On sports vs science journalism

Today, I was talking to one of the students from Grady Sports about being a sports journalist, and it got me thinking about the differences between our two career paths.

Although my boss is trying to convert me, I don’t think I can ever be a sports journalist. I am such a slow writer that I can never file my story right at the buzzer. I think sports journalism is actually more complicated than science journalism. Throw a manuscript about a new molecule or neurogenesis at me any day, and I can probably right a story about it. Send me to a baseball game, and I may just as well be watching a foreign-language movie. I can appreciate how beautiful it looks and know when I’m supposed to boo or cheer (I just go with the crowd), but I won’t be able to understand it.

Also, we don’t have science championships that we can cover (and get free food). We have conferences, but it’s not quite the same as watching a match from a press box. Don’t get me wrong; I love going to conferences. We get shiny passes, and get to meet some amazing people. But there’s something about sports matches that sets them apart. Maybe it’s the fans and the tailgating. I don’t know. Yesterday, I saw a group of people setting up a table in the parking garage. I was careful not to run over any of them. 

Maybe if I spend enough time watching sports I will get it. But I have a shelf full of DVD’s that need watching, and some work to do. Oh, and I also don’t have cable. So, I think I’ll stick to science writing for now. But who knows where this journalism thing will take me. Maybe I’ll be eating my words (or this blog post) in a year or two. 

 

 

 

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Grady Sports

How did a person with little sports knowledge end up with a press pass to the NCAA Tennis Championships? By random assignment, of course.

I didn’t really think that I was a good fit for this assistantship last semester, but I’m really glad they bore with me because I was able to weasel my way to some awesome events.

Here’s me being mildly surprised about getting a tennis press pass (and silently freaking about not knowing anything about tennis):

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I love my teaching assistant job, and it has taken me to many places and taught me new things, and not just sports either. I learned how to do Indesign and develop my skills in Photoshop. I also got a couple of free courses just by attending the lectures. 2014-04-12 15.35.34 I was able to go to G-day, and shake Hairy Dawg’s hand! (That’s the scoreboard behind me). It’s too bad I didn’t get a picture of it though. Now, I’m kind of sad that it’s ending. But it’s really been great, and really enriched my UGA experience. Reminder to my future self: Never say no to any sort of experience. You never know where it will take you.

On interviewing

At the beginning of the semester, I had to interview some small business owners about the status of their health insurance. No appointments. No emails. Nothing. I just had to walk into their stores and talk.  I remember sitting in my car for a good 15 to 20 minutes in front of several stores in downtown Jefferson, thinking, “This is my worst childhood nightmare.”

As a child, I downright refused to talk to people, especially superiors, unless I absolutely had to. I rarely answered questions in class, or struck a conversation with strangers. I was a wallflower, and I was happy stuck to the wall.

So what am I doing pursuing a career as a journalist?

I don’t know. I was asking myself the same question at minute 20 sitting in my car. I chose a little specialty shop in Jefferson that sold Vera Bradley stuff and other cute things, thinking that the owners would be nice ladies who would be glad to talk to me. I “browsed” around for another 20 minutes and bought a birthday present for my sister, thinking buying something would make the owners more inclined to talk to me.

It turns out the owners weren’t there, but that conversation with the cashier was the push I needed to talk to other business owners in the town. I went out to three different towns in Jackson County, and the experience was mostly the same. The first interview was always the most painful, but the minutes I sat inside the car thinking about what I’m about to do lessened each day. All of the owners were nice. Some were firmer than others, but they all answered my questions. Nobody turned me away.

But I tell this experience because it gave me the push I needed to approach people and talk to them without setting up an appointment. Now, I can call people and ask for an interview without sending them an email beforehand. I still get clammy hands, but that’s a step up not calling at all.

 

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Adventures of a noob journalist: My encounter with Dave

This is definitely one of the most memorable reporting experiences I’ve had. A lot of things happened between the time I pulled into the dirt path and walking into their home. The story below is how I remember it:

Introduction

I drove out to interview a parent-volunteer at South Jackson Elementary School with my make-shift garbage bag window flapping in the wind. My car was broken into the week before, and the replacement had not come in yet. I’ve been trying to get to interview her for weeks, and finally, I was driving out to see her and her kids.2014-03-08 12.23.20

What better time to do it than on spring break?

What’s that you say?

Any other time than that?

You are correct.

But my car was still injured, and I didn’t see myself driving for six hours with the loud, drumming noise of plastic flapping and broken glass fragments flying around and possibly hitting me in the eye. That would not make for safe driving.

I remember she had told me to go over train tracks and it’s the next right after that. Sure enough, there it was.

I pulled up in front of a gate decorated with rainbow-colored spoons (which I liked) and parked right next to a blue car. I was glad to finally get there because the flapping was getting way too loud, and I needed to re-affix my plastic window to reduce the noise.

My person was in the car next to me, talking on the phone. Outside, a couple of children were trying to get her attention through the passenger window. I checked my equipment in the meantime, pretending to be doing something constructive while waiting for her to finish the call.

Three interesting things happened between getting out of my car and walking inside her be-rainbowed gate. I’m dividing the stories into little chunks, so that you (and I) can make sense of what happened.

The oldest son

We both got out at the same time. She shook my hand and apologized for taking a while.

“Sorry, that was my son. He said there’s a bomb threat at their school,” she said.

I was surprised.

“Is everyone okay?” I said.

“Yeah,” she said calmly. “They’re just all in the back of the school. He said they might be a little late.”

“I was in there calling teachers that I know just to ask what’s happening,” she added.

“Well, that’s good,” I thought to myself. I probably would never have been that calm if my child had called me about a bomb threat at their school.

The younger son and his friend

The two children, a boy and a girl, who were trying to get her attention while she was being informed of a bomb threat were her son and his friend.

“Mommy, we found a bird, and it’s wing is hurt,” the boy said.

She said she was going to take a look at it inside. She and the friend’s mom would later argue over who got to keep the bird.

“I don’t want to keep it,” the girl’s mom said.

“I don’t either.”

“What do you even feed it?” the girl’s mom asked.

I don’t remember what you’re supposed to feed baby birds. Maybe birdseed? It was something. Anyway, I don’t know what became of the bird, but Ms. Buley and her friend seemed capable of taking care of it.

Dave

Back to the outside…

Keep in mind that I hadn’t actually stepped foot inside their property yet.

As we walked inside the gate, I noticed a humongous turtle slowly making it’s way towards us.

This thing was huge.

“Oh look! A turtle!” I said.

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“Oh that’s Dave!” Ms. Buley said. “Come on in Dave.”

She motioned him inside the gate.

That was not the answer I was expecting.

The turtle slowly made its way inside. I stopped walking out of confusion.

She later told me that Dave was a turtle from another state. He was getting bigger, and his owners were looking for someone who can take him in.  He was already 19 years old (I think), and the owners could not keep in any longer. Ms. Buley thinks that she’s going to pass him on to her children.

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Ending

The rest of the interview went smoothly, considering all that happened before I went in.   Their greenhouse was full of seedlings and brimmed with new life. The leaves were just so verdant and bright. It was wonderful.

Her son eventually came home, safe and sound. A child apparently made a (joke) bomb threat and was in huge trouble. His/her parents might have to pay for all the emergency responders that were deployed to the middle school AND high school.

Dave was chilling inside his little sandbox thing. He was pretty cool like Crush from Finding Nemo. Except that he’s dry.

And in case you were wondering, I don’t know what happened to the bird.

My first completed script

It’s finally here! F.Lab is alive. 

I had to submit it to my professor today. I felt somehow weird about it. It was a combination of shame and fragility. 

But I am oddly proud of my little show, even though it’s still a work in progress. When all 24 pages came out of the printer, it felt so surreal and awesome. It gave my heart a little push and assured me that this is what I want to do. 

Writing this script was honestly one of the hardest things that I’ve had to do, and one of the most fun. 

Even though I’m not that good at it (yet), this experience (well, more like having the finished product in my hand) has assured me that television is what I really want to do. It’s where I belong. 

 

 

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Voices from the Vanguard: Joanne Cono

The typhoid Mary of SARS spread the disease to over 4000 people. He was a Chinese businessman who stayed at a hotel full of jet-setting businessmen. You know where this is headed.

Back when business meant hopping on your bicycle to the nearest cobbler or market, this would not have been that big of a problem. The disease could be contained in one place. Maybe it can trickle to another town, but that’s about it. But with planes, it is now possible to spread your germs all over the world with relative ease.

This is one of the many challenges facing the CDC – a pandemic. I thought the talk was ver interesting. In the back of my mind, I knew that the CDC was prepared for most things, if not everything, but I was still a little surprised to hear the speaker, Joanne Cono, say that they have plans for nuclear and bioterrorism attacks. They even have a section on their website dedicated to preparing yourself for the next Zombpocalyse. Prepare yourself now!

Cono said that 9/11 changed the way they respond to emergencies. Before, they did it “the mom and pop way”. They simply knocked on doors, asking for help. Now, the CDC has “very formal channels” for responding to emergencies. They work with first responders, physicians, vets and many other professionals. However, Cono said that private citizens shouldn’t be all gung ho about volunteering. Yes, it’s good that people have big hearts and are willing to volunteer the time. But especially in a grave emergency, people should not be flying into from all over just to roll up their sleeves. She says people, especially untrained people, could take up resources and can end up being more of a burden than help, which makes perfect sense.

Cono advises the public to be on the look out. I will be keeping vigilant, but I will be staying far, far away, as she advised.