I’m dating journalism, but we’re breaking up so I can be a pirate

Last Sunday, I met up with Breanna, who was on my beat at the Missourian, to catch up after not seeing each other for the summer. We talked about her internship, life back at school, random deep thoughts and how much I enjoy sweet tea, among other things. (Seriously, I might be becoming addicted to sweet tea since I found out my body handles it way better than it handles coffee.)

At one point, we wound up talking about my favorite topic of the semester: how confusing it is for me to readjust to having a “normal” life after all the business this year has brought thus far. And I ended up using my slightly offbeat analogy in which journalism is like being in a bizarre relationship where you break up because it’s really stressing you out, but then keep thinking about them anyway (this is an extreme paraphrase of our actual conversation, both for brevity and so you don’t find out how weird my conversations really are).

Breanna’s response: If I’m dating journalism, that might not be a good thing (also paraphrased).

And don’t even ask about the pirate thing; honestly, it was pretty random.

But in spite of the mental/emotional confusion of the last few weeks, I think I’m starting to feel grounded again (starting being the key word here, we’re still kind of early in this process).

I had a pretty long conversation with a friend about the restlessness and discontent I’ve been feeling since coming back here, and I think we managed to trace it back to a lack of focus on what I’m doing here. Last semester, my energy was pretty specifically focused: report, eat, report, sleep, report, attempt to cram in class and homework, report, etc. This semester, things are different. I’m in a bunch of classes, which have to be my focus right now, and it’s less clear what I’m supposed to be doing with my life.

After our conversation, I think I finally started accepting that things are different now than they were last spring. My head still has to really grasp that, but it’s helped me start to think about how I can use this semester and how I can focus my energy in the right ways. And there have been plenty of ways to start getting focused, especially as the semester picks up steam.

I’ve been getting a lot of work done on the story I’m doing for intermediate writing about different gun shops and shooting ranges in Columbia. So far, I’ve been to a couple of places, and I’ll be visiting the last one this afternoon. I’ve actually been enjoying the process a lot, which is pretty exciting for me, considering that I knew very little about guns before I started this last week. I even got to go out with a couple of guys at one of the the ranges to watch them shoot, which was a really good opportunity for me to practice observation in my reporting so I can start telling good scene-setting pieces instead of being so focused on what people are saying. I’m starting to see that this class is going to be a really good opportunity for me to really improve my ability to deeper reporting, instead of the quick-turn stuff I’m used to doing.

I suppose I’ve also enjoyed the feel of getting back to doing a little bit of reporting. It’s kind of funny, because it took me way longer to get started on this piece than I had wanted, because I was a little afraid to jump back into reporting after a three-month hiatus. What if I lost my confidence? What if I messed up? What if I forgot what I was doing and made a fool of myself? These questions hung in the back of my mind as I finally picked up the phone to set up interviews. And while I’ve definitely had to relearn a few things in the last few weeks, I’m finding myself able to remember the skills I learned last spring and apply them with this story, while trying to push myself a bit further. It hasn’t been perfect though; I’ve had to kick myself a couple of times when I got in the car and made it halfway home before realizing that I forgot to ask a question or two that should have been obvious. However, I did remember to get phone numbers, which makes the problem at least easily fixable. I’m taking some time this semester to remind myself that I should always push myself to the highest standards, but that I can also realize that there are going to be areas where I need to grow. That’s why I’m in journalism school.

Another area where I’m seeing opportunity to grow this semester is in my intro to news editing class. We’re starting to move from talking about newsroom practices to doing editing exercises. And can I tell you something? Copy editing is a lot harder than it looks. Some of it is pretty basic, like noticing words that have bias and rewriting them to be more neutral. And then you get asked to fact check something like what a person gets assessed on their personal property taxes and things get a little crazy. It’s a lot of research and legwork and figuring out how we know what we know. Which isn’t always obvious. On the plus side, I’m learning a lot more about where I can go to find interesting tidbits of information, which is pretty journalistically useful wherever I end up.

It’s been nice, I suppose. Things are starting to get busy with classes and general semester craziness, but I’m starting to find my rhythm. I’m starting to see ways I can grow this semester, ways I can stretch myself, both as a reporter and as a person. I’m being reminded of the things I enjoy about my major, and I’m starting to figure out how to make my schedule work.

Now if I could just figure out how to pay attention in my large lecture classes, I’d be good to go.

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One thought on “I’m dating journalism, but we’re breaking up so I can be a pirate

  1. You learn so much being a journalist just because of fact-checking and asking people questions. That’s why I knew I had to write. I ask people a lot of questions all the time and then just store it away so might as well, right?

    Anyway, I know how you feel about confidence. It’s why I’m hesitating on starting a new story. Will it be as good as the old one? What if I forget how to create a new character because I’ve been working with my old main character for so long now?

    I would ask if you’re doing NaNoWrMo but you seem pretty busy already.

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