Sunday, May 29, 2011

Half way across the country

I'm in Nebraska at the moment. It's pretty country, just not a lot out there.

So far my journey has been okay. A lot of driving and I'm pretty much half way through. I'm slightly behind, which is no surprise, but I'll make it to NYC by Monday. I'm not sure how I feel about the drive. I was excited to see a lot of the country, but there isn't much to see from the highway. Overall though, it is kind of cool to pass through these sleepy towns.

I've survived on sunflower seeds and This American Life Podcast. I've been able to stop and grab some photos, and shot a few from the window of the car. Here they are:

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

So you're going to Columbia Jschool...

Today I graduate from the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University. It's simply insane. A year and a half ago, the thought of finishing my master's seemed as far away as New York City from my small farm town, Lemoore, CA. But the big day is here and I couldn't be more happy. I've never worked so hard, and never have had such a big payoff.

With all that said, I wanted to leave a little something for those following my class' and mine footsteps. You're told a lot in those emails you get about what to read, what to do to prepare, where to find housing and whatever else. It's a lot. If you're anything like myself or some of my friends here, chances are you're not going to get to most of it, so I wanted to give it to you straight.

- New York City is safe. I've never had a problem with anyone, in fact most people are very helpful here. The only place people are rude is in the subway.

- The huge reading list you get is, needless to say, ambitious. When you're here, you will have very little time to read – even the newspaper. But before coming, I'd recommend regularly reading The New York Times, multiple sections. Read their blogs. Find an author you like and follow him. Also be sure to look at the New Yorker as well. There is at least one or two articles in there that are worth reading. Columbia students get discounts, read about them here. If you get a chance to read some of those books, awesome, but at least know what's happening in the world and who is writing about it.

- Housing can be a pain in the butt if you didn't get campus housing. I actually received it, but they wanted a lot of money right away and I just didn't have it at the time. So, in July, I posted on my class' Facebook page and right away found some roommates. Luckily one lived close enough to the city, that a day trip was all he needed to find a place. We used Columbia University's Off-Campus Housing listings, and found an amazing place. We got really lucky. But when looking for housing, keep the basics in mind – proximity to the train, school, grocery store and laundry. If you're thinking about living in another borough, know that living outside Manhattan will definitely restrict you with your work and socially at times. I had a friend who lived deep in the Bronx and regularly had to couch surf because school work would keep her here too late to safely take the train. Sometimes she missed out on outings because of that as well. Just make sure you consider all of that.

- When those boot camps get going, make sure you take the time to meet some of the instructors who won't be regular teachers at Columbia, but are there for the boot camp. One professor I met ended up being one of the most influential persons I met this year, and I just met him for lunch between classes one of those weeks. Also those stories you do that week could help you get started for RW1.

- Speaking of RW1, it is everything you hear it is. It's tough, time consuming and has made some people cry. I covered Brooklyn, for the Brooklyn Ink, and it was a journey to get out there every week. But three tips I can pass on:

  1. Don't over-stress. What are you going to stress about so much? A deadline? Trust me there is another one where the first one came from. Take it one story at a time, with one in your back pocket. Don't skimp on your reporting, cause a lot of stress comes from having a crappy story on deadline, because you were too afraid to call another person.
  2. Meet with your professor constantly. They're here to help you and really want to. They want to know you and you want to know them. I can't say enough good things about my RW1 professor, who, if I ever had a question, always had an answer.
  3. Make it worth it. This school is all about what you make of it. If you want to do digital stuff, make it happen there. If you want to write some longer pieces, make it happen there. If you truly mess up, it's perfectly fine in RW1. But be sure to take advantage of the stories around you and resources you have.
- When they tell you, that it's impossible to have an internship during the fall, that's a load of b.s. for most students. If you're the type that stresses easily or has bad time management skills, then maybe you shouldn't, but then again if you have those issues maybe you should reconsider being a journalist. If you've worked as a journalist, then you'd have no problem managing a one-day-a-week internship. Personally, I not only interned (on the Lens blog at The New York Times), but held down a part time job (unloading trucks at The Container Store) as well. I wouldn't recommend that, as my performance suffered from it, but you do what you got to do. Just make sure the internship is worth it.

- When you pick classes for the second semester, two questions to ask yourself are: What professors do you want? And, what do I want to be when I leave? I picked my classes based on professors, and for the most part it worked out. Sandy Padwe's sports journalism class is amazing. I've never had a class address so many issues in journalism that reach across all types of reporting. That's the one class everyone should take. Looking back though, I wish I would have picked more visual classes, especially Duy's video class. I want to be a photographer and it would have been good to have some stuff from the second semester. With that said though, the skills I learned from my classes in the spring are extremely valuable and I took away a lot from my professors.

- The master's project. If you can't find a story and write 6,000 words in six months then you're in the wrong place. If you're doing a print project, it really is easy. You have so much time to report and put it together it's insane. It is easy to put it off though and worry about more pressing stuff first. If you dedicate time to it every week early on, you'll be more than fine. That is especially important for digital media projects. Take the time to log and transcribe early in the project. You're life will be so much more easier. And go the extra mile. I had a print project, but shot photos, video and put up a Web site, which you can see here. Just don't get caught in the trap that you still have a few months to go, cause that'll quickly turn into a few days. You might not have much of a spring break if you're doing video and stuff, but I honestly enjoyed that week of editing till the wee hours. It's what I want to do, and it's a lot easier when you don't have work from other classes.

Well I got a few hours till graduation now. I hope yours isn't rainy like mine. As you start your semester, meet as many people as possible. You're going to be close to your Rw1 and rightfully so, but be sure to go to those lectures, social events and meet people. And lastly, like I said before, this school is what you make of it. It will only make you a good journalist if you do your part. Everyone here is good, so it is up to you to stand out. Ten months flew by, but it was a memorable ten months, as it will be for you.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Osama Bin Laden is Dead

A large crowd, made up of mostly young people, gathered in the intersection of Church Street and Vesey Street early on May 2, just ours after President Barack Obama announced that Osama bin Laden was dead. They chanted pro-American slogans such as "USA" and singing songs such as "God Bless America." Vulgar chants associated with Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda were also shouted, as people climbed street light poles and stood on top of phone booths. The higher someone climbed the street light, the more cheers they got.

NYPD and Port Authority police stood by, watching the crowd of several hundred people, in which there was a lot of alcohol. By 1:30 police had barricaded Church Street from traffic. At 3:00 a.m. the crowd was still several hundred people.

There were flags galore, draped around the shoulders of celebrators and military personal showed up in dress uniform. Men in kilts made their way down church street playing bag pipes. People took pictures with them and the military personal. A man walked around with an ipad that read, "Obama 1, Osama 0." It was also a media frenzy, with dozens of video cameras and lights.

A small memorial was placed at the 9/11 Memorial Preview Site display, with four candles and a sign that said,"Dedicated to all those who fought, suffered and died to bring us this moment. Your sacrifice will not be forgotten. Sept. 11, 2001 - May 1, 2011." Maxine Bright, of Yorkville, went up to the memorial and quickly lit a candle before leaving the site.

My photos ran on the Tribeca Trib.