Do ALL the reporting

Here are some updates on what I’ve done this week:

  • Life story — I wrote my first life story during my General Assignment shift this week. Basically, whenever the Missourian gets an obituary about someone who either lived in Columbia or had a connection with Columbia, we call some of the family members and try to find out more about who the person was so we can tell stories that will celebrate their life. I don’t know how this is going to sound, but I had really wanted to do a life story ever since I started the semester. I’m not happy that it means someone died, but I guess for me, there’s something really cool about getting to share who a person was and have a change to tell their story. I really enjoy hearing about people’s lives, so I was kind of excited about the opportunity. The story ended up going really well. I got in touch with the gentleman’s son, who gave me a lot of good information. It was kind of cool, actually. When I first started talking to him, he told me a couple of stories, but as the conversation lengthened, he thought of more things he wanted to say. When I called back for an accuracy check, he thought of even more stories. Liz told me that after doing a life story, I wouldn’t leave the newsroom the same person I was when I came in. And I think she’s right. There’s something sad, but very beautiful, about helping a family celebrate someone’s life. It affects you. That night, I woke up randomly at like 5 a.m. and wondered if I should call my parents and tell them how great I thought they were. These things really make you appreciate the lives close to you.
  • School Board Meeting — I went to the school board work session Thursday morning and turned a quick story. The meeting didn’t require anything particularly long, but I guess what I really liked about this story was that I felt a lot more confident with it. I was able to get a draft together in a couple of hours without really relying on my recordings. Generally speaking, I felt a lot more confident about this story than I have working on past meetings. This was especially cool, because this was the first meeting I covered entirely by myself. On the whole, I’d say it was a pretty good experience.
  • Student Council Advisor — I drafted my story about the student council advisor who won an award for her work, and I’m in the process of getting my accuracy checks. This wasn’t an incredibly difficult story, since it was more of a soft feature, but I really enjoyed doing it. This probably goes along with my love of hearing about people’s lives. It was nice to hear about someone who is making a difference and what she thinks without dealing with any charged issues. I also got to do just a touch of storytelling, since it was more of a short profile piece. The story should go up some time next week.
  • Tax Levy/Bond Issue Reax — Abigail, Nicole and I put together a story this week about how community members feel about the proposed bond issue and tax levy for Columbia Public Schools. We spent a couple of days making phone calls to get short vignettes about how the proposals would affect them. The actual reporting was fairly straightforward. We all made calls and talked to people about their thoughts on two pretty important issues. I think what I really got out of this was learning to grow some as a leader and team member. Abigail was a huge help with this story; she had a ton of parents call her back on Wednesday, so she had a lot to contribute. Nicole made a lot of calls, which really helped us cover our bases, even though she had some trouble with groups of people who didn’t want to talk to her. I got a couple of good sources as well. I ended up being somewhat of the coordinator for the story. I helped Shaina make up a list of groups of people we could call, bugged Abigail and Nicole to make phone calls, made a lot of really encouraging comments, and helped write out the context, lead and nut graf (okay, so it wasn’t my best lead or nut graf, I admit, but it was a start). I’m not listing all this to make myself sound important. I just thought it was cool to have a chance to step up and lead a little bit more. This is often something that is difficult for me, since I usually want to let others figure things out and have trouble with feeling like I’m overshooting my authority. But it was good to have a chance to feel like I could be a leader, that I have what it takes. This one should also go up next week.
  • Multimedia Project — This one has been a little slow-going. Nan and I have hit a lot of roadblocks, and a lot of things haven’t turned out the way we expected them to turn out. I went to go take pictures at an event, thinking it was one thing, but finding out it was something else entirely. Something else that ended with me getting caught in the pouring rain trying to take pictures with a Missourian camera (which are not really of stellar quality) and struggling to get good images in the midst of rain and really bad lighting. Then to cap it off, as I was walking back to my car in the pouring rain, a car drove by, hit a puddle and splashed me. (I actually mention that because I think it’s hilarious now. I mean, the only time you have a rough time with something and then get splashed by a car is in overly-dramatic movies.) That aside, the multimedia project has definitely been an opportunity for growth, although not in ways I expected. I’ve had to continually work on my ability to be a good team member, my ability to improvise when things don’t turn out as planned, and my willingness to fight for what needs to happen but also be less hard on myself when things don’t go as planned. At this point, I’m not sure when this project will finish. But I’ll be posting as Nan and I move forward.
  • Candidate Forum — I’m going to my last school board candidate forum today. It should feel fairly standard, and I’m hoping the confidence boost from my school board meeting story will help the writing process go smoothly. There are two positives to finishing this story quickly. 1) It’s a lot less stressful for my editor and me. 2) When I finish, the only thing standing between spring break and me are some accuracy checks.

I’m not really sure how I did all this in the past week. It’s been an exercise in hard work, good humor and showing myself grace. But it’s good to head into spring break with a strong finish.

New stories: Columbia School Board candidates answer questions on district issuesJames “Fireball” Jenkins worked hard, loved to raceColumbia School Board votes to extend superintendent’s contract


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