Forcing myself to press pause

I had my fourth GA shift yesterday, which interestingly enough, marked being halfway done with GA for the semester. I just realized this, and it’s kind of freaking me out.

After spending my last shift consumed by my Eliot Battle story, which kept me busy for the whole day, I was a bit thrown off by how different the pacing of this shift was. I came in the morning being told I would work on a lower ed story about some possible funding that would be removed from the state budget. I spent the morning calling different representatives who might be involved, trying to get at what this might mean. After making a couple of phone calls to the office of the representative who was heading up the budget plan, I found out that the money had been put back in. Unfortunately, no one could really talk to me, since they were in session, I presume working on said bill. I worked with Zach Murdock, an advanced reporter, trying to see if there was anyone I could get in touch with. Unfortunately, nothing was forthcoming, and I ended up having to let the story go.

Later that afternoon, however, I ended up picking up another story about a local private school whose head of school stepped down last week. It was a pretty quick piece. I spoke with the school board chairman and got a letter that the school sent out, and I put something together in a couple of hours. On the whole, I was fairly pleased with what I put together.

I think the most interesting thing I took away from this was the importance of gathering context. When I was getting my story edited with Liz, she kept asking me context questions about the school I hadn’t even thought to ask. I guess I tend to be too much of a forward thinker. I focus a lot on the thought at hand and forget that sometimes I have to put what I write into the context of a bigger picture. Fortunately, we were able to look through our previous clips about the school to get the information we needed, but it definitely made me think more about how  I can include context in my story.

On another note, I guess I’ve been frustrated with myself in the newsroom, or even in general, really. The last couple of weeks have just been kind of difficult for me. I’ve been tired and low on confidence. And this week, I’ve added fighting off being sick to the list. It’s not that these things are going on that bothers me, it’s more that I feel like I’ve been letting it show. I’m pretty sure my high stress levels showed themselves during my GA shift (even if it was just me who noticed it), and I’ve spent the last day wishing I had pulled my day off more flawlessly.

On the other hand, part of me wonders if it’s less that my worries are showing and more that my perfectionism is taking over. I think sometimes I mistake the need to improve with the need to be perfect. Instead of realizing that I’m going to make mistakes and that I don’t know everything yet, I expect myself to have everything figured out and to always feel like I know what I’m doing. So instead of letting myself learn more and realizing I have room to grow, I just get angry at myself, and then it starts showing.

I ended up turning down a story today, which kind of frustrated me at first because I had wanted to take it, but wasn’t sure how I would get it done in the time I was given. Fortunately, someone on GA shift was able to take it, but I still felt bad for not being able to do it.

I think, in the end, I did the right thing by not taking on the story. As much as I find myself wishing I did, I honestly needed to focus on the other things I needed to get done, which include getting over not feeling well. I also got some more work done on my orientation assignment, which required me to go visit different schools in the district to talk to people and get a feel for different campuses I cover. While it certainly wasn’t as exciting as turning a story, I really enjoyed going to the schools. At each, I tried to go to the main office to see if I could speak to someone at the school, and generally, people were pretty receptive to my being there, and I got to talk to some pretty cool people.

I think working on my orientation assignment actually turned out to be good for me, because it reminded me of part of the reason I decided I wanted to be a journalist. The more obvious part is that I really enjoy reporting — writing, talking to people, getting the facts, learning new things. Another part, though, is a bit more personal. I’ve always struggled with being more of a shy person, and I’ve never really had stellar self-confidence. But for some reason, reporting feels different. Don’t get me wrong, being kind of shy makes it hard. But doing journalism has been one of the only things that’s ever forced me to work past those things. There’s something about having a deadline breathing down my neck or the realization that I have to talk to these people and get this right that makes me able to discard the fact that I’d really rather not talk to people. Somehow, when I’m reporting, I can step past the things I struggle with and do things I never really believed I could do. I can talk to random people, I can go to schools and ask to speak to someone, I can ask questions I’d rather not have to ask. To be honest, it’s a rush. It’s a way for me to do things I’d never do on my own.

New story: Charles McClain named interim head for Columbia Independent School


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