Trying my hand at some multimedia

This semester, I’m taking another huge step out of my comfort zone into the world of multimedia. Not only will you get to read about all my attempts at amateur photos and video, you’ll get to see some of them, too.

Every week, you can also expect a blog post responding to prompts from class or detailing my frustration or elation with a project. As always, I’ll fall to humor when I can.

Prompt 1: What are three (or more) goals you have for this course experience, and more importantly, in what ways will you really have to stretch yourself in order to achieve each of those goals?

First, I want to learn how to use a DSLR and take photos that tell a story. I’ve never had reason to learn anything more than a point-and-shoot before, so I’m excited to learn new technical skills. I’m also not used to communicating in anything other than words, so it will be difficult to try to translate those storytelling skills into visual ones. It also seems, to me, that taking photos of people can be more invasive than asking for a comment or just talking. I want to get over my shyness at asking and be more bold (but professional) so I can get the images I want.

Second, I want to get a better sense of how to package multimedia together into a story. I’m used to how photos and graphics and text come together to tell a story, but I don’t really know how to fit together mostly visual elements. This will be a stretch for me because I’m used to relying on text as a crutch to explain how the other elements come together. I’ve never had a story where text wasn’t the star, and I know that to really invest myself in learning multimedia I have to let go of my reliance on just text.

Third, I want to learn how to properly voice an audio piece. I’ve had experience doing some voice work before, but it was so specifically targeted toward hard news that I think there’s a lot I still have to learn. The stretch will be moving past what I already know to open up to something new.

This is all new to me, and to be honest, it makes me nervous to venture out into something new. Like last semester with intermediate writing, I’m trying to take the mature and realistic route and make decisions that, though hard, will improve my journalism past what I can already do.

I’m always hesitant at first, but I suppose if it didn’t make nervous, I wouldn’t care as much. Stay tuned for some more multimedia adventures!

 

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Leaving the ACE desk on a high note

I just wrapped up my encore season as an assistant city editor at the Missourian. I’ve raved before about how much I’ve loved ACEing and working with reporters, but two weekends ago I had an especially rewarding shift.

I’d already worked almost 20 hours in two days when I was greeted by five eager reporters embarking on their first general assignment shift in the newsroom. Eager might actually be an understatement. They were waiting for me on the steps up to the Missourian when I arrived, and I was early to begin with.

Within an hour, I had many of them assigned and working on stories of things I’d heard about in town or events we’d been alerted to by community members. I love new reporters because they haven’t yet developed the hubris to think a story is beneath them — they are just excited to get out there and get published.

Throughout the next two days we edited, questioned, problem-solved, wrote, rewrote and rewrote some more. I prodded them at times to add more description or think about the purpose of their lede’s content and placement. We discussed accuracy checking and language use, and I gave a shpiel on using our CMS so often I now have it memorized.

By Sunday night, we had a number of stories under our belt that I was really proud of. Weekends can be slow for us, especially general assignment-wise, but the stories we turned were ones that would’ve stood out even on a busy day with lots of copy.

Here they are:

Editing that weekend, I was able to see again how cyclically my experiences feed each other — how improved reporting and writing lead to improved editing, which leads to better writing again, and so on.

A big goal of mine recently was to focus more on my writing, and after asking myself questions about how I write and why I write the way I do, I find those same thoughts buzzing around in my head when I edit. So I ask them to my reporters.

I can’t take credit for their work ethic, talent and tenacity, and I wouldn’t want to because they fully deserve recognition for the excellent work they did. But I do think I was able to guide them much better than I would have before and much better than they were prepared to guide themselves as first-timers at the Missourian.

I think their stories were better because I am a better editor now than I was a year ago. I know what questions to ask to get them to think about writing descriptively and with a stronger narrative. I know how to help them problem solve when running into issues reaching sources or finding information. I can more confidently explain to them why accuracy checking is important and how to go about dealing with an uncooperative source. I am more aware of cliché and jargon and redundancy and voice.

And I can do all these things more effectively because I’ve had to tackle them recently in my own writing and reporting.

Whenever anyone asks me what I want to be, I parrot off a response along these lines: “I want to eventually be a city editor of an education section, but before I can do that I need to be an education reporter for a while so I really understand the process and can make my editing more meaningful.”

Intellectually, I’ve always known the best editors were once good reporters themselves. What’s really cool is that I’m proving it to myself now, too. I know what I need to do to get where I want to go, and that’s just plain exciting.

So thanks reporters, for making my job fun and challenging every single day with your questions, curiosity, work ethics and ideas. I appreciate that you trusted me to give you advice and guide you, even when it was difficult or frustrating to see the end goal. It has been so delightful and rewarding seeing you learn and grow into accomplished reporters. Very simply, watching you succeed makes me proud, so keep on keepin’ on.

And thanks city editors, for giving me another go at this amazing job (and letting me do it in the first place two years ago!). Thanks for giving me autonomy and trusting my decision-making, and thanks most of all for the opportunity to learn and pursue what I’m passionate about. I wouldn’t be nearly as confident in my journalism if I hadn’t ACEd. You’ve given me a trial run at what I want for my career and a way to learn more about doing journalism than I ever could’ve imagined.

I’m sad to leave the ACE desk, but I mostly feel grateful that I got to do it at all. Everything I’ve learned about myself and journalism has more than outweighed any stress or frustration I dealt with.

If any of you get the chance to ACE at the Missourian going forward, don’t pass it up. I promise it’s worth it.

Making the most of my last summer vacation

Long story short, it’s been an interesting (and awesome) summer.

In between working as an assistant city editor at the Missourian, freelancing for The Riveter Magazine and working an unpaid gig for an author, I’ve put about 3,500 miles on my new-old car.

I made a conscious effort this summer to make sure I found some time for myself. Mostly, that has included traveling home to see my family and to Kansas City to see my friends as well as taking on anywhere from one to three ballet classes a week at the School of the Missouri Contemporary Ballet.

My work life:

  • On ACEing: I loved ACEing in 2011, and I love it now. I thought it would be odd editing again for some reason, but it has really just cemented that I eventually want to pursue a section-editor-like role for my career.
  • On The Riveter: I can’t gush enough about The Riveter. When my friend and former Maneater colleague Kaylen Ralph started the magazine, I was immediately hooked. While I’m still learning how to stay on track and adjust to a freelancer’s schedule, I’m having so much fun writing about a topic I love for a publication whose mission I strongly believe in.
  • On my unpaid gig: I have to keep most of this under wraps, but I’ve loved the opportunity to practice journalism in what, for me, is an untraditional setting. It’s nice to get a chance to break the report-it-write-it-repeat mode to work with someone who has way more experience than I do.

I made a choice to apply only for my reach internships this past year, and when they didn’t pan out, I was a bit put off. Sure, it’s easy to put on a face and act OK with weeks of rejection emails, but really, it felt a little bit like I was being left behind when my friends and colleagues all started making plans to go off in this or that direction for their stints at daily newspapers. I amassed credits quickly during my undergrad, so I had my “big regional metro” summer a year before a lot of students my age.

But my dear friend, Alicia, repeatedly gave me the advice I needed. I’ll paraphrase it here:

“Shaina, you had your daily newspaper summer. This summer, treat yo’self.”

And so the treat yo’self summer began.

  • On traveling: I’m lucky to live only 6.5 hours from where I grew up, but on any given weekend during the semester that is a bit too far to travel for a visit home. Because I’ve spent the past few summers away from home, I took advantage of having flexible hours that let me be present for my parents’ birthdays, wedding parties, etc.I also was lucky enough to have many of my close friends spending their summers in Kansas City, an awesome place that is near the top of my list to live post-graduation. As often as I could, I crashed at my roommate’s house and explored the restaurants, bars, local landmarks and museums that KC has to offer.
  • On ballet: I could rant for a few thousand words about what dancing has meant to me…and probably will in the near future (hint: check in with The Riveter later this fall!). But for now, I’m just happy to be able to indulge in something that makes me incredibly happy, even if it does mean I wake up with sore muscles more often than not. There’s something freeing about clearing your mind of the day’s events and to-do lists and just focusing on balancing a beat longer or spotting a turn with a sharper head. It’s been a treat, indeed.

In a little more than a week, my last fall semester at MU will begin, and I’ll take on a whole host of new classes and journalism experiences. Although I began the summer feeling a little out of sorts, I’m ending it glad I took the time to try new things and enjoy actually having a vacation. I’ve watched my friends and sister start full-time positions, so I’m planning to savor this time as long as I can.