2150: The end

(This is my thirteenth and final blog entry for my fall semester J2150 class.)

Turns out that I actually have a 13th (and final) blog post due before 2150 wraps up for the semester. Since I already summed up most of my feelings that have come with the end of this class in last week’s post, I’m just going to showcase some of my work that I’m pretty proud of. This website was our final project for 2150, and having shot and edited the video on the site, I could really tell how much I’ve grown as far as filmmaking skills go both with my mental processes while making the video and with the finished product. Along with the video (under the tab “A Differently-Abled Athlete”) there is also an article written by me (under the tab “Improving Their Experience”) and some awesome photos and an audio piece created by my talented group partners. Here’s the link to the website:


2150: The virtue of sticking it out

(This is my twelfth blog entry for my fall semester J2150 class.)

When I first started J2150, or “Fundamentals of Multimedia Journalism,” I knew I was gonna be out of my league for a little while. As much experience as I have with written forms of journalism, I’d hardly ever worked with any camera other than a simple digital point-and-shoot, and I’d never even opened, much less worked with, Photoshop or iMovie in my life.

Despite knowing I had a lot of basics to learn, I still wasn’t prepared to get to lab on the first day and feel completely overwhelmed and stressed out. Maybe it was the reading of the entire syllabus by my lab professor and realizing how much I would have to work with all of this technology and software that was so new to me, learning as I went, all while being graded for it. That’s probably what freaked me out the most – that I had no I idea what I was doing, and I was going to be graded for it.

I’ve always felt this about learning – this gap between wanting to do new and different things, allowing myself to make mistakes, learn from my mistakes, and needing to get a good grade for it. Not necessarily even feeling like I did a good job – though that’s definitely become a larger part of it. But for as long as I can remember, my enthusiasm to learn has always been accompanied by that anxiety of wanting so badly to end up with a good score. To end up with enough points to get an A. Just end up with enough points to finish the semester with an A.

But guess what – when you’ve never done something before, you’re probably going to suck at it. Especially if it involves a lot of knobs and buttons and you have no idea how to use them. Especially if the coffee shop owner agrees to be photographed but then moves around the entire time, rendering every shot unusable because you don’t know how to adjust your camera. Especially if you just learned about aperture and white balance and manual focus and you’re being expected to implement all of them in a shadowy chapel while you’re nervous just to be photographing and filming a bunch of people you just met.

But it’s the first week of December, and you did all of it. You used a Nikon for the first time and acted like you knew what you were doing. You created your first (incredibly bare-bones) NPR-style audio piece. You struggled with a heavy tripod and usually won. You surprised yourself by being pretty comfortable shooting video and feeling especially in your element when editing video. You’re excited by this new way of telling stories and that you now have the skills to do it. Sure, you’re still not entirely sure how to use most of the settings on that Nikon, and just last week you knocked over your tripod in front of the entire Mizzou wheelchair basketball team, video camera still attached. But you didn’t break anything and you didn’t fail the class. You actually did pretty well.

So many times during this semester I dreaded having to go photograph and film and work with technology, worrying that it would let me down or I would make one fatal mistake that would render all the material I collected useless. But I went anyway. I didn’t always do a great job, but sometimes it felt awesome to be doing what I was doing. Sometimes I got the hang of it. And one week away from the end of the semester and the end of this class, I feel like I’ve grown more journalistically and as a student than I have in any class I’ve taken in a long time.

That’s why we do the hard stuff. Often we hate every minute of it or we make a mistake that makes us want to melt into the floor or we feel like everyone’s looking at us knowing that we’re mostly winging it. But that moment you finally figure it out – even one tiny part of it – that’s what makes it worth doing the hard stuff.

So, what do you do next? I guess you make a list of things that seem impossible to you, and then you go do them.

2150: Movie magic

(This is my eleventh blog entry for my fall semester J2150 class.)

Everybody knows that a lot goes on behind the scenes of a film – often, when what goes on is revealed, it can take away some of the magical atmosphere that you felt watching the film. Maybe it’s because those stunts don’t seem quite as daring when you find out it’s just a stunt double in front of a green screen jumping onto a thick green pad. However, sometimes a behind-the-scenes look can be fascinating and give the viewer great appreciation for all of the work that went into the film.

The latter was the case as I watched the making of “Shattered” in lecture on Monday. “Shattered” is a short film about an ice climber that is as ethereal as it is barren and somber. The climber, in a voiceover, tells his story, one of loneliness and of risking life and limb for that thrill of accomplishment, as footage is shown of him on the side of a mountain and scaling a vast and treacherous ice wall. The video is enchanting and the views awe-inspiring.

Not much of that changed for me as I watched the “making of” videos that went along with the short film. Yes, the climber was a real climber, and he did write his voiceover, but it was a bit more art piece than autobiography. The filmmakers contributed to it and had to coax a dramatic speaking voice out of the climber, who was unused to performance. And it was especially when the lengths the camera people had to go to to get shots were revealed that I had incredible appreciation for the process. In order to get the death-defying angles and clear close-ups that gave the film such a dire feeling, a cameraman had to dangle from the side of an ice wall as the climber climbed. In another instance, a camera was strapped to a drone and attempted to fly above the scene to capture footage, but after just a few seconds ended up lodged in a bed of evergreen limbs.

None of those details really affected the awe that the film provided me. In my opinion, seeing how a film is actually created and produced and captured adds to the magic of it all.

2150: Some words on this past week at Mizzou

(This is my tenth blog entry for my fall semester J2150 class.)

One of my biggest frustrations with the mess that surrounded the protests, resignations and viral videos that came out of Mizzou this week is the lack of context provided in many news accounts. No, this blog is not about multimedia this week, but I’m going to assume that’s okay. Below, I hope to create a little bit more of an understanding about what has taken place on this campus recently.

It seems that one of the biggest misunderstandings of people who aren’t quite as informed as they’d like to think is that these protests began last week because a bunch of black people started whining about nonexistent oppression. Sorry, no. The protests began several weeks ago because of the (actually pretty widespread) belief of people on campus that the administration was incompetent when it came to responding to acts of hate on campus. And though racism has become one of the main themes that has stemmed from recent events, these acts of hate were not solely against black people. This did not begin as a black and white issue, but it seems to have become one, which should prove to us as a society that when students talk about these hate crimes that happen on campus, they’re not just making a big deal about nothing. Now that we’ve seen plenty of examples, let’s all finally accept that racism still exists. So does sexism, homophobia, etc. So does systematic oppression, which occurs when a system is set up to overwhelmingly favor the majority (in other words, pretty much every system in the U.S., and yeah, that includes our university systems).

Another vital aspect to understanding why the protests started was because of our administration’s incompetence in dealing with things like grad student healthcare, which was cancelled with very little notice to grad students and with our chancellor saying he had no knowledge that the cancellation was going to take place. Yet another aspect was the university’s cancellation of contracts with Planned Parenthood, which, regardless of your stance on abortion, provides a wealth of healthcare resources to women and families. This happened solely due to recent criticism of PP, presumably because the university didn’t want to look bad.

The fact is that so many incidents and frustrations culminated to create the kind of unrest that has engulfed Mizzou since last Monday, when graduate student Jonathan Butler began his hunger strike. It was his belief that only extreme tactics would get the university’s attention at that point, which I believe to be true. You definitely do not have to agree with his tactics, but I don’t believe it is my place or any of our places to decide what is a “respectable tactic” for protest. I am white and I recognize that I will never have the experiences of a person of color on this campus or anywhere, nor can I claim to be able to understand their experiences. In the same way, people who are not marginalized cannot determine how much or how little the people who have protested are allowed to be frustrated or angry.

The incident that happened on Monday afternoon in which supporters of protestors decided to push a reporter is unfortunate, in large part because it has gained so much media attention and has distracted from the original message the protestors were trying to get across: we need better leadership in this university that will do more than just recognize when things are broken within the system, i.e. “The university recognizes that racism lives on this campus.” Of course it does. Whether or not you agree that the university system did enough to address all of the incidents that occurred on campus in recent months, one of the most frequently targeted groups didn’t believe it had. It is well within their rights to protest it.

The most important part of the entire discussion is that a group of people who are already marginalized in this country as a whole felt that their university, where they came to learn and feel at home and where they pay tuition, was pushing them aside. Who are we to discredit their frustrations when this is not a new problem? When it’s been proven to us time and time again over the past few days that racism is still rampant?

I don’t claim to know everything about what has been going on at MU lately; not in the slightest. But as a member of student media and someone who has been practically obsessed with trying to stay well-informed and understand everything going on, I feel like there is too much misinformation going around that has led to dangerous circumstances. Please do not reduce these issues to black vs. white. IT IS SO MUCH MORE THAN THAT. To put it broadly, it’s about systemic failure. It is a multi-faceted issue with many layers that have built up to get us to where we are now. We should treat it as such.

2150: Jonathan Butler and the effects of raw footage

(This is my ninth blog entry for my fall semester J2150 class.)

As I’ve learned over the past month or so, editing video is one of the keys to making a creative and effective multimedia piece. That being said, there are some events that need not be edited in order to be extremely powerful and impactful.

You’d have to be living under a rock in Columbia to not have heard about Jonathan Butler’s hunger strike that began this past Monday. The MU graduate student, who is well known on campus for his regular participation in social justice activism is protesting ‘a slew of racist, sexist, homophobic, etc., incidents’ that have taken place at Mizzou recently and what he says is an inadequate response from UM System President Tim Wolfe. As of Wednesday Butler had signed a ‘do not resuscitate’ order and says that he will continue with the strike until Wolfe steps down from office or until he dies of starvation.

The student activist group Concerned Student 1950 has been protesting the same issues alongside Butler and has held numerous marches and rallies in recent weeks. One held on Thursday had students marching across campus and eventually ending up on Carnahan Quad near a group of tents set up and currently occupied by Concerned Student 1950 protestors who are supporting Butler during his strike. This raw footage was captured at that location by an MUTV reporter following this particular protest: https://twitter.com/Dannykons/status/662682619641921536

This video did not need to be edited because its purpose was to show extremely powerful and real emotion that could not have been improved upon had it been cut in any way. In the same way, adding music would have made it seem insincere or contrived. In this case, raw footage is all that was needed to get the point across: students are suffering and changes need to be made, from top administration down, to make MU a more welcoming and safe place for every member.

2150 Extra Credit: Women in Media Panel

Last Monday, October 26, I attended the Women in Media panel hosted at MU by several 2015 Missouri Honor Medal winners: Barbara Ehrenreich, author and activist who wrote the New York Times bestseller “Nickel and Dimed;” Merrill Perlman, a copy editor who retired from the New York Times; and Meredith Artley, editor in chief of CNN Digital. The panel was moderated by Jacqui Banaszynski who asked the three women questions along with the crowd. I thought the panel was an incredible opportunity to be in the same room as these women that have had such exemplary careers in varied areas of journalism. They say that visibility is important, that seeing people like yourself in successful positions will show you that you can get there, too, and I agree. Female journalism students need to see and hear from and interact with actual female journalists (and these were Missouri Honor Medal winners, no less).

One thing about this session that I thought was a bit problematic, however, was the willingness of all three women on the panel to brush off sexism. I mean, they were at a panel entitled “Women in Media.” They acted like they were surprised to be asked questions about experiencing sexism or discrimination in the workplace or in hiring practices. It bothered me that the women were so quick to defend any out-of-the-ordinary behavior toward them in the workplace as “not because he was a man.” The most the panel did, it seemed, was to merely acknowledge that sexism maybe, kind of exists in some areas of some careers. Yes, Ehrenreich, Perlman and Artley did offer some great advice about how to get ahead in a journalistic career and how to balance work and regular life, but it was all very general. I just wish there could have been more of a focus on the “women” part of the title.

2150: Technical difficulties

(This is my eighth blog entry for my fall semester J2150 class.)

Friday, yesterday, was a little bit rough for me in general. Maybe a lot rough. I had two exams in the morning, French and Econ, one right after the other, and had very little time throughout the previous week to study besides the day before. Having one exam is stressful, but having two on the same day when you’ve had little time to prepare is doubly as hard. Then, on top of that, I knew that my TV-style video for 2150 was due at 5 pm. I’d gotten the footage Tuesday night, but had hardly had even a spare moment since then to watch it after I’d uploaded it to my computer. I came right home after my second exam at noon and started editing it.

By 3 pm, two hours before the submission deadline, I had completed the script and was watching my video from start to finish and I was very proud of it. Then, when I tried to export the video from iMovie, something happened. A popup came up repeatedly saying that one clip in particular was missing and I could not share or do anything with the video, even save it to iMovie’s library, without reimporting this clip. I tried reimporting the clip at least 10 times and looked up solutions on the internet and emailed my professor back and forth several times but nothing worked. When I deleted the clip and and tried to reimport it, iMovie said it was there, but the clip wouldn’t show up. At this point it was nearing 4:30 pm and I was supposed to be leaving for a meeting that started at 4:45 pm. I was incredibly frustrated, my frustration heightened by the stressful and busy day I was alrady in the midst of and the fact that I had worked for hours on this video and would not be able to submit it in its entirety before the deadline.

In the end, I was late to my meeting and I was forced to submit an incomplete, lopsided version of my finished video at 4:57 pm, with an entire interview missing as well as some additional b-roll inexplicably gone, because I had to submit something. I drove to my meeting and moved on with my evening, thankful at least that this wasn’t supposed to be the final draft of the video. I also reminded myself that in the grand scheme of things this didn’t matter at all, that it was just a video for a class, and that it shouldn’t ruin my evening. I didn’t let it. And as amazing as technology has been in advancing our society, it really, really sucks sometimes. Ugh.

2150: I want to make stuff

(This is my seventh blog entry for my fall semester J2150 class.)

One thing I have known for most of my conscious life is this: I want to make stuff. In other words, I want to create. Sometimes I think I want to spend the rest of my life writing. Other times, especially this week while working on my first video, I think I want to make films. I knew I would enjoy filming and editing, but having never done it before, I wasn’t quite sure if I would like my finished product. But, even with my very limited experience, I felt like I did a pretty good job shooting and putting together my first video.

The feeling of creating is hard to replicate: you start with nothing or almost nothing, and you end up with this…thing. Sometimes the thing is good, and sometimes it isn’t. But the feeling of making something with your own hands and your own skills that came from your own brain is indescribable. There’s nothing like it, and whatever medium or media I end up working with throughout my career, whatever challenges I may face, I know I’ll enjoy every minute of it because I know it’s what I love and what I’m supposed to be doing.

2150: Fake it till you make it

(This is my sixth blog entry for my fall semester J2150 class.)

One thing I have learned in J2150 so far (or I guess started learning when I began reporting for The Maneater last year) is that a large aspect of journalism at any level is professionalism. For a freshman or sophomore in college, that’s not always the easiest thing. Professionalism itself can even be a pretty abstract concept. The biggest thing I’ve had to deal with so far is keeping my cool in front of subjects or people I’m interviewing when I’m frustrated or stressed and act like I know what I’m doing. I haven’t had many of these experiences while interviewing for the paper, but when I started to add photography, audio and video equipment into my storytelling repertoire for J2150, it was more difficult. Not being very familiar with a lot of this equipment, it can be harder to learn by doing while also dealing with real people in front of the camera. However, no matter what my challenge so far, I have been able to stay professional and trick people into thinking I actually know what I’m doing, faking it until I’m more comfortable, faking it until I make it.