the sun and be daring on honeymoons; it’s the time for them to be young. And since Aster waited for her 27th year to become a bride, youth was ever more on her mind.

So Aster gritted her teeth when she entered the airplane, fully outfitted for the freefall. She had made sure the guides checked her equipment four times instead of the usual two, and she mimicked their movements a couple times after that. Almost totally assured that no malfunction would befall her, she examined her husband’s gear as well.

He swatted her hand away saying she should be less his mom and more his lover. He said it jokingly, but Aster saw the hard glint in his eyes. He was annoyed with her, visibly for the first time. He was always joking with her, but she had never seen that hard glint before. Not in the five years they had been together. “Or am I just now noticing it?” she thought. As if marriage had suddenly flipped a switch in her brain. “This is who you’re married to, look and see!” her conscience jested at her. She tried to brush away the thoughts and smiled, perhaps stiffly, but a smile all the same.

As the plane took off Aster’s mind became preoccupied with the height. She had always been wary of heights, not outright fearful, but cautious. Her flight out to California had only been her second, and this small rickety thing her third. “Adventure!” she forced herself to think. “By God, I’m adventurous!”

Her sense of adventure escaped her however as the airplane doors were opened. It yawned wide, seeming to swallow the expanse of sky behind it, all while blowing harsh wind on her person as she was being ushered toward it. Aster’s knees buckled and the hard glint returned to her husband’s eyes, if for a brief moment. His words were honey when he spoke however, “I love you Aster! I trust you and we will do this together! We’re married now!” he shouted as if she needed reminding and he just remembered himself. So clutching his hand, she wiggled forward to the door.

Perched on the edge of the plane, Aster quivered, but put on a brave voice for her beloved. “This is nothing!” she shouted. She may not have convinced herself, but at least she had convinced him. Reassurance spread across his face as he said, “I knew there was a reason I married you.”

The instructor then shouted for them to focus and wait for his signal. Aster would have liked to look back and say those seconds went on forever, but for her cowardly self the seconds went by all too quickly, and she was suddenly barreling toward the ground, devoid of any courage or visible protection.

Aster must have been screaming, because when her husband pulled her close he had one finger to his lips making the “shhh” sign. There was no hard glint, only a serene glaze over his pale gold eyes. She had always swooned over his eyes; it was hard to look away once he had used them on her. They held her captive, gazing into the molten gold depths, as if they were a true treasure. It was no different this time. He mouthed the words, “I love you.” The wind was too fierce for them to hear one another.

He made to grab for his chute pull, but it didn’t eject. He tried again, twice, thrice, but to no avail. If Aster had been in that situation, she would not have calmly tried the emergency chute pull as he did in that moment. And she certainly wouldn’t have tried again just as calmly when that one failed as well.

Aster searched the sky for the plane, but it was nowhere in sight. That quickened her breath a bit, and she began sobbing. The hard glint returned and he clutched her closer, pointing to her chute pull. “Of course, he means for us to land together with my chute,” Aster thought. She was ashamed for not having realized that earlier. The lack of plane in the sky was still working its anxiety magic on her however, and she did not truly settle down.

The plane search had preoccupied Aster so much that she had not seen the creeping feeling of dread spreading over her husband’s face. She caught up soon enough however when he began shaking her, visibly but not audibly screaming. The tears did not return for Aster however, this time she was struck mute. She scrambled at all of her safety ropes and straps, but to no avail. Both husband and wife were without chute, clutching each other as they tumbled downward in a symbolic and literal fate. “This is our marriage,” Aster thought. “Already a ruin.”

His eyes had found hers again, but this time was different than usual. She was not captivated by their deep golden hues, or even his expression of concern and love. Aster was actually annoyed that she was not in this situation alone. All she wanted was privacy, privacy for her dying thoughts, her last thoughts, however one would put it. It seemed an intrusion that he should be trying to communicate with her somehow while she was falling to her death. Aster had entered this world alone, and she had intended to leave it the same way.

He was crying now, the tears were sliding up the bridge of his nose and then being released with great force into the open sky. He was mouthing things to her, but Aster could only wonder if someone on the ground would receive his tear, and mistake it for a raindrop. “Maybe all rain is made from tears of the dying,” Aster mused.

By this point he was getting righteously angry with her for ignoring him in their last minutes together. He clasped her face in a surprisingly gentle way between his hands and forced her to look into his watery, gold eyes. “I LOVE YOU!” he mouthed, desperately demanding her answer. She could only look at him blankly. Her annoyance was gone, but it had not be replaced with tender feelings, or feelings of any kind for that matter.

Her fingers found his and she removed them from her face slowly. He was staring at her with open horror now, but Aster did not seem to notice or care. When all of his fingers were free, only their fingertips were connecting the two. No love or marital duty bound Aster to him, nor did hatred or disgust push her away.

She gazed down at the ground below them, rushing up to greet their small, insignificant frames. In a last attempt to salvage their marriage before death, he grasped at Aster’s arms, trying to pull himself closer. He mouthed again, “I LOVE YOU!!!” When Aster responded by turning away to gaze at the ground again his grip loosened, and he eventually let go of her completely.

Aster never once turned away from the ground to see him go. The earth fascinated her more than her husband’s lion gold eyes ever had. She was its prisoner now, listening intently as it bid her to come closer. She obeyed, spreading her arms and legs wide, as if to make a snow angel. This time however, she intended to make an earth and a heavenly angel all in one swoop. Aster thought it would be oddly pretty, leaving an imprint of her body on the surface.

As the ground neared, Aster found her voice again. “I…love you,” she said to the earth. That felt right, it felt…natural. She thought she would try it again; “I love you,” she said with more resolve. She knew she had meant it more in that moment than any other time she had uttered the words before in her life.

In the very last moments before Aster joined with the earth, she had wanted to say she was happy with the way she led her life. But something still pinched at her core; she could not lie to herself, not now. What do you call someone who avoids the truth even in the face of death?

Aster was not a coward. For all her timidity and silent grace, she would still not condone outright cravenness. “The only regret I have…” she pondered, “is not dying a virgin.” She was then free to die, to kiss the ground and embrace the soil, dream a thousand dreams or not dream at all. That wasn’t for her to decide. “No more deciding.” Aster had never felt so alive as in the moment of her death. There was a sweet exhale, a poof of dirt and a body; its master rejoiced, her second marriage consummated.

The Perks of Being an Intern

My heart fluttered when I saw these gems.

My heart fluttered when I saw these gems at the Heartland Antique Mall.

Most stories you hear about internships are wrought with errands, impatient bosses, and little to no pay. While I am unpaid, I must say there’s a lot of value in this here internship, and perks besides.

At Missouri Life our main priority is the magazine, obviously, but we are also out for hire on special publications, such as books, calendars, and visitor guides. I worked on the latter two for Lebanon, Missouri, which is about two hours south of Columbia.

My main job was just to go around and see the sights and take photos of people enjoying Lebanon. That was easy enough, aside from getting turned around and maybe breaking a few traffic laws. But I didn’t realize I would be practically vacationing as well.

There was fishing galore at Bennett Springs.

There was fishing galore at Bennett Springs.

What drew me to Lebanon this time of the year was the Brumley Gospel Festival. This was the very festival that booked every room in town and caused me to seek lodging in Osage Beach instead, which is about 30 minutes from Lebanon. When writers or photographers travel to work on a story, Missouri Life tries to set them up for free somewhere by offering the establishment discounted or free advertisement in the future. A trade, as they call it. So I was set up at The Inn at Harbour Ridge, a quality bed and breakfast (or as I kept calling it, a bread and breakfast).

To say I was getting the royal treatment would be a cliché but it would be fairly accurate. We arrived and one of the owners immediately showed us around, describing all of the freebies and amenities we were receiving. Then we rested in the room titled “Love’s Nest”, ate dinner there, and returned to Lebanon to cover the festival that had put me at this lovely B&B. When we returned the bed was freshly remade, the lights were dimmed, and our trash had been cleared away. We had only been gone two hours! I felt almost guilty since I wasn’t technically paying for the room, but they treated us as any other guests.

Did I mention there were cookies and chocolate already in the room? Fresh too.

You live the good life at The Inn at Harbour Ridge.

You live the good life at The Inn at Harbour Ridge.

Even if I hadn’t gotten to stay at such a fine establishment, I would have enjoyed the trip nonetheless. I enjoy traveling, especially if my gas is reimbursed, and I’m taking photos of new things. In my 21 years I had only been to Lebanon once before, when I was rather young. And it’s only two hours away from my hometown. It’s an antiquing/thrifting haven; how could I have missed that?

I wanted to buy up the whole store, all 40,000 square feet of it.

Oh Heartland Antique Mall; I wanted to buy up the whole store, all 40,000 square feet of it.

Another cliché but often true: if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. Now I may have been walking around in the sun, crouching in corners, standing on chairs, and doing just about everything else to get the shot, but I can truly say that I didn’t feel like I was working that much. “Take photos,” they say, “but of course!” I respond. It’s what I do, and I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t enjoy it, perks or no.

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