Tuesday, September 30, 2008
That was one of the notes I got in my e-mail after writing a story about tribute bands. According to this reader, his band has been commanding the tribute scene for decades and their omission in my story about the state of the scene displayed laziness, and a lack of thorough reporting.
I was beside myself with frustration.
Two days ago, I got in an unnecessary argument with a reader who took me to task for writing about a 13-year-old diver and former gymnast who made the state qualifying meet in her first year in the sport. His argument? We had never written so much about all-county divers, so why were we writing this now? Calling it a waste of space, he left his number. I called him, he shouted and got nasty.
ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?
So please don't e-mail me. Like, ever. Just don't do it. Ignore the e-mail address. It's not worth me taking it personally. continue...
Friday, September 26, 2008
I’m sitting in my car in the parking lot outside my job with the car running and Raphael Saadiq playing on the stereo and I feel like I’m about to hyperventilate.
I just left one coworker in my office while she was printing out her resume to potentially shop around at a job fair this weekend. My boss skipped out early. She was laid off yesterday and has been mentally checked out since. The guy in our office who got laid off kept plugging away at stories today, just like always, except that his flow was constantly interrupted with phone calls he’d take in the hallway. My guess is job offers and financial matters.
This is what it feels like to be in a dying industry, I suppose.
At first, I was angry. Angry that all 30 of our cuts had to be borne by the news department. Angry at management for refusing to acknowledge the value we add. That without us, the paper will be nothing but a multi-page advertisement. But they don’t listen to me.
In two weeks, my job will change. They told us that the bureau system as we know it will be gone as of Oct. 10. I turn 25 two days later and return to work that Monday to a newsroom full of uncertainty and trepidation. Happy Birthday to me.
I was talking to a photographer when the first layoffs were announced. He asked me if I’d been shopping my resume around. I had, I told him, but there was a problem. The places I’d been shopping it to were having hiring freezes or worse – the people I’d been cultivating relationships with for years had taken buyouts. He told me I’d be fine. I told him I have no marketable skills. He laughed and tried to reassure me that I did.
I’m a newspaper reporter in a world that increasingly is telling us that they don’t want to read newspapers. I’m a newspaper reporter in a business where management feels it’s more prudent to cut news staff than advertising or production. I’m an average news reporter in an economy where I’m competing for the few available jobs with people much more experienced and way more talented than I.
Thank God that for now, at least, I’m safe. I know that when the next round of layoffs comes, I’ll be in the class that gets cut. And I have no idea where I’d go. What do you do when the industry you fell in love with as a kid doesn’t want you anymore?
I have some management experience, filling in as bureau chief when my boss was out. Maybe I can manage a coffee shop. I call in updates and write breaking news for the blog sometimes. Maybe I can be a telemarketer. I have years of practice taking things that people say and do and rehashing them for a new audience. Maybe I can be a history teacher.
I was talking to one of my old competitors the other day. She left the local paper and went to go work for the local theatre company in the marketing department. She gave me comp tickets to a show the other night. Says she loves her job. Maybe she has the right idea.
What scared me most as I packed up my things and walked to my car, what has me writing this blog on my laptop in my Cavalier, is that it’s not so much that I can’t do anything else. It’s that I don’t want to. But I’m coming to realize increasingly that wanting something doesn’t make it so.continue...
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Today, the company announced that they are laying off 30 people from the news department.
We knew the layoffs were coming. We knew they'd happen by mid October, but that's all they told us. We didn't know how the cuts were coming, who would be affected, or anything.
I knew something was wrong as I walked up to the building this afternoon. I'd just come from a water rate hike hearing and was coming to the newsroom for the first time today. I saw a photographer standing outside on his cell phone, clutching a Guild newsletter. I knew we'd gotten some news about the layoffs. I just didn't know what.
As I made my way up to my office, I got a text from a friend in the main newsroom.
I rushed downstairs to her hangout spot -- a place behind the building she often goes to smoke handrolled cigarettes -- to make sure she was okay. She seemed fine, and I didn't really know what else to do. She wanted to get back into the newsroom to finish the day. So I let her. Upstairs in my office, I learned that one of my newly-married, soon-to-be a father, coworkers had been laid off.
I was hired in January 2006 officially. The cut off date for layoffs was May 30, 2006. Just a few months seperated me from unemployment. They took all of the part-timers firts, and a handful of full-timers got caught in the mix as well.
I've never felt so bad about having a job.continue...
You can wait your entire journalism career for the opportunity to write this sentence into your copy:
When police were trying to get fingerprints, police say Cruz moved closer to the officer and passed gas on him.
Okay. Maybe that's just me. I would have filed that story and then spent the rest of the day laughing my ass off. That's the type of story that makes you love your job!
I wonder what evidence they'll have if it goes to trial.continue...
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Which is probably why I'm all giddy about this right hurr.
The D.C. Examiner has signed me on to be their local dance blogger. EEEEEEEE! If there are two things I know, it's dance in D.C... and blogging.
And I know what everyone's thinking... they're like, "Veronica is SO in heaven right now."
Yes. Yes I am.
GO CHECK OUT MY D.C. DANCE BLOG!!! continue...
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Not because I can't think of any. I dream up plenty on any given day. But my brain has a glitch. It works a little too much. To the point where I overthink and overanalyze my ideas so much that I usually find a reason to dispose of them before any editor even gets the chance to. I think it's a side-effect of working in radio: instead of trying to fill up pages, we're trying to ration out minutes. Mere seconds, in some cases.
But it's something I'm actively trying to change. Particularly because right now, assignments are few in the floating/freelance producer world. I've got some time on my hands, and I've been spending it trying to figure out how to spend it.
"Go do a piece," said one of my colleagues (and sometimes-boss). "You're a good writer. Go find a story to do."
She said it so simply, like she was telling me to grab some orange juice out of the fridge. Doesn't she know in this overactive mind of mine, it's just not that easy?
*sigh* Okay. Yes it is. At least it should be. It just isn't, for me.
I was lamenting over this during a roadtrip with Soraya this weekend. "Just write what you know," she said. Basically, she said, there can be a story in anything.
And no sooner than I sign on to the Internet tonight do I see the very proof of her point.
There's the column about insipid commenters on washingtonpost.com (I'd been sniveling about that just a day before). There's the New York Times piece about the evolution of Sarah Palin's hairstyle (I'd been sniveling about that too for the past three weeks). And the Modern Love essay about the downsides -- BIG downsides -- of looking someone up on the Internet before the first date (been there...MAJOR mistake). And let me forget the piece about tattooed wedding rings.
(As an addendum: The articles mentioned above also proved another point that Soraya had made -- that Times clearly has its finger on the pulse of culture -- "It leads the conversation on these things," she said -- and that that's some stuff to aspire to.)
So, with my boss' encouragement in my pocket, Soraya's pep talk fresh in my ear, and examples to follow everywhere I look, I've printed out a little helpful phrase and taped it above the keyboard on my laptop:
Readers catch everything. But unfortunately the on-duty editor, the copy editor(s?) and I didn't catch anything.
I wrote my first obit yesterday...
Yes, I know. Something as simple as an obit should be a piece of cake, right? And it was, sorta. Last night I worked the cops desk alone. During the last third of my shift, the editor told me I had less than an hour to research, report and write an obit about a local politician/activist that I barely knew anything about.
I did a public records search. Miraculously, I found the deceased activist's phone number in Sacramento and spoke with his daughter, wife and brother. I spoke with one of the activist's colleagues and attained an emailed statement from a more notable colleague.
By the time I had gathered all the information, I had twenty minutes max to write the story. Surprisingly, I came pretty close to deadline, crafting the best obit I could in just under 30 minutes.
I filed. The copy editor/pagination guy asked me a couple of questions and the story was put to bed. But what had I missed? Well, two or three things, according to a reader who so kindly emailed me to let me know:
Thought you may want to be informed of these probable typos in your article about Peter Camejo in the Contra Costa Times: Here, the word "man" is likely missing from the quote: "He was a person who fought constantly for justice. He was an activist, an entrepreneur and he was a dedicated family," Danny Camejo said.
And in the title of the article, you may want to use the word "rights"
instead of "right" in "Civil right activist..." The rest looks very good and
thank you for your article.
Great. Just great. My first obit and I can't use it as a clip. And who can I place the blame on? I just as soon place it on myself, except I swear two other sets of eyes read this story before it made it to the web and to the page.
Anyone else care to regale us with your copy editing nightmares?continue... Maybe I'm weird.
I like being edited.
I mean, it's always a good feeling when someone hands you back copy and says, "This is great! No changes." It strokes your ego... but if you're me, the strokes are short. I start to wonder, "No changes? Are you sure? You positive I didn't miss anything? Are you SURE?!"
Chalk it up to my personal need for perfection, or the closest I can get to it. You can't get there if you're not challenged. Because if you're not challenged, you get stuck in your own little bubble thinking you can write rainbows and unicorns -- until finally, someone points out the muddy puddles and walruses on your page.
And then your feelings are hurt.
So yes, edit me, please. Especially if you're older, wiser, more seasoned and experienced. Anyone who knows me knows I have something of a reverence for the veterans at work. The hosts, reporters, editors -- all kind enough to chop up a young producer's copy.
Okay, yes, there are times when the revisions can annoy me (like choosing "gargantuan" instead of good ol' "huge"... inflated copy, anyone?), but most times, I just like sitting next to people I respect and learning from them. Three years out of school, I still consider myself a student. I figure, in order to be my best, I have to learn the best.
And, baby, I'ma be the best.continue...
Friday, September 12, 2008
Phones went unanswered and for about an hour today, all of our attention was focused.
Today, we said good luck to some of our colleagues who took the buyout my paper offered last month. As editors read the departing reporters bios and shared anecdotes of their time here, I realized most of them had been here longer than I'd been alive.
There was cake. There were speeches. There were lots and lots of jokes and funny stories. And there were tears. And lots and lots of hugs.
Everyone seemed happy to go. They'll spend their time writing books. Or at Red Sox games. Or just living their lives greatly. They said so. But for us who will show up to work on Monday without them, there's a void.
I went downstairs earlier to say goodbye to a few of my favorite reporters who are taking the buyout. Someone asked what the mood was in the bureaus. My paper announced buyouts in August, and come October, we will have layoffs. No one knows how many, nor the method that will be used to make the cuts. I told them that right now, we weren't uneasy just because there were too many variables to worry about. We'll be concerned when we have more information.
But when I went upstairs, I couldn't help looking at the classified ads that show up on the various listserves I belong to. I wanted to at least know what was out there. Because if I go, it won't be by choice, like these guys.continue...
Saturday, September 06, 2008
Here's a post I wrote earlier about a panel on election coverage. I thought the Q&A part would be helpful for our readers.
Election Roundtable: Q&A
A few questions and answers from the session....
Is who makes the most money really the best way to choose how you'll spread coverage around?
Sweet: Obama is a hometown guy; some candidates got more coverage than they deserved because they were interesting, etc.
There's not enough decoding of what is actually meant (should be done by reporters). There are not enough voices of color giving analysis or commenting (to give context like this).
The majority of top reporters covering politics at news outlets are white men over 50, says Jodi.
What do you read, watch, listen to, or not?
Felice: Loves Maureen Dowd, the Politico
Lynn: Mike Allen's Playbook at Politico, The Page (an aggregated site that looks at what moves the day), CBS/ABC aggregates, NYT, Wash Post, Chicago Sun-Times, and the links on her blog. She doesn't pay attention to one on one interviews. She needs places giving lots of information synthesized.
Beth: Mike Allen's Playbook, CNN, NYT for general coverage and Slate's XX Factor
Ann: Michele Cotta from the Republic, Rebecca Traister at Salon
Can the Obama campaign sustain the interest and energy?
Yes, they can sustain the energy, but will the young people who have mobilized for him really vote?? That's the question, said Beth.
Lynn Sweet: Term Obama uses is "intensity gap" -- they say they're ahead of McCain. Palin revs up Repubs the way Obama has done for the Dems.
Places like the Politico don't have the same resource base as the old media institutions -- are there going to be journos covering political campaigns in a new media world? What's our strategy to keep the journalism in the campaign?
Beth said they're doing partnerships with papers like St. Paul Pioneer Press and Denver Post. Also launching Politico network -- content and ad revenue sharing program that will launch on Tuesday. It all has to do with marketing and advertising. Can't see advertising is our enemy.continue...
- sit up straight
- breathe -- think of calming things
- consider a Flip video-- $150 for an hour of video
- Use your nervousness and allow it to keep you excited
- Don't "uptalk" (allowing your voice to trail up), keep your voice steady and speak with authority. Don't question what you say. Believe it.
- Think about three points you want to make -- not about stats. Think soundbites -- those are the things that draw emotion out.
- Make eye contact -- try not to use your notes
- Shut up and listen. Let the silence work for you.
- Have fun!
- Check out NYTimes reporter David Pogue, a technology writer, and his Web casts. Engaging!
- Think about what you're wearing: no sleeveless, no low cut necklines, simple, clean jewelry, DON'T wear black or white, or small intricate patterns.
- It's the Social Mullet: Business in the Front, party in the back
- Business: LinkedIn -- get recommendations, put resume up and make contacts
- Party: Facebook -- put up those pictures of you at your college kegger, but just be sure to set your settings to 'private' so employers won't see your misdeeds (or your midsection)
- Twitter is like microblogging.
- When blogging, be tasteful and be cautious
- Google yourself! Keep in mind what shows up on your search page
- Always, always, ALWAYS set your privacy settings. Always.
BEHIND THE CAMERA TIPS
- Always white balance -- zoom in on something pure white to correct the color in your videos
- Use manual focus
- Audio check the person and adjust the volume so that you don't get spikes in the volume level when someone speaks
- when doing a 'man on the street,' make sure the mic isn't visible in the shot. Also remember that everything in the screen is a part of the story.
- Gain -- it adjusts light sensitivity on a camera. Can be used to brighten a scene if there is very little light. But be careful, it makes quality grainy (think adjusting the brightness of a photo too much)
- Establishing shots help provide context. If it's an interview, show both people sitting first, then feel free to zoom in on one person or the other.
- Adjust the camera so it moves smoothly and as you pan, zoom in so that it is all in one smooth motion.
- LISTEN -- use your journalistic discretion about when to pan and when to focus. Only zoom or move the camera with a purpose.
- Use a tripod if you can; if you can't, hold your breath while you're taking the shot or use a chair or something to steady your arms on the camera -- or if you have a large camera, sandwich the camera between your shoulders and head (a la broadcast) to help steady it.
- Action -- Never leave the scene without "B-roll" --- those supplemental shots of the subject working or (gasp!) shots of whatever you're talking about actually taking place.
- Get as much video as possible, but have a script of what you want. Do your research and know what the subject will be speaking about. If you can, WRITE DOWN THE TIME CODE when something interesting happens. It'll make it easier to find later as you edit.
WEB SITES TO VISIT:
- Journalism 2.0
- Poynter E-Media tidbits
- BNHphotovideo.com (to buy multimedia equipment
There was also a session on Flash, but it's just so complicated, I'm thinking it wouldn't do you any good to get a step by step on how to make a mini slideshow. But, do check out online tutorials at a bunch of places to get a handle on this very important program for multimedia.
Read stories most likely about her, but unless you're from Ohio, probably not by her.
I just heard her speak at the luncheon at the JAWS camp. A few things that stuck out:
- Why she didn't change her name: After telling a story about how her parents thought they were two nobodys who would raise four somebodies, she said she was "proud to have her name." Later, she told us about responding to people who suggest she should change her name and said she tells them that being married does not suck the opinion out of her. "I'd been boring myself because I stoped giving my opinion and instead, was giving his opinion." Her marriage didn't change her opinions, or mean that she couldn't be her own person
- "Speak your mind even if your voice shakes" -- Maggie Kuhn, founder of the Gray Panthers
- "We're in this business because we care," Schultz said. "We got in it not to make money; we wanted to change the world and I'm tired of apologizing for it.
- Race is the issue of this election (Schultz told us a story about how her dad was racist); it is more about having the hard vconversations with people we love and why we don't talk about it. The whole undercurrent is fear.
I'm here at the first panel for the morning, an International panel featuring a bunch of what looks to be amazing photographers from around the country -- and even Iran.
For the organization, I'm also blogging live from this session, so I may not be able to do the same for both blogs. So, if you want my play by play on international coverage, check out www.jaws07.blogspot.com.
A little bit of plagirizing from the post I just did there:
The session, an international panel, will discuss how "international issues are being covered at home, how hard it is to pitch international stories related to women, women reporting overseas and how to find -- and best tell -- the untold stories of women overseas."
The panelists are:Peg Simpson, freelance writer from D.C.
Paola Gianturco, documentary photographer, author
Lois Raimondo, staff photographer The Washington Post
Sahar Sarshar, videographer for voice of America, and video/radio for the Iran chanel.
We're having a little trouble getting all of the technology in the conference room set up, but things should begin shortly continue...
Friday, September 05, 2008
Monday, September 01, 2008
I've been at work for exactly 54 minutes and I am starving for some reason. I've eaten the two grapefruit cups I brought to work and I"m working on an Arizona tea as well. But I didn't bring a lunch because I figured I could run home and get something when I got hungry.
But, when you're working holidays or weekends, you're usually the only person assigned int he newsroom. Which means that if anything happens anywhere in the state, it's your job to cover it.
I've already dodged a bullet with a structure fire that got knocked down quickly. But I'm still under the gun for a story for my section tomorrow.
And my tummy is rumbling.
Man, I shoulda brought some more snacks.continue...