Never Gonna Give You Up

It’s a day I thought would never come. I just left my final beat meeting of the semester. And I’m kinda sad.

I remember walking to the first beat meeting back in August. Brooding over all I hated about the class and how annoyed I was that I had to give up an hour on Friday afternoons all semester.

Somehow though, around the time the seasons changed, my attitude did too.

Prior to taking this class, I had heard stories from friends about mean editors who made you cry and weekend nights spent covering events instead of hanging out with friends. Needless to say I was NOT the slightest bit excited to show up for reporter orientation the day before school started. I didn’t know how I was going to survive. I thought about all possible options to avoid taking the class: switching my emphasis area, switching my major, dropping to a journalism minor, dropping out of school (Seriously. It was fleeting, but it was there) – everything.

I even had the meltdown of the year when my roommate asked me about the class and what I wanted to do in life. After multiple consultations with friends, sorority sisters and my actual sister, we decided that my best option was just to suck it up and make it through the semester. I’m really glad I did.

It has by no means been an easy or stress-free class, but it has been extremely rewarding and I’ve learned a lot. Having my name on a byline, seeing a story printed on the front page, meeting new people and getting to talk to them, and learning more about the Columbia community. These were all exciting parts of my semester, but it was the people I worked with regularly – my beatmates and my editor, Liz – that really made the class worthwhile.

I know it sounds so cheesy and cliché to say that, but it’s true. If not for the support, suggestions and constant laughter provided by my “crew,” this could have been one hell of a semester.  We’ve created a little ed. beat family, and I thoroughly enjoy being around them.

I used to dread going to the newsroom and now I actually like the time I spend in there. I’ve gone from feeling out of place and alone in the newsroom to fitting right in with my crazy ed. beat family.

I’m not sad the class is over and I’m not sad to re-gain my Friday afternoons, I’m sad to leave my beat.

At least I know I can always count on Rick Astley to cheer me up.

Reporting 101

Today is the last day of class for the semester. What a great feeling. In our reporting lecture this morning, Katherine asked all of us to write a final blog post about what we wish we’d known when we started the semester.

This is by no means my final blog post, (who are we kidding, I’ve still got a whole week to go), but OH. WHAT I WISH I HAD KNOWN.

#1. Don’t be scared.  Yes, going into something you’ve never done before is scary, but don’t let it hinder you. Everyone is in the same boat. Let the fear of the unknown motivate you. It’s a pretty cool feeling when you realize you’ve pushed yourself a little outside of your comfort zone. It’s even cooler when you see your work that comes as a result. I will admit that I don’t think I let the fear motivate me enough. I stepped out of my comfort zone a decent amount, but there were times when I still let it inhibit me.

#2. It’s more than okay to cry. Breakdowns in the newsroom are normal. Expected. It’s a stressful job, a stressful semester, and damnit that source didn’t tell me he was going out of town!

#3. Your editor is amazing. Your editor is a fabulous resource. They (the editors) don’t exist simply to scare you. I do not know how I would have survived this semester if not for Liz. She is wonderful.

#4. Enjoy it. Make friends with your beat-mates. Make friends with other reporters. Make friends with your ACEs and the editors. It’s okay to laugh in the newsroom. It’s even okay to come to the newsroom and not work on journalism stuff. (It’s actually a really great place to get work done, I like to come here and escape sometimes. Weird, I know.) Make the most of it. You’re here for a semester. Settle in and get as comfortable as you can so you can make it out alive.

So there they are. The four lessons I would pass on to myself if I were taking this class over. (But I would really not wish that upon anyone.) Would my old self listen to my seasoned, wiser self? Mmm that’s debatable. (I’m pretty stubborn.) At the very least though, hearing some positive feedback would have calmed my nerves on the first day.

So for any prospective reporting students: take it from someone who never thought they would survive this class and nearly burst into tears every time they entered the newsroom for the first two weeks – you can do this.

Breaking:

I had my SECOND TO LAST (!!!!!) G.A. shift on Thursday.

I’m glad I no longer dread them. (#progress ? yes.)

We caught wind of some interesting news early on in the morning and somehow, breaking the story fell into my lap. (Not complaining.) I called the Boone County Sherriff’s Department to confirm the story and get whatever details I could.

FACT: Covering breaking news is very exciting.

FACT: Having something actually newsworthy to cover on a G.A shift makes you feel good about your work.

I followed the story closely with a few other reporters throughout the day, and as information came in we collaborated on the original story. I didn’t get many more details while I was on duty but I managed to write another little blurb.

It was an exciting (read: busy) day in the newsroom, which always makes for a good shift.

I am glad for the experience.

New Team Players

We received a news release last week announcing the naming of two new players in the Columbia Public School District: Dr. Kim Presko and Dr. Jolene Yoakum.

Presko is currently in the CPS district as the principal at Oakland Junior High School. Her new role as principal for Battle High School, while technically not effective until July 2012, begins now with her participation in many planning meetings.

Yoakum is currently working for the Seguin Independent School District in Seguin, Texas. She has been an educator since 1979 and is originally from the Kansas City area. Effective July 2012, she will succeed Wanda Brown as assistant superintendent for secondary education.

I had the opportunity to talk with Yoakum about her new position last week. It may have taken three different phone calls but I finally was able to get enough information to write a story that worked.

Hopefully, if nothing else, it will serve as an introduction of Yoakum to the community.

Gone Fishin’

Did you know people like to winter fish?

No, not ice fish. Winter fish.

Me neither.

But apparently they do. And apparently it’s a pretty big deal!

I wrote a story last week about Missouri’s Winter Trout Fishing Program. The program, which is in its eighth year, promotes fishing opportunities and species diversity in urban lakes and is funded by the Missouri Department of Conservation and Missouri Parks and Recreation.

The little fishies released into the various Missouri bodies of water are all Rainbow Trout ( <– that’s what a Rainbow Trout looks like. In case you were wondering) of a relatively small size. They swim free from harm now until Jan. 31, but are fair game for harvest beginning Feb. 1.

Learn something new every day!

Filling the Gap

Anymore, multimedia knowledge is essential to journalism, no matter what kind. One of the requirements of our reporting class is to create a multimedia project for the Missourian’s website.

I was partnered with a member from my beat and we had three weeks to brainstorm, record audio, take photos and create a multimedia package. My partner Simina and I decided to tell the story of Buddy Packs.

The Buddy Pack program is unique to Columbia (and the other cities in Central and Northeast Missouri served by the food bank). It’s a really wonderful program that provides food for the weekend to hungry elementary school children.

Poverty and hunger in Missouri are growing. Recent numbers from the Columbia Public School district show that forty percent of students are receiving free or reduced lunch. Peggy Kirkpatrick, executive director of the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri, informed us that Missouri is ranked fifth worst in the nation for food insecurity for children under the age of 18. Just a few years ago we were ranked eighth worst. Currently, the Buddy Pack program is providing 8,500 buddy packs per week across 32 different counties, but Kirkpatrick told us that the number of children who actually qualify is more than six times higher.

I was astonished to hear this.

No child should be hungry. This is huge problem and I certainly don’t have the solution for it, but the least I can do is make others aware. I’m thankful for the work of the Food Bank, Columbia Public Schools and the numerous volunteers who continue to help make the Buddy Pack program work.

I’d like to think that 8,500 children are equally thankful.

Move-in Day

Tolton Catholic High School is Columbia’s first Catholic high school. It was a pretty big deal when they began this inaugural year, despite the fact that their school was not ready. They started this year at Columbia College while their building was being completed.

The good news is though, the first quarter has just finished and now the school is ready.

I had the opportunity last Friday to go get a tour of the new building from Prinicpal Kristie Wolfe while the teachers had move-in day. It’s going to be a beautiful school.

While the building is still receiving some finishing touches, students will begin classes in the building on Tuesday.