Bigger airplanes

This quick write up about the bigger planes being used at the regional airport was my second of Friday, which was another first. Previous to this, everything I’d done had been much more of a focused look at a single story that I used the day researching, planning, and writing. So churning out two stories, brief as they were, was new to me.

Again, it was a good learning experience to get to see the quick turn around on these types of news. It also sort of clued me into the fact that there are some reporters who know the ins and outs of the minutia of certain local goings on. The idea, for instance, that someone at another paper might have loads of context going into a sudden story like this (assuming they wouldn’t have known it was coming). It’s a bit of a naive realization, but alas. I have been continually impressed by the people I’ve seen who have had their fingers on the pulse of certain sectors of Columbia, who know the players and the context. And I think I also surprised myself with how much I know (after being here less than a year) by just reading what I do on the ice desk (and in my spare time). Obviously, the main thing I know is how much I don’t know, but I feel like I’m getting a grip on this little town, which is making reporting about it more enjoyable, and it’s making the things that happen seem ever more important to me.


Friday Fire Report

Covering this quick write up of an over night fire was my first real crack at doing a brief summarizing report of an event. Working the copy desk has given me the opportunity to read lots of these from Missourian writers before, though, so I had a general understanding of what it should look like. Then, I looked to the handy ‘questions to ask after a fire’ list hanging on the wall, which was also very helpful in steering me towards the info I needed and the structure I could build.

I think the real learning experience was the writing: the language, the diction, the structure, the intention that goes into every word (not that other writing doesn’t have such intentionality). There’s a specific jargon that has to be used with police and fire reporting, which is different than other stuff I’ve worked on, where the word choice is much more focused on being as a clear as possible for the reader. It was, for how short the piece was, certainly the most editing I’ve done with an ACE so far. So, it was a great learning experience and a good chance to experience such a prominent part of reporting. Though I do think I’m partial to getting a chance to actually fully immersing myself into a subject and getting a chance to get comfortable with the content. I like to feel confident in what I’m writing which, I know I won’t always get to do.

“Facebook Stalking”

One of the strangest things I’ve done so far this semester is certainly some good ol’ Facebook stalking. Obviously, this isn’t my first go round on the process, but in the past I’ve always perused the information of people I am at least tangentially related to (via friend or family). Which, I think is the sort of social contract Facebook users have signed up to consciously (v. all those we have unconsciously signed up to). We all expect, at least in part, to be visible to “friends of friends,” especially since Facebook provides us a setting that specifically designed to allow this. I feel like most casual users are aware of this, and okay with it, in a way, if only because your friends have been “vetted.” You trust your friends (or you should, or you want to). And thus, you expect your friends to act with the same sort of diligence: you trust them to trust their friends. (Following this theory to its end, everyone would be trust worthy, but I digress…)

But things get murky when you go after people who you don’t know and who obviously don’t know you. Facebook, of course, makes no guarantees to safeguard your information. And we all know  that we are visible, in some way, to others. But I think there is a cognitive gap (at least for me). We know it’s possible for strangers to explore our personal information. But we don’t expect it to happen to us.

Amid this internal debate, though, I know that the end to my means is of importance to the community — enough so to merit my “Facebook stalking.” Still, I can’t help but feel the eerie reality of the digital footprint we have all unwittingly created.

Another ACA Protest

For the second Friday in a row I attended a protest against the (potentially no longer) impending repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Since our new president has taken office, there has been, by my humble account, an uptick in political action, including marches, demonstrations and protests. As such, the Missourian (and so many other outlets) have been inundated with stories about protests. It’s easy for these stories to all begin running together.

After talking with my editor, it was decided that covering the protest as another protest story wouldn’t necessarily be in anyone’s best interest. So, being knee deep in ACA research for a handful of other stories, I spent the morning leading up to the protest putting together the foundation of the story, which included some detailed and, I think, much needed information about what had actually happened so far in terms of the ACA repeal (not much). I also worked to gather some numbers on what sort of impact the ACA has had in Missouri and what the new state budget might mean for the heavily subsidized program.

Once I got to the protest in the afternoon, I noticed that many of the participants were the same people from the event the week before (including at least one speaker).  I also didn’t want to simply find quotes to fill in the story I’d already started building, though, more or less, that’s what happened. A problem I ran into, though, was that many of those present were over 65 and no longer participating in the relevant medicaid exchange. The first few people I spoke to were most interested in protecting the “right” to health insurance for others. But, after chatting with a few people, I came across some folks who had actually had been affected by the ACA, whether they were on it, or whether a family member of their’s couldn’t afford it.

Generally speaking, it was a very similar experience to the one the week before. It was, however, much nice to go into the event prepared, with some planned questions and a bit firmer grasp on the topic at hand (obviously). It helped me, I believe, ask some much more interesting questions and dig down to a more satisfying story.

Growling stomachs require filling

Thoughts on Filip Bondy’s “How Vital Are Women? This Town Found Out as They Left to March”

I was immediately rubbed the wrong way by this article. Simply the central premise is upsetting: How vital are women? The answer should be inherent, yet for some reason, the value of one half of our society had to be questioned. To boot, the piece itself was entirely simplistic and focused mostly on how challenging it was for men to be (gasp) sole parents for the day, as though such sacrifice was titanic and these husbands had really stepped up to the plate.

I could tell things were only going to get worse just a few lines in: “Routines were radically altered, and many fathers tried to meet weekend demands alone for a change.” More inanity followed, “growling stomachs required filling on a regular basis,” “Usually, these chores and deliveries were shared by both parents, in a thoroughly modern way. On this day, many dads were left to juggle schedules on their own,” “‘Doing everything by myself all day long is not typical,’ Mr. Coyle said, not so much complaining as stating a simple logistical fact.”

I’m still working on formulating just exactly how I feel about this piece. But I am certain that it’s a thoroughly demeaning and pointless piece of reporting. If anything, it seems designed to point out how hard those poor dad’s had to work while their selfish wives were away marching for those silly rights (part of me kept expecting the article to eventually just say, ‘and by the way, there’s no such thing as gender inequality’).

I can see the value in taking a look at how a small community was impacted by such a huge event, especially one that disproportionately drew women to partake. But to build such an article around that opening question — How vital are women? — feels more like part of the problem, than an earnest attempt to capture zeitgeist of the moment.

Nothing about it ever felt news worthy. It basically boiled down to: Lots of women went to march. Fathers had to act like fathers even though it interrupted their weekend. It was hard. They were happy when the women got home. Yoga studio attendance returned to normal.

A demonstration at Sen. Blunt’s office

The second piece I wrote for the semester, about a demonstration outside of Roy Blunt’s Columbia office, was coverage of another event. This one during a GA shift. It was another interesting thing to get to watch unfold. Demonstrators packed in to the lobby of Blunt’s office and shared some moving stories about how Obamacare had impacted their lives and why they didn’t want to see it repealed. Most captivating to me, was how, after the event was over, people essentially lined up to talk to me. People wanted their voices to be heard. Which is understandable, but it also made me realize that I wasn’t really hearing the other side of this argument. Granted, the piece I wrote was simply covering their demonstration, and not attempting to understand the nuances of the ACA debate, I still felt that, in places, my article could be interpreted as being a bit like a platform for the demonstrators. And I don’t feel Sen. Blunt’s press secretary’s response helped — it felt incredibly stock. In the future I want to be more aware of how I can cover an event without simply acting as a megaphone for those particular opinions (though, at the same time, I understand that protests are an essential part of news, and should absolutely be covered). We’ve talked a lot about ethics in the class and a bit about bias, but one thing I’ve been thinking about is, despite any explicit bias, how do you report a story that doesn’t present a bias simply based on the subject matter/sources. Which, of course, I know there is no simple answer for.

Taut And Shocking ‘Killing Ground’ Is An Assured, Disturbing Debut Feature [Sundance Review]

There are few tropes as deeply ingrained as those of the horror genre. More often than not, even a luddite could spot a horror film in the first minute. But in a way, this overwrought frame that we have all become so familiar with has pushed many young filmmakers to buck against the cliches and create some truly surprising and downright chilling movies.; last year alone we got “The Wailing,” “The Witch,” “The Invitation,” and “Green Room,” most of which feature at least a semblance of those same well-trodden narrative devices and archetypal characters. Basically, there is hope that even with the most familiar set up, a film can still transcend into a worthy cinematic endeavor. Damien Power’s “Killing Ground” is not quite such a film, but it does manage to craft a pair of truly complex relationships and offer up some disturbingly heinous violence.

The rest…

Poor Man’s Breakfast

January 16, 2017 Almeta Crayton’s Community Programs hosted the 24th annual Poor Man’s Breakfast in honor of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Covering the event was my first assignment for the Missourian. I’m not sure it could have gone better for me as a reporter. Everybody involved in the breakfast was incredibly kind and interested in chatting about what it took to put on the event, how they saw the holiday in light of recent political/cultural events, and their general views on poverty and community in Columbia.

Boarding School Doc ‘In Loco Parentis’ Is An Immersive Look At The Transformative Power Of Education [Sundance Review]

There is little quite as decisive as education. And state-side, there is certainly a weariness related to boarding schools and their outdated traditions, antiquated ideologies, and general eliteness that, at the moment, has reached a near-pariah state (at least outside of the North East). This makes it plausible that American audiences might sit down to the new Irish documentary “In Loco Parentis” expecting a validation of some preconceived notions. But, as it turns out, “In Loco Parentis” adds a vital perspective on a particular form of education, highlighting most notably that with the right educators and the right environment, it can — and should be — a joyous, mind-opening experience.

The rest…

Studio Ghibli’s ‘Ocean Waves’ Has Aged Around The Edges, But Remains A Poignant Affair [Review]

For all the awful and rot the final act of 2016 has brought us, one small glimmer of cinematic hope was revealed last month with the news that Hayao Miyazaki was coming out of retirement and working on another film for Studio Ghibli. Now, following not far behind, we have the theatrical rerelease of a long overlooked effort from the studio (and the first not directed by Isao Takahata or Miyazaki), the 1993 TV movie “Ocean Waves.” And while “Ocean Waves” never really comes close to reaching the glorious highs that the studio is known for (“Spirited Away,” “Castle In The Sky,” etc.), it is nonetheless a gorgeously realized and deep emotional film of quiet elegance and the fierce longing of youth, and certainly one worth catching again at your local arthouse.

The rest…