Thursday, August 31, 2006

See You After the Jump

(Y'all like the print reference, don'tcha?)

The cake, the card, the gathering of coworkers to say goodbye.

All for me.

As excited as I was (and still am) about the next steps in my journey as a professional nomad, I looked at the circle of smiling faces and noticed a strange tugging feeling inside.

I didn't want to leave.

I'm always looking forward. You have to when, at any given time, your job situation is best described as "temporary." So I've created the habit of constantly writing, emailing and meeting with contacts during lunch breaks or before and after my time in the office, all without getting too attached to whatever workspace I'm working out of at the time. I've been like that since my first news internship, knowing it was just a stepping stone to where I wanted to go. Hence why I didn't so much as blink when I decided to move on once my contract was up.

But there's something about the ceremonial act of peacing out that, ironically, makes you want to stay. My supervisor said a few kind words and I sliced into the cake -- and all of a sudden, I felt like there was more I could write, pitch, produce, explore, work on. A flood of reasons to stick around, even though I knew I'd given and gained all I could in this position long ago.

Maybe it's the jolt out of the daily routine. Or knowing I won't be doing quite the same stuff anymore. Or maybe it's thinking that I could've written just one more piece, explored just one more place. Whatever it is, it makes moving to the next bittersweet. And it makes me think that one day, I may want to come back.
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Posted by Veronica Marché at 1:09 PM | link | Tell us what you think [0]

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Riding in Cars with Sources

The third time that I had to remind myself that the woman driving me around in her Volvo was 80-something years old and a source, I hardly wanted to leave. I didn't have the courage to tell her that I probably shouldn't take her up on an offer to take me around. But two hours later, we had driven in between streets that were the childhood homes of people that had grown to be judges, congressman and college administrators -- all black folk, all her friends. No longer a source, she was playing the fairy godmother role to a tee.

Experiences like those are the reasons why I like to get my sources in the car. "Let's ride over together," I say in a friendly tone. They'll usually hesitate, fumble their keys around, avoid eye contact, and eventually cave. "Uhh sure why not?"

Got 'em.

Driving is a disarming thing to do. It's also easy to babble, so I like to see if I can key into loose lips behind the wheel. When I really need to ask a hard question, the car is the place where it usually gets asked. There's no one else there but the two of you, and you just don't drive with anyone. Even when you get into a cab, cabbie puts you in the back. Ever ask to get into the passenger's seat in a cab in NYC? Yeah, me either.

I got a guy to cry when I was driving him his old neighborhood once. Where was he? Front seat of the Camry, son.

Orlando Sentinel sports columnist Jemele Hill knows what time it is. Check out her series of pieces with newsmakers as they ride in their own whips. Right on J. My favorite is her ride with Willis McGahee.

So my recommendation is to get that council representative, rapper, lawyer, or ex-con back home from those welfare fraud charges in the 90s, into the car. It might take a few tries, but watch how comfortable your sources are in the front seat, versus their desk or dinner table with a digital recorder sitting on top.

My favorite part about riding with the fairy godmother came as we approached a place here in Boston on the Roxbury-Dorchester line called Grove Hall. A maroon Benz passed by bumping a song by the rapper Twista. That's when she turned to me.

"How does he do that? Is he really rapping that fast? Or did they just speed it up?"

"No, that's really him, I don't think they sped it up at all."

"Uh-oh," I said to myself. Here comes a speech about how black music has descended close to the depths of hell with all its misogyny and coonfoolery. Or not.

"Now, that's fast!," the educator said. "It's like some of the black tobacco auctioneers, have you ever heard them? Ooh, my, could they talk fast! You should read about them, Darren. I've got books for you."
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Posted by Darren Sands at 10:46 PM | link | Tell us what you think [3]

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Givhan('s) Rules

Reading this profile of Joan Rivers it is not hard to see why the woman has not only won a Pulitzer, but why she is a must read even for those who don't like fashion, or Hollywood, or politics, or any of the other subjects she muses about under her byline. Cheers, Ms. Givhan.
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Posted by Darren Sands at 8:33 PM | link | Tell us what you think [0]

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Shameless plugging, or, pulling a "Veronica"

Here are a few stories I did for this year's NABJ Convention Online Student Project. We kicked journalistic butt. Enjoy.

Missing out on new media?
Giovanni spins poetry, laughs
Sharpton opens up on journalists
Buzz about blogs grows louder
Detroit tops Fever in playoff matchup
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Posted by Darren Sands at 2:59 PM | link | Tell us what you think [2]

Live From Nap Town, it's the kid who was afraid to flyyyyyyyyyyy!

INDIANAPOLIS, IN -

*walks onto the Indiana Convention Center Stage to the old Arsenio theme song* What's happening, fellow journos?! O.K., so what I've learned so far this week is that fear does indeed drive you. I've talked to at least five newspapers, collected about 10-15 business cards, and I finally hung out with my YBJ and Ten95 folks! So much fun.

As far as my fear of flying, well...I fell asleep. Yes. After crying my eyes out like a baby and sweating like a crackhead Tuesday evening, I got on the plane, chewed gum to keep my ears from popping (good looking out on that advice CNel) and soon as the plane got level...I. TAPPED. OUT. Talk about high comedy. This is right up there with my first trip away from home as a 16 year old as one of the more "What Was I worrying about" moments in my life. Of course, I've still gotta fly back to Philly International 7:10 Sunday morning. Yeah. I'll be praying still.

As far as professionally, everyone has said the same thing; good reporting skills, a little more experience, and work on feature writing. So it looks like they're suggesting internship, which kinda hurts my feelings, but my love for this business is kinda like Tom Cruise jumping on random couches and things, so I'll do what I need to do to carve out my niche and be successful in this business. Side note. Oprah really has lost her blackness. In my family, if you jump on somebody's couch, you better have quick reflexes because you will be ducking jabs and/or belts. I don't care if you're Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks, or Tom Ryan (more about that on my own blog, thepostgameshow.blogspot.com).

Well that's all for now, I've got to get ready to enjoy my last full day in Indianapolis, and it's something that I'm really really thankful to have been able to enjoy. So much for that fear of flying.
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Posted by Chris at 11:52 AM | link | Tell us what you think [1]

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Workin' 'Round the Clock

It's 1:20 in the morning, the end first official night of the NABJ Convention. Most of my friends are probably out partying, schmoozing or galavanting around Indianapolis. All as I sit in the newsroom of this year's student projects program.

Damn me for wanting to help out.

I can't front. I've been having fun as a professional volunteer. The staff of the online project is great, and they're full of wisecracks, which always works for me. ("Well aren't you a bad boy" will always, from this day forward, cause rib-fracturing laughter.) But producing that web site is no joke. I wish someone would've told me I'd miss meals and and forfeit sleep throughout the week. Then I would've been able to adequately prepare myself.

The good side: I'll be able to fit in my champagne cocktail dress come Sunday.

Who needs magic lemonade?
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Posted by Veronica Marché at 1:20 AM | link | Tell us what you think [0]

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Fear Of Flying

While also the title of an Erica Jong novel and an album by R&B Vixen Mya, it also describes my current worry as I set sail on the biggest adventure of my 24 years on God's Green Earth; The National Association of Black Journalists Convention, this year taking place in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Yes. I am 24 years old, never flew before a day in my life. And with heightened airport security, my fears are as prominent as Buffie the Body and Ki-Toy's backsides combined. I have a fear of heights, fear rumbling noises while in the air, and a fear of a seatmate who will talk too damn much while I'm praying for a safe trip.

But mostly, my fear is of my luggage getting lost in Naptown. Trust me, I don't have much, but what little I've got, I'd like to keep, especially my clips and resume. I'm planning to knock these recruiters off their feet like a Stevie ballad, so I can't be in Indianapolis and my gear somewhere west of Brokeback Mountain.

Yet, as many grown folks will tell you, fear can drive a person to do great things. I think my fear of flying is more than hopping on an airplane and taking a trip off the East Coast for the first time in my life.

My fear of flying can also be tied into wanting so badly to be a part of the few, the elite, and the proud; black sports writers. As Darren Sands has eloquently pointed out on a Beantown scale, there aren't many of us around. My fear of coming away from the convention empty handed will probably drive me to be everything people say I am, outwardly. I normally keep a low profile and choose to speak when the time is right.

However, there is more than an introverted side to Chris Stevens. There is the kid who cracks up my acquaintances with comedy skills that I never knew I had before. There is the intelligent, eager, student of the game who reads sports writers around the country to see what they're covering and how they cover it. And there is the Chris Stevens with determination, focus, drive, and the heart it takes to succeed in this rat race we call journalism.

So my fear of flying also doubles as a fear of failure, yet when the time comes to make the next big step in my life and career, I will definitely be ready to spread my wings.
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Posted by Chris at 11:28 PM | link | Tell us what you think [3]

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Worker's Compensation

An announcement goes over the p.a. system. Typing ceases, headphones are taken off, and like zombies in a horror movie, everyone raises from their seats. Then... a mad dash out of the newsroom.

There's pizza in the kitchen.

For those in the newsroom, the occurrence of major events almost immediately translates into longer hours, more responsibilities and watching enough CNN to cause acute myopia. And how are we compensated?

Unvaringly, without fail, always -- with food.

I got free breakfast for coming in early for Pope Watch 2005. Sammiches were provided for weeks on end during special coverage for Hurricane Katrina. And today, as news broke of a failed transatlantic terror plot, the management treated us all to Papa John's pizza.

The funny part is that nourishment seems to keep everyone happy. I have to stay until midnight? Fine. I have to produce three pieces for the show instead of the usual one? Okay. Just feed me, and I'll do whatever you want.

I guess it doesn't take much to keep a journalist content.
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Posted by Veronica Marché at 2:22 PM | link | Tell us what you think [2]

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Departed Globe Scribe Leaves no Black Sports Writers in Boston

When then-Boston Globe columnist Michael Holley walked into T. Anthony's on Commonwealth Avenue for my interview with him five years ago, my first thought was, "He looks nothing like his column mug." And he didn’t.

I always thought I'd run into him somehow -- spotting a thin, smiling black dude rocking a stubborn head of dreadlocks. Nah. As if overnight, those nascent locks had grown into ropes fit for a Rastafarian king and, with many thanks to Daddy Globe, he appeared to have put on a few pounds. He sat down in the chair opposite me and Mr. Michael Holley told me to call him Mike. That was five years ago.

And now there are no African-American sportswriters in Boston.

Zero at the Globe.

None at the Herald.

Sure, Jerome Solomon’s byline will rest over a few stories covering the Patriots, but he, like Michael Smith will fade away into what looks like a sweet online gig, Smith’s at ESPN.com, and Solomon’s at his hometown paper, the Houston Chronicle.

Howard Bryant left the Herald months ago to cover the Washington Redskins for the Washington Post.

And then there were none.

Never mind that there are three columnists at the Globe which, for many years, was a four-(wo)man rotation. I don’t know why they haven’t brought on another columnist, but this is the best sports town in the country, and currently no black reporters are covering it. I think that’s a problem.

(An aside: Since the Supersonics got bought by a team that will almost certainly ship the team out of town, what’s Percy Allen doing?).

That goofy column mug, Holley’s wit and well-crafted storytelling and watching how he reported the big stories are some of the biggest reasons why I got into journalism.

He still remembers that day at T. Anthony’s. We'll be joking around and he'll tease me and tell the story about the laptop-sized alarm clock that I brought to record the interview. He’s told his girlfriend, some hangers-on at a bar, and some colleagues at a benefit reception. I don’t ever get tired or embarrassed of him telling that story. Then again, he hasn’t mentioned it on his radio show.

I always thought it would be a sad day here, in the biggest sports town in the country, where I didn’t see Michael or Jerome or Howard writing in the sports pages. And I suppose now that that day has come.
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Posted by Darren Sands at 3:35 PM | link | Tell us what you think [3]

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Thanks, Becky!

Very few things can prompt me to do the cabbage patch, including:

  1. a hefty slice of birthday cake;

  2. finding a really cute and flattering piece of clothing on sale;

  3. hearing myself on NPR's air for the first time.
Today on Weekend All Things Considered: Becky Must Die.

Go me! Go me!

*cabbage patch*
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Posted by Veronica Marché at 8:15 PM | link | Tell us what you think [2]

Saturday, August 05, 2006

The Spirit of Competition

Is it wrong that I want to nominated for FishbowlDC's Hottest Media Types contest next year?

I'm saying, there's more to me than just good writing. People look as journalists and say, "Oh, they're nothing but bookworms." I'd like to show the world that, yes, there is some substance behind this pretty pen.

So when the 2007 contest comes around, I'd appreciate a nomination from any of Ten 95's extended family. I'll probably use this picture...

...and walk away with the prize. Because I know I have what it takes to be DC's Next Top Media Person. I've the look. I've got style. And I've got the requisite mild case of delusion.

I have the total package.

Maybe we could do our own thing and allow you -- our devoted readers -- to vote for the Hottest Ten 95er. Or, we could take it even further, and launch a "Sexiest Young Black Journalist" competition.

Whaddya think?

I think it would be a hit.

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Posted by Veronica Marché at 10:38 AM | link | Tell us what you think [5]

Friday, August 04, 2006

Smoothing Troubled Waters

I start my first prospecting interview with new sources the same way:

"What do you think of our paper's coverage of you/your issue and what stories do you think we've missed?"

The answers have run the gamut from "I think the coverage is accurate and balanced," to "I think your paper has a not-so-hidden agenda to defeat me."

Usually, they fall somewhere in between.

As a reporter new to an area, I know that even a thorough search of the clips only reveals one aspect of the story. It's our job to get as complete a snapshot of a particular issue as we can for the next day's paper. Unfortunately, life doesn't happen in snapshots, so we miss what happened before and after we publish.

That's where these interviews come in. I know I can get facts from the clips, but what I want is the story behind the story, the motivation. I want to know the fall-out and how our coverage impacted the goal my subject was working to achieve. I want to know their side of the story. And the side the paper printed. Then, I'll form my own conclusion.

The tactic is multi-faceted. This is the first time they're meeting me, usually, and I want to get them talking as honestly and as openly as possible. I want them to know that I'm listening and can understand where they're coming from.

I also do my best to read in between the lines and mine their complaints for possible story ideas and fresh angles. I want to see what's the story they think we should have told. I want to hear about the things we missed. And I want to write them.

Then, finally, I've got to let them know that there's a new reporter in town who really couldn't care less about the hangups they had with prior reporters. And that's what I had to explain to the Chief this morning after listening to him crucify my employer for about a half hour.

My newspaper has had a prickly relationship with the local Indian tribe, which has been trying to build a casino in the state for years. To have the Chief tell it, everything we've written has been negative. The paper, he said, has the obvious agenda to get the casino question on the ballot so that it can help defeat it.

"People come up to me with some of the craziest accusations about what we'll do with the money," the Chief said. "When I ask them where they heard this foolishness, the answer's always the same: 'I read it in the paper'."

I smiled. I nodded. I let him vent.

Then it was my turn.

"Thank you for being so candid with me," I said. "But I want you to know that I have no agenda. I have a job. Whether you get your casino or whether you don't, it's news to me. But I have no stock in the outcome either way. I'm here to tell the most complete story that I can. You won't always like everything I write, but it'll be honest and accurate. That's all I'm here to do. Period."

He looked at me, his head slightly tilted as if he was evaluating my gumption. I didn't let my gaze waver from his.

Then, the nod.

"Alright," he said. "That's good to hear. Now what do you want to know."

Score.

I smiled and started to rattle off some questions about a new marketing initiative the Tribe recently began. After the interview, I pitched a story about a profile and he agreed to it.

This game of cat and mouse gets easier with each community I'm bounced into. I think it works because for the first time since the subject has begun recieving coverage, they can actually see that someone from the paper cares how they feel. Or at the very least, is willing to listen. Sometimes it doesn't work and no matter what you do, town officials and politicos will hate your guts. But more often than not, at least I think, it makes a difference.

As I rode down the elevator with the Chief, I told him that if I ever wrote something he didn't agree with, call me up and we'd talk about it. He said he would, then invited me to the tribal Pow Wow going on next week. I scribbled the note into my pad and promised to look into it.

Then, with a smile and a firm handshake, we parted ways.
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Posted by T Dot at 5:19 PM | link | Tell us what you think [2]

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Hey! I'm Kind of a Big Deal Too...

In the real world, television reporters may seem glamourous and destined for fame (provided the makeup is properly applied and gaffes like this are avoided). But the Washington Post's Peter Fahri explores the theory that on celluloid, print reporters get all the glory:

Sure, newspaper reporters in the movies can be a cynical, tough-talking, hard-drinking bunch who aren't above cutting a few corners to get the story ([Scarlett] Johansson's character, for example, sleeps with two of her sources in "Scoop." But all is forgiven when they expose the truth.) The reporters in "The Front Page" (1931) and its remake, "His Girl Friday" (1940), might have ethical standards they frown on in journalism school, but in the end, they free a man wrongly accused of murder and get the bad guys locked up. And what's wrong with that?

TV reporters? They're not nearly as lucky. Television journalists tend to be depicted as fatuous pretty boys and girls, mostly out for career advancement. The truth? Not only can't they handle it, it's not even very important. Think of William Hurt's character in "Broadcast News" (1987) or Bill Murray's cynical weatherman in "Groundhog Day" (1993), or more recently, "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy" (2004).
Being part of the family of broadcast brats, I think my feelings may be a little hurt (just a tanch, as T-Dot would say) by the portrayal of asinine anchors. But it saddens me even more to wonder...

Why aren't there any radio reporters in movies?

I'm saying, we exist too.

*sob*
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Posted by Veronica Marché at 3:43 PM | link | Tell us what you think [2]

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