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Archive for August, 2007

QOTD: Not I, nor anyone else, can travel that road for you

Friday, August 31st, 2007

“Not I, nor anyone else, can travel that road for you. You must travel it yourself.”
— Walt Whitman

Score one for being a woman

Friday, August 31st, 2007

Recently, several reporters and I were having a discussion about crazy and weird ways we’ve found sources for our stories.

I brought up the creepiest thing I think I’ve ever done as a reporter. One of the gazillion back-to-school stories I’ve done over the past few weeks was one last week about safety while walking to and from school. It was timed and packaged with another story about school zone enforcement.

Well, I had the tips and the schools and safety officials opinions. I had all the facts about grants the schools have applied for to encourage people to walk or bike by improving safety. One of the areas in particular is adding a sidewalk to a street near three schools down which a lot of students walk each day — in the busy street.

But I needed the real people. I had a lot on my plate that day, and another interview ran long, which meant I missed the bell by about 10 minutes. I thought I was pretty much screwed trying to catch parents that day to talk about it.

As I drove over to the schools, however, walking down one of the streets without sidewalks, I noticed a woman with a stroller and three elementary students in tow. I felt so creepy, but I needed a source, and this was perfect. Obviously the parent would have an informed opinion on the lack of sidewalks because she walked her kids down that street. The question was, how do I get her attention? So. Like they show in all those “Don’t talk to strangers” movies, I pulled up alongside her, rolled down my window and said, “I know this is really weird, but my name is Meranda, and I’m a reporter ….” and she agreed to talk to me. So we pulled off into one of the neighboring parking lots, and she was the perfect person to get into why story mattered.

When I told them this story, we had a good laugh. (Come on, that is so weird. I don’t know how I would have reacted if someone had approached me in that fashion.) And our conversation led to how I’m lucky that I’m female.

Our entertainment reporter was talking about how hard it is for him to do his man on the street interviews for the weekly Speak Out section (basically random questions, mug & quotes style). Apparently, he has trouble getting people to talk to him for those. Then the (female) features reporter commented that she had noticed it takes him a lot longer to do that section than her when she’s had to fill in for him. He made a pretty good point: That woman would have run the other way if I’d been male and pulled up alongside her. He’s probably right.

I never really thought about how being a woman benefits me in this business, especially on this beat. I talk to students every day. Young, old, male, female, black, white, asian, hispanic, etc. I approach parents at random, and usually don’t have trouble getting them to talk. Until he made that comment though, I never really appreciated that people’s innate sexism was working to my advantage. If a 30-year-old guy approaches you and your 5-year-old, you’d probably be creeped out. When I come up in a skirt, with my notebook and politely ask, “Would you mind…” you’re less on the defense.

But then on the other hand, there are a lot of situations where being a woman is definitely not going to win me any points and some places I probably shouldn’t go where a guy wouldn’t think twice. So I guess it’s a trade off. For my beat, though? Score one for being a woman.

Beer Pong and the WSJ

Thursday, August 30th, 2007

Only the Wall Street Journal could take beer pong and make it this classy.

It’s been awhile since I’ve actually sat down with a print edition of WSJ (except the occasional items pointed out by the county reporter whose father bought him a print subscription for his birthday — hey my parents aren’t that thoughtful!). But I do get the CollegeJournal e-mails every day. Mostly it’s recent stories or Q&As from the WSJ. But it’s free and targeted pretty much to my demographic: soon-to-be grads and recent grads setting out in their jobs as new young professionals. I dig that.

My favorite part of the story — other than reading about young people capitalizing on the interests of other young people, (hey why not?) — is the accompanying graphic. I imagine a CEO sitting behind his desk, reading the paper and studying the inner workings of beer pong. That thought makes me smile.

They also have a video (though the audio on it is really wonky, at least it came across that way for me?). I had to watch the video because I wanted to see how you could create a video about beer pong that wasn’t like made for YouTube/Facebook. But, again, there they go making the drinking game classy.

The company softball team

Thursday, August 30th, 2007

For the past several months, I have been subjected to a weekly recounting of every hit, every catch and every error the J&C softball team has made. This is because the reporter who sits behind me loves to talk about it. It’s gotten to the point where our editor, when he goes to ask what stories he has coming that day, starts off with, “Tell me about the game… and then don’t mention it again.” But it’s all in good fun.

At first, I didn’t tell anyone here that I used to play varsity softball in high school. In fact, the only year I didn’t letter was freshman year, and even then I played up from the JV team half the games. (My position was first, and my freshman year my sister was the varsity first basemen, so when she pitched, I played. Otherwise, I DH’d or sat the bench like a freshman probably should.) I probably wasn’t the best person the team, but I can put the bat on the ball and stop just about anything. But I haven’t played in so long, I never thought I would again.

Then, somehow, I let it slip during a conversation with said reporter that I had played in high school. He could not believe I hadn’t told them earlier. Apparently, they are always in need of female players who can, you know, actually play. (There’s a rule that half your field and every other batter has to be female.) Particularly female infielders are always in short supply.

I kept putting it off, thinking of reasons not to. (Hey, my mitt until last weekend was 350 miles away back home.) I attended a few games to support them when I could, but they practice on Monday and play Wednesdays. Half my Mondays and Wednesdays each month are spent trying to figure out what the school boards are talking about during their meetings. Education here isn’t conducive to playing in this league.

Finally, I threw my hat in as a sometimes player for the fall team. After I suggested the executive editor as a possible player, and she actually said yes (and is apparently pretty awesome, though I haven’t seen her play yet; but again, I’ve heard about it through the weekly game recap), I felt pretty much compelled. I had to join the team. So I did.

Tonight was the first night I could actually make it out to play. No meetings. Mitt in hand. I haven’t practiced in years. Once Abbey and I went to the batting cages, where I sucked at hitting the slow pitch balls — seriously, why are they so slow? and they come at a weird angle — and when I was home earlier this month, my sister and I threw the ball around. That’s it in nearly four years.

And know what? I had fun. I’ve made some good friends here, but even among my co-workers, I’ve mostly tried to keep my distance. I’m younger than most everybody, and I don’t know, I already spend way too much time there anyway. But it was nice to be around my co-workers not in the office or even out to lunch with the prospect of more work ahead. It was fun to be back on the diamond, and apparently, yes, it’s a bit like riding a bike: I’m rusty, but I still remember the mechanics and what to do in each situation. I struck out a few times, but my last few at bats I made solid contact. I made a few blunders, but I also made a few good plays. I even took one for the team — as in my bloody knee in the kitty-litter field so I could stop a throw that way in the dirt to first.

Like I said I had fun. Maybe tomorrow, I won’t grumble so much the fifth time I hear the story about the lightning that struck just behind our field and postponed the game, nor the amazing home run one of my teammates hit or how we beat the first team we played 15-5. And I’ll be back — the next time I actually have a reprieve from my school board meetings.

QOTD: … torn between the desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world

Thursday, August 30th, 2007

“I arise in the morning torn between the desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.”
— E. B. White

Life lists… as an alternative story format

Monday, August 27th, 2007

NYT: 10 Things to Do Before This Article is Finished

This is a pretty fun, effective way to write that article.

And in case you’re wondering, I’ve had my “life list” online for a few years now at 43 things. Actually, I need to check off one of the items — make a scrapbook of my college years — because I finished it this summer.

You can also see some of the goals I already accomplished, like “learn to play the piano” (which involved a really time-consuming and painfully bad class my final semester of college), and “move out of Ohio, even if I end up coming back.” My practice so far has just been to move out one goal when I accomplish it and replace it with another, so I haven’t really made “progress” on my list. But then, at 22, I have plenty of time to do all that.

And hey, I slept in this morning. (It’s been a long time since my eyelids were closed past 10 a.m.)

QOTD: Determine never to be idle…

Monday, August 27th, 2007

“Determine never to be idle… It is wonderful how much may be done if we are always doing.”
— Thomas Jefferson