Sea Turtle Protection in Costa Rica

The Missouri Atlas

by Sifan Ouyang

MU students will have a chance to interact with sea turtles in Montezuma and enjoy local culture with host families in San José during a two-week trip to Costa Rica during winter break.

“You can get a taste of eco-tourism and service project at the same time.” said Jacquelyn Sandone, faculty program director of MU’s global service program in Costa Rica.

According to the program website, students will engage in service projects, including sea turtle protection, while traveling in Montezuma, a city famous for its eco-diversity located near the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula.

The deadline to apply is Sept. 30, 2013. Find more information on the MU International Center’s website.

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I’m Trapped in a Glass Case of Emotion

So I’ve been freaking myself out lately. I’m stressed about finishing stories, getting people to return my calls, emails and messenger pigeons, and personal life is not helping matters. I normally have such a good memory and now I’m starting to forget things. Blerggggggg.

I hate admitting to being overwhelmed, but I am. It seems like every other minute someone is demanding something from me. And I know they’re not demanding in a mean way, they just expect me to fulfill my obligations. But my obligations are smothering me. Work, school, family and friends all want a piece, but I only have so much to give. I’m out of my comfort zone and it’s terrifying.

All I want to do is watch Anchorman and take photos of my adorable dogs.

See? Adorable.

See? Adorable.

But sadly and gratefully I’m in college. I have to take my own measures of de-stressing to clear my head, or I will keep forgetting things and crying in random intervals because I’m not sure what else to do.

So today I went to Rockbridge State Park, and it was beautiful and serene for that half hour I spent there. Leaving wasn’t something I wanted to do. As I drove back into city limits the pressures returned to my shoulders and I think I physically hunched over more. I’ll try to stop being so negative. And whiny. It’s annoying.

Autumn time is the best time.

Autumn time is the best time.

Phone Interviews

During my induced bed rest this week, I decided I couldn’t spend all of the day curled up in a ball cursing my body. I wanted to remain productive, so I attempted reading in small doses, and I even got an interview done.

No, I did not tell the individual to come to my sick bed, that would be highly unprofessional considering I was sweaty, crazy-eyed and switching between tearing my clothes off to throwing every blanket available upon my person every 30 minutes. (Such is fever folks.)

So I called the person. It helps them out often, because they see it as less of a hassle than meeting in person, and they’re thankful that you don’t wish your illness upon them. They’re busy people and have better things to do than be ill.

Phone interviews, while they shouldn’t be your first bet in all situations, are not the end of the world. If illness, distance, or time is an obstacle, suggest a phone interview. My experience with them has been positive. People speak candidly on the phone. I attribute that to the fact that you’re not looking at them while they speak, they essentially feel less on the spot. And what was helpful for me is that I could put them on speaker (in a private setting obviously) and type out what they were saying without it being rude. If you type while they’re speaking in person it comes off as rude and ruins the whole conversation vibe.

Interviews should be conversations, you’re getting information from the person, but you’re both generally invested and interested in what is being said. Feel free to discuss things related to, but not exactly what you were searching for when you set out to do the interview. Topics should flow easily, but still keep in mind the questions you need answered. It’s a bit of juggling act, but once it’s mastered it makes interviewing a much more enjoyable process, probably for both parties.

The main issue I found with phone interviews is that it’s easy for someone to ignore a voicemail. Be persistent, but not too pushy. I called and left a voicemail, waited a day and called again when I thought they may be free to get them personally, not an answering machine. It’s important to be clear in messages with your objective, who you work for, your name, and your contact information. If they don’t understand it they will just ignore you. They’re not responsible for the article, the reporter is.

Framing

We talked about framing in news lecture this week. I believe it’s a very important thing to know going into journalism. It’s something that I’ve thought about a lot as a photojournalist.

As a photojournalist, framing is key. As a photographer in general, framing is important because it can make or break the shot. Framing a photo is essentially choosing the content, just like when a painter decides what they want to paint. They may have a whole other world and imagination to choose from in their head, but what counts is what is seen. It’s the same with photojournalists. When they snap a photo they essentially blind the viewer to all of the things they kept out. Powerful stuff.

So of course, from an artists’ standpoint we want the photo to be pretty. “Visually appealing” would be a better way to phrase that. But from the journalist viewpoint, we need to find a way to make the photo both visually appealing and informative. It has to tell the story as it is, hopefully without bias or obvious neglect. If it’s not possible to do both, it’s more important to tell the story accurately than prettily.

I know it aches every artistic bone in the body to turn your back on the pretty, but journalism isn’t about presenting pretty things all the time. It’s about presenting the truth. And photojournalism is a great way to aid truth telling by adding that extra piece of evidence, when used correctly.

An Alien Has Taken Over My Body

No joke, that can be the only thing to explain why my innards have turned against me.

First I have headaches and a sore throat and the strong desire to walk around with a pillow strapped to my head. This week’s adventure is Nausea: The Musical. I didn’t think trying not to puke while walking to class would be the type of multitasking I’d partake in this semester. And not eating is really not helping the headache situation.

If this keeps up I’m going to quarantine myself. I’m not going to be responsible for the alien invasion that destroys the planet. I don’t normally get sick, so I think alien takeover is a reasonable prediction to make about the cause of my symptoms.

I have interviews to do, a paper to write, and a presentation to give. But I’m not complaining, just slowly wasting away in silence. Good bye everyone, it was nice knowing you.

Multimedia Woes

I like multimedia, it’s necessary for photojournalists to be able to create multimedia. However, I am not super technologically savvy. Especially with older technology. AKA the wack video camera Madalyne and I checked out for our multimedia project.

It required a tape, strike number one. Madalyne had to buy a pack of three for $14. Strike number two: We don’t know how or have the means to put it on our computer. Strike number three: It looks like the footage is damaged in some way. Did we tamper with the tape? Spill something on it or play football with it? No. It just doesn’t want to work. You’re out, wack camera with tape.

So this means we’ll have to re-interview our two subjects. We won’t be able to re-film that b-roll, but I took stills at the event, so it’ll have to do.

Woe is me, booo hooooo. I’m done crying now.

Derek said he is going to tell the Missourian to never check those cameras out to anyone again. Praise be.

Nothing Inspirational to Note

Not all weeks are fantabulous, even when you use words like fantabulous.

So no, today I may not find anything particularly inspiring, encouraging, or plain old good. But tomorrow and the days that follow will bring something else. Let’s just hope this is rock bottom, because honestly this kind of emotion doesn’t jive well with the need to finish classwork.

Here’s to a hopefully better and more productive tomorrow.

Reporting Death

Death is not an easy thing, and it never should be. This week’s story about an Ashland teen who committed suicide is not easy for anyone involved. And while reporting a story of this nature is incredibly difficult, it’s not nearly as difficult as it is for the family of the deceased.

I know this from first hand experience. I too lost someone close to me at a young age. And I still keep the obituary saved as a bookmark.

Notice that none of my brother’s family is quoted. It’s true that Nathan See and Preston Turley were very close to Willie. But the immediate family side is not there. No, my brother did not die at his own hand, but if I were the reporter doing this story I probably would have wanted to get a comment from the family. I’m sure that the reporter tried, but I was 19 at the time, I don’t think I had really lost my “innocence” until then, and I certainly was in no mood to speak to a student reporter at the Missourian. I could barely even speak to my friends and family.

My parents were similarly indisposed. My parents didn’t answer many phone calls in the first couple days, only direct family and Pastor Ramsey at First Presbyterian got through. Losing someone at such a young age is not expected. It has an even more tragic effect since the deceased did not have time to complete their life. Willie was excited to become an educator and he was so close to graduating. He wanted to become a loving husband and father and grow more in his faith. He had so much potential ahead of him.

When those years are suddenly snatched away the question of “Why?” is always on the mind. I’m sure Jacob Meadows’ family is asking that question even more since he took his own life. They’ll never know for sure why he did it, and that will upset them for the rest of their lives.

I still grieve for my brother. More than two years later, I still think about him and burst into uncontrollable sobs. So when reporting about death, especially if the deceased is a youth, remember that the family is not thinking about how their loved one will look in print. But they will remember if you dishonor them in any way. My parents cut out newspaper clippings and I watched news videos online and saved that obit. It may seem a bit morbid, but it’s a way of remembering them, of remembering their death and not taking life for granted.

Don’t take it personal if the family tells you to go away or stop calling. They’re in no mood to be polite and personally I felt like I had nothing left to lose for the first couple days. It felt as if the world had ended and reason had abandoned us. It’s still important to do a good job. So finding those other sources, such as Preston and Nathan, is the next step. And if that doesn’t go through, simple is always best.

My brother, Willie, and I outside our house in Litchfield, Minnesota in 1995. It's okay to say he looks like Harry Potter.

My brother, Willie, and I outside our house in Litchfield, Minnesota in 1995. It’s okay to say he looks like Harry Potter. He does.

Privacy

There is no privacy on the internet.

I don’t even need a hacker friend to let me know that. It’s just the way it is now. If someone is determined enough they can find a way to access your personal thoughts on a blog, the rowdy pictures on your facebook, and sometimes even your personal information such as your address, phone number, and social security number.

It’s scary, but knowing that your thoughts and personal details are broadcasted across the interwebs (often by your own choosing) doesn’t have to be terrifying. You just have to be aware. So by admitting that you self broadcast or have friends/family/foes that have broadcasted you, you’re that much closer to understanding the true reality of things: the internet is becoming the reality.

Employers use the internet to see who you are outside of an interview. Family uses it to check up on you. And some lonely souls use it to see if you would make a decent significant other. The age of the “online persona” is passing. People see your profile before they meet you in person, but that doesn’t mean they’ll only judge the “in-person you” by what they see in-person. First impressions last, it doesn’t matter if they’re cyber.

XQ2UE

Castle?

This past Friday evening (or very early Saturday morning) I went to a castle. Yes, I said a castle. It was more of an exterior appearance of a castle with grass and open air within the walls.

It was out in the middle of nowhere with a lot of gravel roads leading to it that threatened the air pressure of of Madalyne’s small SUV. Primarily this “castle” is used for paint-balling and camping. For this weekend however it took on another role as music festival venue.

Madalyne and I chose to do our multimedia piece on a group of go-go dancers called the Comeow Kittens. They are giving workshops and performing at this weekend long festival, sporting light up hoops, furry boots, and confidence.

We arrived a few minutes before midnight, a little miffed the festival denied us press passes and made us pay $20 each to get in. But we set up our cameras with a positive spirit. Madalyne had only just borrowed a camera from someone else on our beat and we could not figure out how to use the video setting. I’m a Canon girl and have very limited knowledge of Nikons, so I showed Madalyne how to use the video setting on my Canon.

I knew enough about Nikons to operate it on still photography settings, so I used the borrowed camera for stills.

I know Rita Reed would tell me that this situation was perfect for using flash. It was incredibly dark. The colorful rave lights only made everyone a silhouette, which gets boring if that’s all you have frame after frame. But since Madalyne was using my camera I just used the on-camera flash on the Nikon. My batteries for my portable flash were all run down anyways (stupid rechargables). The photos are not the best I’ve ever done with flash, but I think they still tell the story well.

I took a couple natural light only shots (or not so natural since they were rave lights.) But then I decided to pop flash in there. I slowed down the shutter speed so that the light up hoops would make dancing waves of color from their movement. The pop of flash stopped whoever was dancing so that their image was clear. I think I did pretty well given the circumstances. Thank heavens I took Advanced Techniques with Rita Reed before doing this assignment.

Madalyne was also appreciative of my flashes for the video so that every now and then the viewer can see the face of who’s dancing.

We had been yawning all the way up to Kingdom City, but when I was taking photos I was very awake, present. Something about focusing on a shot makes the sleepiness abandon me. However, as soon as I knew we were done shooting the fatigue returned. By that time it was 1:00 AM, and we still had to go back to Columbia.

So we gathered ourselves up against the chilly night air and walked away from the dub-step/reggae combo, only stopped a couple times by dazed festival goers.

Journalism is no 9-5. Sometimes I enjoy that, and sometimes I just want to curl up in the fetal position and beg to be home for dinner. I like dinner.

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