Journalism: now, then, and next

I’m currently volunteering at the wonderful Melbourne Writers Festival, and one of the  perks is a number of comp tickets that I can use to attend sessions outside of my volunteer shifts, and so on Saturday afternoon Erika and I met up at the State Library Victoria to see two panels. The first, When We Talk About Motherhood, was so incredibly, beautifully, terrifyingly powerful that I am still coalescing my thoughts about it, so instead I’ll talk about the second: Journalism: Heartbreak and Resolve.

Moderated by Crikey’s Bhakthi Puvanenthiran and featuring Erik Jensen from The Saturday Paper, Jack Latimore of NITV News and The Guardian, and freelance journalist Ginger Gorman, the discussion hinged on the mental hardships that journalists both encounter and face themselves, as well as the drive to keep going and the hopeful moments that uplift and empower them as well as their readers.

It was a fascinating look both at the industry today and the people in it, especially of the perspective of those who are working to expand and better it with their work and with their support of and amplification of marginalized voices (as writers and subjects), but it was especially interesting to me as I realised with a hint of amusement that it was exactly ten years ago last week that I began studying for my journalism degree at Ithaca College.

I was further amused when I thought about what these working journalists were saying the journalism world (a world I quickly decided at university that I wasn’t actually interested in being a part of) is like these days, and how far off most of my professors’s predictions had been about where the field was heading. This isn’t to say they got it all wrong, of course. They obviously knew that social media would play a large role in the future of the news (although just how large they couldn’t have predicted; one of the panelists mentioned how Instagram is becoming a popular platform for news media, a platform which didn’t even exist during my freshman year and wouldn’t introduce “Instagram Stories” until well after I graduated). And this isn’t to say they should’ve known better, not when new media has changed so rapidly and intensely over the last decade.

But one thing I distinctly remember about my journalism studies was a feeling of… if not pessimism, than resignation. That social media would make us short-attention-spanned and rapidly-reading, that we’d be cutting down our stories to snippets and soundbites. And sure, that’s happened, just like the ubiquity and accessibility of new media and social media has allowed for members of the worst factions of society to pretend their bigoted conspiracy theories are thoughtful, legitimate journalism but has also provided a space for marginalized voices of all sorts to share stories of and from their communities. And for every snapchat broadcast story and 140-character tweet, there’s a riveting 10,000 word longform article that would’ve never gone into print (at least without major cuts) in a traditional publication.

One thing that the journalists on the panel emphasized was that we as readers want to read. We want news. We want thoughtfulness and integrity and truth and rich, multicultural perspectives. Although I am not and probably never will be a journalist, I love journalism and many of my friends work in the media in some form, and I’m always pleased to have the reminder that what they do is appreciated. To look at the journalists on the panel, some saying that there were times that they wanted to quit but didn’t and others saying their worst moments only gave them more determination, to look at the people I know doing great work in new and old media, to look back a decade to when I was a bright-eyed wannabe newspaperwoman without a trace of anger or cynicism… it makes me excited to see what comes next.


101 Things in 1001 Days

When I was a freshman, my best friend and I decided to try our hands at the “101 Things in 1001 Days” challenge. Somewhat like a bucket list, it’s pretty much exactly as it sounds: we each made a list of 101 things we wanted to do in the next 1001 days. We even made a blog to document our efforts. Well, our enthusiasm faded fast, and the 1001st day came and went just over a month ago, with much of our lists uncompleted. At 54 out of 101, I came in at just over 50%. However, I don’t want to feel let down with myself; instead, I’m going to use the rest of the list as inspiration for the future. I want to look back at a couple of goals on the list that I did manage to complete, and look forward to a few I’m hoping to accomplish this year:

Study Abroad: Completed Spring 2011, Spring 2012

¡Te extraño, Sevilla!

A lot of my goals tied into this one: go to Europe, go to Paris, get an internship, become fluent in Spanish, even seeing Bruce Springsteen in concert, since I managed that just before I left Sevilla at the end of last semester. With five months in England and four in Spain, I’ve spent an entire academic year abroad, and it featured some of the most incredible experiences of my life. I don’t know how much travelling I’ll get to do in the future—although I’m hoping I’ll have some opportunities, but I do know that there are several locations on my list that I have yet to visit and hope to someday, from as close as Chicago to as far as Australia.

Participate in NaNoWriMo: Completed Fall 2011

I even finished ahead of schedule, very proud

National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, is essentially this: during the month of November, write a 50,000 word novel. The point is writing, not editing, so these novels mostly turn out to be a mass of wordy, unedited work, but the point is to get your words out, and that’s really important. I took part for the first time this past November, and I “won” (wrote 50k). That novel’s still a work in progress, but I hope to finish it eventually, and to participate again this year (although I’m so busy I don’t know if it’ll be possible).

Go to a fan convention: Completed Summer 2011

The overnight crew for the Doctor Who and Supernatural panels

For this one, the name of the game was Go Big or Go Home. When I decided to go to a “fan convention,” I picked the biggest and best: San Diego Comic Con. It was four days of waking up at 5am, waiting in line for hours (or in the case of the Sunday Hall H campout, all night) and being packed into the convention center with tens (hundreds?) of thousands of other people. It was also a week of meeting online friends (and making new friends as well), seeing panels of my favourite tv shows (one of the highlights was a “Lost: One Year Later” panel where the surprise guests were Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse), and having an amazing time. I couldn’t go this year but I’m hoping maybe in 2013!

Play Quidditch: Fall 2012? 

I’ve gotten back into playing sports this semester, joining an intramural soccer team (go Heartbreakers!) and even coaching a team for the local youth soccer league (which was another item on my list, actually). While Quidditch isn’t exactly the same thing, one of my roommates is really involved with the Ithaca team. I’ve always been intrigued by it and since she let me know that they have “open play” once a week, I’m sure at some point this fall I’m finally going to get the chance to give it a go.

See Ten Performances by Ithaca Students: 2012-2013 school year

Being off campus for two out of the past four semesters has made this somewhat difficult, but there’s so much talent on at this school and with this being my last year I want to take advantage of it. It was cool to kick off the year and celebrate the end of Jumpstart watching the fantastic Second Dam perform, and I’ve seen a few other shows and plays over the past three years, but this year I’m going to go to as many as possible. One of my roommates and I have already bought subscriptions to this year’s theatre schedule, which includes performances of Translations, Spring Awakening, and Legally Blonde The Musical, and of course we’ve promised to see our other roommate, a music major, in anything she does.

Run a 5k: 2012-2013 school year

“Exercise” is one of those new year’s resolutions that almost everybody makes and almost nobody keeps. Usually I start off strong and then lose interest pretty quickly, but starting this summer I’ve been running several days a week. While it’s gotten a little more difficult now that I’m back at school, since my schedule is so busy, I’m still making sure to get to the gym or run around the campus (I’ve discovered a route that is exactly 5 miles, which is a nice workout… even if almost half of it is uphill). And I’m hoping to put this practice to good use; I’ve got my eye out for a good 5k, I’m hoping to find one sometime soon.