Inhaling ink and machinery (…is this illegal?)

These past two weeks have been so surreal.

Four years ago in June, I graduated from high school not knowing what the hell I was going to do next with my life — and little did I know that four years later til this day I was going to be sitting at my own desk in a newsroom.

(As an intern, at least).

Just days before starting at the Reno Gazette-Journal, I was going a little batty over the littlest things because I was just so anxious to start — my lazy roommates were getting to me as well as the crazies who walked in the planetarium. I had friendships that were suddenly changing, and, ohmygosh, there was the fact that I’m graduating in six more months. But I walked into the RGJ with pride, confidence and no fear. I’d like to thank the Nevada Media Alliance for that — reporting on the legislature on a weekly basis helped me break out of my turtle shell.

I got comfortable in the newsroom the second day. The people who work there are friendly and dedicated to getting their job done. And, I absolutely adore my mentors — I already look up to them, and I know I’m going to learn so many amazing things from them. It’s nice to be finally working in a real environment, instead of one involving an overkill of bias and favoritism.

And I’m working on one of the best topics ever. Digging deeper into Reno’s recovering economy has me enthralled before I’ve even started. I’m already covering great mini topics and calendar events on local fashion shows, business openings, contests, remodeled home tours, and even about a VANS-lovin monster named Shoezilla. But my big debut comes out in Sunday’s paper on June 23, about how local vibrant charities bring a quality of life to the city — as well as a motivation to get others out there to help. This story will be posted on Reno Rebirth as well, followed by a special follow-up.

My classmate from NVMA, Natasha, is also interning at RGJ but reporting on the final and post-days of the Nevada Legislature. She’s a great reporter, too, and has made it to the front page like four times already. She sits right behind me which is pretty cool.

In the meantime, I’ve also moved into my new apartment with my best friend. It’s so perfect because I live right across the street from Wal Mart and other conveniences, and my bedroom is huge with a walk-in closet and bathroom. And I’m gladly to say that I am quite aways from the college (you know when it’s time to move away from that crowd).

The next two stories I’m working on is about the Santa Pub Crawl here in Reno, and if the increased presence of cops hurts or helps the tourist and visitors — and then, as a later story, how Burning Man influences the hip art of Reno.

I hope to live a happier and healthier life from here. I think I’m off to a good start aside the sore back from carrying desks up a flight of stairs.

 

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The Next Chapter

It’s about time I experienced a semi-decent semester at the University of Nevada, Reno – I got to do some REAL journalism work, and I expanded my mind to classes that I hate and will never have to take again.

I got two perfect A’s in Nevada Media Alliance and Data journalism. My KNPB package I worked on with Stephanie turned out wonderfully – I even got an official copy of the episode on a special DVD. You can watch it online at the NVMA siteStephanie, the audio/video maven, narrated the episode as I interviewed our sources about all-day kindergarten in Nevada. I think we both kicked ass on writing the script as well.

Here’s a photo I took of when my team and I toured the KNPB station. On screen, you’ll see our episode getting ready to air! This was on April 19th:

NVMA is a permanent and new addition to the Donald W. Reynolds School of Journalism. I’m debating whether I want to do it again or not, and I’m thinking I’m should. I’m graduating in December and I would be taking about 18 credits if I joined again, and only 2 or 3 original members who reported on the legislature would return. The topic to report next semester is the reinventing or the rebirth of Reno’s economy. I discovered that covering this topic would benefit me in many ways:

I recently got hired as an intern at the Reno Gazette-Journal to report on their new blog called Reno Rebirth, which covers the recovery of the city’s economy and community. I’m incredibly excited because I’ve been wanting this internship for so long, and this blog allows VOICE in the reporting. I also get to expand my knowledge on Reno’s economy. I officially begin June 4th and I already have some decent story ideas down. Oh, and Brent Boynton, the news director of KNPB said that he would like me and the RGJ to contribute our Reno Rebirth work with KNPB! I’m kicking my feet up in the air as if I were a child who just found out that they’re going to Disneyland for the weekend; I’m so damn excited to be a part of this.

Rejoining NVMA for my next (and last) semester would be definitely beneficial for me because I would I know the subject by then, and I could continue reporting on it. Also, I would get my name out even more by the time I graduate. Gosh, I’m so spoiled!

So don’t worry, I will be linking my articles from Reno Rebirth on JOURNALISchick as well as sharing my experiences working at one of Reno’s greatest news desks. I have to write experiences anyway in order to receive three credits — but I don’t mind doing that regardless.

What else has happend? On May 7th, I received the Charles H. Stout Foundation scholarship. I forgot the amount (most scholarship recipients do), but what’s so special about this scholarship is that this foundation helped supported the NVMA to purchase the amazing media tools to make the team who we are today (and obviously, you’ve seen that we’re pretty damn amazing). Although this scholarship lasts for about a year and I have one semester left, I think I might use up the remaining scholarship to take some courses to get back into my old hobbies, if it gets difficult finding a job (drawing, choir, guitar, writing…).

My project about BLMNV and the mustangs for Data journalism came out okay, but not as good as I wanted. It’s a huge topic I’d like to investigate when the topic is hot again — you can click here to check out what I’ve gathered: http://mustangsofunrnv.wordpress.com/

Other than that, my remaining grades are okay – B+ in Women & Lit, B+ in Core Humanities, and I got very lucky with a C+ in Mircoeconomics (eff that class). But it definitely brought my GPA up higher. I’m also moving out of my apartment and moving into a secluded area away from crazy party animals (I’m such an old lady about this).

Before I go, check out the Reinventing Reno website UNR students put together with business journalist, Micki Maynard! I believe this is what the next group of NVMA would be reporting on. One of the writers even earned the Steven Martarano Best Published Article Award!

Up next: 2 book reviews and another update.

Nepotism in the Newsroom: 5 Easy Ways to Cope in a Workplace

ImageONCE UPON A TIME, I worked in a newsroom that had a great involvement of favoritism/nepotism. One of my editors hired his girlfriend on the team to take over one of the sections of our paper. Since then, it seems like she’s had it easy; he always gave good feedback to her about her articles, while the rest of us had to deal with the harsher side of criticism. A couple of us took this to offense at the time because not only did we put our heart and soul into the writing and editing, but it was just completely obvious!

He liked helping her out a lot, too. Sometimes, he would help me out with my section, but for majority of the time, I was the one who was writing about eight articles per week. A few of my co-workers have noticed that my editor had strange priorities, and it might’ve been the reason why the newsroom had such poor management. I discussed with one of my co-workers if they’ve been noticing the favoritism and she told me that she did. In fact, it was aggravating her just as much as it was aggravating me; if not, more.

So here’s how we ended up handling the situation: we discussed it with our managing editor, who seemed quite open and understanding of our concerns. The funny thing was that she almost wanted to agree with us; she wanted to join in with our complaints but being the classy lady that she was, she couldn’t spill out any of her emotions (although her facial expressions showed it). After that, she went spoke to that editor, but did not mention our names.

And he took it to offense, instead; he and his girlfriend felt that the entire newsroom was against them because we, as a crew, felt that there was too much nepotism involved. The girlfriend even considered quitting because of it and he wanted to resolve it all with a “group meeting”.

However, I disagreed to have that happen. There doesn’t need to be a group meeting to discuss the favoritism about them two. In my opinion, here’s what a real boss should do: have a meeting with his girlfriend instead and discuss how they could avoid this kind of situation again. I mean, they’re both love birds working together, what else is there to discuss (unless they don’t have common sense)? They thought we all thought we hated her, which was not the case. It’s the favoritism we didn’t like.

I understand why he would want a group meeting to get some outside opinions but I just felt that it was going too far with it. The managing editor reported a couple of complaints about an obvious situation (that’s their problem and they know it), so why get everyone involved?

I’d like to say that they aren’t horrible people at all (although his girlfriend is quite the sour puss). They’re pretty bright and friendly people! But why cause trouble?

It scared for me for a while when I heard that they both felt offended by this. It was a yellow flag for me saying that their relationship could be POSSIBLY a lot more important than this job.

Before I make this post any longer than it should be, here’s my explanation of what the importance of this post is: Nepotism and favoritism is quite common among workplaces, and from my experience, it could be a tough situation to handle (and sometimes, people have to quit their job because of it). So here’s some advice from the things I learned in order to (calmly) cope with nepotism and favoritism in a workplace:

1. To clear things up a bit, the definition of nepotism is favoritism upon kinship, relatives or friends. Even though my examples aren’t related to each other, they act like they’re gonna get married, so what the hell.

2. Keep record of your suspections. How does the boss favor the other employee? What does the boss do for the employer that he doesn’t do for others? Is he more easy going towards the favorite?

3. Do some research, but keep it classy. You could ask one of your co-workers to see if they’re noticing any favoritism. However, don’t talk down about them. Focus on the main points of your concerns when you talk to a co-worker: “Does it seem like to you that our boss acts a lot differently towards that employer?” (Of course, you could probably phrase this much better than I can). If the co-worker begins to talk down about them, let them know that the boss being an ass, for example, is not your concern. But anyway, if the favoritism increases between the boss and the employee, you will have a co-worker or two to help explain the situation to a supervisor.

4. Trust your gut and pay attention to the past. Gut instincts are (usually) always right. And, it’s also important to focus on your boss’s behavior patterns with former employees when they’re hiring others.

5. Keep stress and motivation in check. Even if you receive the most critical criticism, continue to do your best and top-notch work. Those who do very well in their professions are expected to eat the harsh criticism anyway. 

6. Had it? Report it. Don’t do this if you’re letting your anger get in the way. Only report favoritism when you’ve noticed it’s constant, and when your other co-workers agree to take this with a supervisor. Favoritism is a stressful situation to deal with, but do it when the time is right. This is why it’s good to keep a personal journal of what you’ve witnessed (because I did).

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to deal with nepotism in a workplace. Sometimes, it’s never solved or it just has to be ignored. But if it worsens, you might want to contact a higher position of the company or an attorney, according to HR Hero.com.

When I did my research with my situation, I found out that he hired his girlfriend over another applicant who applied for the same position (and the person who applied for that position told me). Unfortunately, talking to the managing editor was the most I could do but any experience that you can get is good — even if it’s the crappiest. And, it won’t be tolerated in the future.

Where I’ve Been:

I get that you can’t forgive me for this, but I think I have pretty legit excuses.

For the past Mondays and Wednesdays, I’ve been reporting like crazy at the legislature. If you’ve been following our blog, you can see that we post as much as we can four days a week. 

I’ve been learning something new about Nevada’s politics each day, even from my teammate’s articles. Wednesdays are usually the busiest days for me because I have two classes back-to-back from each other once I return to Reno. I insist on dressing nice and looking good, too, so that takes up some time.

I also work seven hours on Tuesdays after two other back-to-back classes. Nobody memorable has walked in or called the Planetarium these days. Lately, it’s been quiet and normal (and really boring).

I’ve made a few new friends, so I’d like to spend time with them as well, especially since I have a lot in common with one of them! We’re hoping to start a band since she plays the bass and sings, too (except, I’m the guitarist).

I work for about 4-5 hours on weekends, and I’m usually exhausted by the end of the day. I don’t get to really rest or rejuvenate until Monday hits (surprisingly) because it’s the only day I can allow myself to sleep past 10 am! I used to go to Carson on Mondays but we decided to switch things up (and this ended up being a good idea).

So it’s obvious that I’ve found time to write a freakin’ post; it’s one of the most wonderful things about Spring Break. I have a list of ideas that I’ll be blogging about this whole week in order to make up however many weeks I’ve missed: I have a couple of books I’d like to attempt to write reviews on and I now have the power and confidence to write an article I’ve been meaning to write (you’ll see).

Here in peaceful little Fallon, behind me my mother is baking cake pops that are colored green, white and orange for St. Patrick’s Day tomorrow (her side of the family is Irish, which makes me Irish, so we’ll be celebrating). My father is doing well and is outside trying to get the power hose to work. The dogs are anxiously waiting for him to get it to work so they can bite the jet stream of water. And as for my brother…he’s just being the teenage boy that he is, hanging out in his room.

Hopefully, I’ll get to see some old friends while I’m at it. I’m getting my hair dyed and cut professionally for the first time in over a year on Friday, too. And now, I can’t help but enjoy myself by eating sour apple flavored licorice that my mother is using to decorate the cake pops with. We’re both kind of having a hard time trying to shape them as clovers to put on top of the icing. Here’s how they look so far:

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Because it’s Spring Break, I also have the time to get back to my projects. I’m working on a short story to submit to a fiction class I want to take next semester. On top of it, I’ll just work on my other two novels as well — why the hell not?

It’s really nice to get away from Reno for a week — it’s much needed. Lately, it’s been the same old routine everyday socially, academically and emotionally. I’m actually getting sick of college because I’m ready to move on and focus on just writing and journalism. I was walking through campus last week and thinking, Man, I’m just getting too old for this (however, I’m only 21. Ha. Ha.).

Doing the same old routines in college reminds me of breaking up with a boy I fell hard for in high school; I couldn’t move past him because I was focusing on him so much and it took me two years to stop caring about him. My constant focus on him was holding me back from a lot of things. I feel like something’s holding me back from graduating, even though there really isn’t. And luckily, this feeling is under good circumstances. I guess I could call it slow motion with the way I’m feelin’.

I’ll be back tomorrow. In the meantime, here’s one blog post you could read that I had a chance to write, for NVMA: http://nvmediaalliance.wordpress.com/2013/02/27/achievement-unlocked-report-the-first-month-of-77th-session/

Investigative Reporting Tips from Vanity Fair’s Suzanna Andrews

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My data and narrative journalism professor, Alan Deutschman, introduces some really amazing and inspiring journalists to the university. I mean, these people work for big time papers and magazines.

The guest he brought to us this week grabbed my full attention and is probably my favorite guest he’s brought so far. It was Suzanna Andrews, a contributing editor to Vanity Fair, who writes features and investigative articles on business, politics, culture and crime — in her definition, her theme of writing is “abuse of power”.

She’s also written for other numerous publications such as The New York Times, GQ, Rolling Stone, and Reader’s Digest. She was also a story consultant to ABC’s “20/20”. She’s won a couple of Front Page awards for her features on Vanity Fair.

As a class assignment and in order to prepare to ask her questions, we were required to read two of her most impacting articles, Murder Most Yale and Arthur Miller’s Missing Act (I suggest you read both of them — they’re really good).

Both feature stories required so much investigation, stalking, credible information, and main sources. How did she do it all? Andrews shares her helpful investigative tips to the class and especially her experiences while writing these stories.

Murder Most Yale is a feature investigative article by Andrews based on the murder of Yale student, Suzanne Jovin, in 1998. It’s a case that is still under investigation today; they say it’s the “college version” of the Jon Benet Ramsey case. Andrews focuses the timeline of the night of the murder in her story, but mainly focuses on the people that surrounded Jovin’s life to find more information on the case.

Jovin’s story was first published in the New York Times — and Andrews said that this story “needed a lot of play”

Finding Personal Recommendations

As you may have noticed in the article, the police weren’t as involved. Andrews said with most crime stories, there will be slim chances that a reporter will get information from the police. Instead of constant calls and emails to set up interviews, Andrews recommends following them instead.

As a semi-experienced reporter, I find it difficult how to contact the main sources I need to talk to for my stories. Some connections may not always lead you to that significant source, but apparently the ones you’d never think who would have any contact with them might actually do! Andrews said during her investigation to find Jovin’s closest friends to interview them, she gotten from a word-of-mouth that a restaurant owner nearby Yale was pretty popular among the students — they loved him. When Andrews approached him, he was able to connect her with Jovin’s friends.

Andrews said each story has source circles; you have to work your way into the hub. You start interviewing those on the outside of the circle: Aquaintinces –> Close friends –> Parents –> Suzanne.

“It gives me time to think about the story and what to collect,” Andrews said. “When I get to the center of the story, I feel like I know the story as much as they do, or better.”

If you get enough attention, your sources might come to you

Andrews said she had a difficult time getting a hold of Jovin’s parents for an interview. After attempts with a few phone calls with them, she had to end up emailing them the interview instead. During the phone calls, the mother could not stop sobbing and the father refused to talk.

“I was horrified calling the parents,” Andrews said. “It was clear to me that they were grief stricken and angry.”

Andrews said you can’t always fire questions; sometimes its best to play it off as a conversation.

“There’s that element of authenticity, too,” Andrews said. “You want to get people to talk.”

However, Jovin’s younger sister approached Andrews with a phone called and accepted an interview. Somehow, she found Andrews.

Andrews said getting in contact with James Van de Velde was one of the most difficult parts writing the story. Van de Velde was Jovin’s professor and thesis adviser, and is a suspect of her murder. Andrews said she could only get a hold of Van de Velde’s emissaries or friends. One emissary of Van de Velde’s that Andrews got to interview was a woman. Like the rest of Van de Velde’s friends, it was expected that this woman would say nothing but good words about the professor. However, Andrews said the woman had different thoughts about Van de Velde and saw him the night of the killing.

“(The story) consumed my life,” Andrews said. “It’s a psychological rage.”

Andrews said during the time of writing this feature, she played out possible scenarios in her head and timed the driving and distances within the area of where Jovin’s body was found.

Does Andrews think Van de Velde killed Jovin? She said yes, but she doesn’t have an exact reason why she was so drawn to write this story.

“I kind of wondered that myself,” Andrews said. “I felt like I was lead to it. I didn’t feel like I was going to nail the professor, but the story latches on to you.”

Andrews’ Arthur Miller’s Missing Act is based on playwright, Arthur Miller (Death Of A Salesman, The Crucible, A View From the Bridge and ex-husband of Marilyn Monroe) and the abandonment of his son, Daniel Miller, who was diagnosed with down-syndrome as an infant.    Miller cut Daniel out of his life immediately and never mentioned him when he brought up his children in books, interviews and even at his wife’s funeral. For 40 years, Daniel was kept as a secret. When Miller died in 2005, it was known to the public that he did not leave a will, but he actually did, and left Daniel a good portion of his money to last him for the rest of his lifetime.

Andrews said it was almost a possibility that Vanity Fair didn’t run article due to the intense emotion of the story and that it could offend those who have a child of down-syndrome of their own. But everyone knew it was a story that deserved attention.

Rebecca Miller, Daniel’s sister and a daughter of Miller’s, is now a close member of her family. Rebecca didn’t allow Andrews to speak to Daniel. In fact, Rebecca and her husband, Daniel Day-Lewis, were disgusted by Andrews’ story. Andrews said she thinks Rebecca was afraid for the safety of her brother.

“This story was fought very hard by Arthur Miller’s family,” Andrews said.

Andrews had the chance to speak to one of Daniel’s caregivers, however. Andrews said she was on the web for days just to find connections between Miller and Daniel. She ended up on a Vietnam Veteran chatroom and spoke to a member who saw Daniel at a party. The member she spoke to in the chat room ended up being the husband of Daniel’s caregiver.

Andrews said when she called up the caregiver for an interview, the caregiver said, “It’s about time.”

After Andrews’ lecture, I feel that I can be more confident in expanding my choices when writing a hard or feature story. So I think I have until tomorrow to meet one-on-one with Andrews in Professor Deutschman’s office until she has to go back to her home in New York City. I would love to see if I have time  to have coffee with her for a more personal talk, but even just a handshake and a short conversation might do well — whatever the outcome is, it’s worth it, right?

Follow Suzanna Andrews on Twitter!: https://twitter.com/AndrewsSuzanna

Nevada Legislature is firing up

Last Friday, my media alliance and I got the chance to tour our newsrooms in Carson City and Legislative buildings! I’m so happy that I’m going to be learning about local politics, since it’s something my brain desperately needs to learn (I know that sounds super dramatic, but it’s true!). It’s such a great and new fresh start to my journalism career, and I think this project will be much better organized. I can already feel the guilt and nasty spirits from last semester slowly (but surely) departing from my body.

For the past week, we’ve been preparing ourselves to become superstar legislative reporters. I believe tomorrow we’re going to figure out mini groups to go to Carson together, so we all have a chance to cover something each week. We just launched our website Monday and some of us have assigned stories already, like me.

I’m hoping to (and still trying to) cover Assembly bill no. 42 by the end of this week. AB42 establishes the Nevada Cyber Institute throughout the Nevada System of Higher Education. The NCI will provide courses that is going to practice techniques of cyber security. If this bill passes, this institute will be offered throughout most universities, community and state colleges in Nevada.

Since it’s uncertain that this bill is going to pass and since the Nevada Legislature is getting ready to start on February 4th, everybody in the State offices are running around like nuts (or, more appropiately, traveling to cities back and fourth and preapring as well). Therefore, it’s very difficult to get a hold of people for interviews, on top of classes which one of them requires me to read a 39 chapter book by Kate Chopin before Monday. However, my data journalism class is my perfect companion for this project since I’ll be learning how to hardcore stalk and access information. My first assignment a few weeks ago was to acess personal information about a local public figure (our professor purchased an Intelius report for each student in the class!).

So I’m feeling a bit down in the dumps right now, possibly feeling a hint of failure because I was unable to speak to my sources before the end of this week. However, I will put a band-aid on this temporary fail, and see what the hell I can do about it tomorrow.

Since I’m back into the swing of things with writing essays and serious objective articles, my mind is trying to resist to use my voice in my writing since it’s, like, FORBIDDEN in most school work…

I’m just sitting here on the thrid floor of the library, taking glances at my phone, hoping  somebody will at least return one of my calls. I’m sitting in between two people who are studying, possibly annoying them with my loud typing skills. So with the weekend coming up, I have so many plans and so many things to complete and cover. Eventually, I get where I want to be with this blog. No way am I giving up!

-Molly

Busiest Job: College student studying journalism, writing and death.

Again, it’s been a while. Keeping up with a blog on top of writing a 10+ page report and reorganizing for the semester gets in the way sometimes.

Also, my class took a field trip to Mountain View Mortuary last Thursday and took a tour of the funeral home. The morticians were very kind and professional. I wish I had questions to ask but I didn’t since I already knew most of the process of working at one. When will I get to those stories? Hopefully quite soon. I am compiling a list of goals I want to complete within the next two months!

However, I completed and (overly) passed my Death and Dying class with a 100.40 percent. Today, I just started the semester and learned quite a few things already: I learned how to fully stalk a source (investigative reporting) and, there’s a little bit of nepotism and bias within the student publications at my university. I gained the experience of working with that was like with one of those publications, and I would like to share that experience with you and tips on how to handle it. Right now, it’s a struggle for me to write it because it was such a frustrating experience that I didn’t end on good terms with. But I’m going to be working on this and hopefully post it next week, without bashing on the people or the publication (because I really don’t believe in doing that, no matter how angry they made me).

Anyway, thanks for sticking with me through the boring parts. I think I figure out some good times when to post now that I have more breaks in my schedule. What’s also going on this week is that I will be starting my writing and reporting on Nevada State Legislature’s 77th session! I have a meeting to attend this Wednesday and a field trip for an orientation on Friday in Carson City. Possibly, a good friend of mine who recently moved might be able to come visit me this weekend.

I’m a big “sorry pants”, so here is another apology of mine for being so late with things. Now that everything is on a definite schedule, I think I’m confident to post more than I used to these last few weeks. In fact, I’ll share my experience about my field trip to the mortuary later today!

-Molly

P.S. Did you hear that February 3rd is going to be a Super Harbowl? I’m very excited, but I don’t know who to cheer for. Colin Kaepernick is just amazing and he was on my university’s football team (I didn’t really become a 49ers fan until Kaepernick took the quarterback position). I like the Baltimore Ravens because my family likes them and I think they’re really good, too. I’ll be honest, I think I’ll be happy with whoever wins. This is gonna be interesting!