A Journalist’s Thankful List (2016)

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Bad news: my annual “thanksgiving post” is getting later and later–most definitely a journalism fail on my part (better late than never?). Good news: this is officially my first thankful list as a journalist… not a journalism student.

As usual, my lists seem to have a theme. In 2013, it was people; 2014 was about challenges; 2015 had an “un-journalistic” theme; and finally, this year, it’s all about NEW things.

New York

This summer, I moved to New York. If you told me that was going to happen, I would have never believed you. One, because I have only visited the city once and spent less than 24 (very stressful) hours wandering around Manhattan. And, two, because New York was on my “never going to move there” list. The hustle and bustle of New York City and my personality are polar opposites. Yet, in a series of events too long to write out here, I started to see New York as the perfect setting to my “journey to journalism.” I found an apartment and transferred to a Starbucks in the Bronx all in about a month’s time; and, before I knew it, I was struggling up the five (yes, FIVE) flights of stairs with three suitcases to move into my new home. While I can’t say I’ve always wanted to live here, I know that many people who do, never get the opportunity to do so and in light of that, I don’t want to take it for granted. I’m thankful that God opened up doors, and I can confidently say, I don’t regret this move one bit.

New Perspective

As much as I hate fitting stereotypes, I realized I moved here with the whole, “New York or bust” mentality, daydreaming of the many opportunities that awaited me in the Big Apple. I spent hours looking up entry level jobs and internships, writing countless cover letters all the while working as a barista at the Starbucks near Yankee Stadium. A couple of months into this routine, I got really discouraged. I wasn’t hearing back and the last thing I wanted to do at this point was write another cover letter. In the midst of this dry season though, I started to develop a new perspective.

When I arrived here, I thought it wouldn’t be too long before I found something and transitioned out of working at Starbucks. I grew frustrated when things weren’t going according to plan and just dreamed about the day when I could have that “nice job in the city.” But then, I grew to love the neighborhood I live in. I felt that, without saying a word, I could relate to the others commuting to work with that exhausted yet determined look on their faces (a look many may interpret to be that “New York scowl”). There was something about the whole experience that felt raw and real. Downtown New York is nice and definitely has a lot to see and learn from, but man, Uptown and the Bronx was home to me. I am definitely not doing this explanation justice, but through things not going my way, my goals, priorities, and perspectives shifted, and for that, I am thankful.

New Job

So, remember how I was saying I didn’t hear back from any job applications for what felt like a really long time? Well, at the end of summer, one of the places I had a phone interview with when I just moved to New York reached out to me to see if I was still interested in the position. At this point, I kind of took a break from the application madness because, honestly, with that perspective change, I had grown quite comfortable with my flexible Starbucks schedule and really loved the people I worked with. I figured, maybe it’s a good time to narrow my job search process and really think about what I wanted to do next.

Long story short, I ended up going in for that interview, and another one after that and now, I can officially say that I am a reporter. More specifically, a reporter for a trade publication on Wall Street that covers the defined contributions (401k) industry. Just like I never thought I would call New York “home,” I didn’t quite think that my first job would be as a financial reporter. However, I’m learning that life, especially as an aspiring journalist, takes these unpredictable twists and turns. These detours, as surprising or unexpected as they may be, can turn out to be some of life’s greatest blessings.


Start Spreading the News, I’m Moving Today…

Airport terminals seem to be one of the best places for reflecting, and that’s exactly what I’m doing. As I sit here waiting for my flight, I finally get to process the whirlwind that ended up with me moving from Hawaii to New York.  

The Backstory

Around a year ago, I came back home from a journalism-packed semester in D.C. After finally adapting to the huge learning curves that hit me through my internship and classes, my biggest fear was that I would lose momentum when I moved back home to finish my last year of college online. As a communications major, my classes weren’t specifically geared to journalism; so, I tried to find some local publications in Hawaii that I could intern at or do some freelance work for in order to gain more experience. Long story short, I ended up working at Starbucks (I know, that’s a random fact, but trust me, it plays a huge part later in this story). 

Besides an out-of-the-blue Q&A with Tamron Hall via Google Hangouts (another long story), I was pretty disconnected from the world of journalism, and I was all too aware of it. Getting a college degree is definitely a crucial part in this “journey to journalism,” but I felt that I should be doing more to build my portfolio, and my plans for post-grad life were getting dimmer and dimmer. That’s when New York entered the picture. 

New York or Bust

In December of last year, I got an email for a job opening in New York. It was an entry-level position and with all my school being online, I figured I could technically start working even before I graduated. After I sent that application in, I started to picture life in New York working at this place and once again being immersed in all things journalism. Another long story short, I didn’t get that job. Nor did I get a couple others I applied to after that. 

Now, I think it is important to note that I’ve never really pictured myself living in New York, but the more I applied, the more I realized that the jobs I was interested in were almost all located in New York. Little by little, the idea of living in New York grew from a possible option, to my ideal choice. But, in case you forgot, I still didn’t have a job.

Over 10 applications later, I had to make a decision. Am I going to wait for a journalism job to come to me? Or, should I just move to New York and continue my job search there? Still, I lacked two very important things: a place to live and a means of affording said “place to live.” Well, both of those things fell into place in a week.

Another long story a little shorter, I responded to a post on a public Facebook group inquiring about a place in New York that had openings for a couple roommates. Almost a week later, (still in Hawaii) I was emailing my copy of the signed lease to my future roommates and transferring to a Starbucks in New York. If it weren’t for my job at Starbucks in Hawaii, I don’t think I’d be moving to New York right now (told you it would come back into play in this story). After signing the lease, I had three weeks to pack and finish up my last undergrad semester, and now I’m here, sitting in LAX with two checked baggages, a carry-on and a backpack, about to make my move to New York. This “journey to journalism” sure has a lot of detours and unexpected twists, but I’m learning to take it one step at a time. Here’s to a new chapter in New York.

•  “It’s time to trust my instincts, close my eyes, and leap.”  •


Lessons Learned from a Web of Necklaces

A couple nights ago, I finally decided to tackle the daunting task of untangling this:

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This, my friends, is the result of neglected necklaces.

As I was sitting and staring at the web of necklaces, I realized that it perfectly summed up my life. (Disclaimer: I plan on milking this analogy for all it’s worth, so if cheesy analogies aren’t for you, you’ve been warned). As a senior in college, thinking about my future gets my brain all jumbled up. There are so many options out there, I don’t know where to start. Honestly, it was/is overwhelming, which, I guess, is normal for a twenty-something. But you see that round necklace with small words scribbled across it? That represents journalism to me.

Amidst the chaos that is my life, there is one thing that continues to be clear to me – I want to be a journalist. You might be thinking, “Well, duh Chels, this whole blog is about how you want to become a journalist.” However, throughout college, life has shaped my desires, dreams and aspirations significantly. Life has a way of doing that, I suppose. Despite all that has changed though, journalism continues to be that one clear object in my tangled web.

Going back to the necklaces, when I started untangling it, I truly thought it was a lost cause. I didn’t know where to start, but eventually, I got one imprisoned necklace free which gave me the patience to continue working at it until, one-by-one, every necklace was free.

I know what I want to be “when I grow up,” but getting there is another story. Looking at the unknown future ahead of me, I have no idea where to start, but the important thing is that I do actually start. If I just stared at that knot of necklaces, there is no way they would’ve gotten untangled by themselves. It took me working at one knot at a time, even when I didn’t know if what I was attempting to achieve was even possible. My career goals and aspirations might seems like a long shot at times, but perhaps, by working and focusing on one thing at a time, I will be able to sort through this web I call my “journey to journalism.”


A Journalism Student’s Thankful List (2015)

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Yes, I know, this year’s thankful list is a little late, and yes, it’s been a while since I posted anything here. Truth is, after a whirlwind of a semester in D.C., my journey to journalism hit a speedbump, so to speak. While I still want to be a journalist (now, more than ever), I’ve been spending most of my time finishing up my degree online and working part-time at Starbucks (more about that later).

Each year, my thankful list ends up having some sort of theme. This year, the theme revolves around all the “un-journalistic” experiences I’ve had this past semester.

Rest

Since I’m only taking a couple of classes, I have more down time. I’m also back home for now, so there’s no rent and grocery bills to worry about. I cannot wait to graduate and pursue journalism full-time; however, I’m thankful for a time of rest, where I can actually afford to be lazy without feeling too guilty.

Rejection

Yep, you read that right. This year, I’m thankful for “rejection.” Looking back, I see just how much closed doors have enabled me to pursue opportunities that I wouldn’t trade for the world. Hearing the dreaded word, “NO,” is not easy, but I’ve found that it has been necessary. For example, when I came back to Hawaii this summer, I knew I needed to get a part-time job. Since I didn’t have a car, I applied to a local lemonade store that is walking distance from my house. Unfortunately, they weren’t looking for anybody at the time I applied. In the mean time, I also sent in an application to Starbucks (I have always wanted to work there!).

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I got the job!

Starbucks

If I had a bucket list, working at Starbucks would be on it. So that in and of itself is something to be thankful for, but more than that, this job was exactly what I needed right now. The different demands of being a barista, from memorizing orders to connecting with customers, has developed fundamental skills that I know I will continue to rely on in the future. This job has stretched me and pulled me out of my comfort zone, and we all know, that is exactly where we learn the most. While being a barista might not directly contribute to my future in journalism, it has taught me life lessons that I know will come into play along this journey, and for that, I am very grateful.


Reflections on WJC: AWARE

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At the beginning of this semester, I blogged about how I expected to “get engaged” through my time in the Washington Journalism Center. Now, a week after my semester in D.C. has ended, I have come to the conclusion that, yes, I did have many opportunities to engage with the neighborhoods and community surrounding me, but more than that, I’m leaving this semester: AWARE.

Aware of the Issues 

So, first let me start out with a confession (I tend to have a lot of those on this blog): As a journalism student, I did not keep up with current events and news nearly as much as I should have. Thankfully, my professor for the semester, and the founder of WJC, drove in the importance of reading. Read my internship’s publication, read the publications relevant to D.C. and overall read to stay informed. Going into this semester, I wondered how journalists develop the content and background behind each story. The simple answer–read.

As I started subscribing to e-newsletters and read the main stories of each day, I started to feel more connected to what was going on both nationally and internationally. It might be the journalism nerd in me, but there is a thrill that comes with being able to connect news stories and articles with every day life. All of a sudden, I would be at an event and the speaker would talk about something that I had just read about, and because of that I felt both engaged and aware with what I was observing and learning this semester.

Aware of the State of the Media

Both inside and outside the classroom, I learned about how much the media is evolving, innovating and thriving. Prior to this semester, I knew the industry had its share of challenges, but I didn’t really understand the dynamics of it all. However, through classes on topics such as “the business model crisis of the media” and the opportunity to attend the American Press Institute and Poynter’s Digital Storytelling Summit, I came to understand more about the impact the digital age is having on journalism. A few months ago, I would’ve never associated terms like startups and big data with journalism, but now, I can’t think of one without thinking about the other.

Aware of Big Data

Speaking of big data, startups and the digital age, thanks to my internship at 1776, a D.C. based startup incubator, I became more aware of the influence and importance big data and analytics have not only in media, but in all industries. Have you ever had someone tell you about something you’ve never heard of before and then after they tell you about it, you see it everywhere? Well, that’s what my internship did for me. I didn’t know what a startup incubator was before I started my internship, but by the end of the semester, I felt immersed in the startup, tech world. I also became aware of how broad of a reach tech and data has on everything. Every news article I read had some sort of tie back to technological developments, social media challenges, privacy concerns, etc. The fact that technology has become a significant part of our lives and culture was not a new concept to me, but being at 1776 helped me really understand and experience that first hand.

Aware of How Much I Have to Learn

Speaking of ignorance, I often describe this semester as humbling. After being editor-in-chief at my previous college’s newspaper and attending a couple journalism conferences, I felt like I had a fairly good grasp of journalism. I knew I wasn’t ready to go straight into the field and learning is a lifelong process, but I didn’t know how much I didn’t know. Through my experiences this semester, getting edits and grades back from my advisers, I was quickly knocked off of my high horse. I’ll admit, that was discouraging at first, but I’m thankful for it because it gave me areas to focus on and grow in. I do not want to find out what would’ve happened if I went on in ignorant bliss only to have a brutal reality check once I hit the workforce.

Looking back on my semester, I am so grateful for all the opportunities and experiences that I had. I expected to learn a lot from this semester, but I did not expect the types of lessons I would learn. There are so many issues, topics and lessons that I could talk about, but I’m still processing all of this and also, I want to spare you from reading a really long blog post. Most of my semester though can be summed up into the word: aware. This may sound cliche, but after my WJC semester, I will never see the world the same way again. It has opened my eyes and changed my perspective in ways that I could’ve never expected or imagined.


More Than Words: Reflections From the API-Poynter Digital Storytelling Summit

About a month ago, I saw the following tweet:

As a college student who came to Washington DC for the semester specifically to study journalism, how could I not apply for an opportunity such as this?! Not only was this an amazing opportunity to meet fellow journalism students and hear from experts in the field, but it proved to be a great source of inspiration, reassurance and a reminder of what I love about journalism. Here are a few takeaways:

Tech is king, but so is content: It is nearly impossible to list all of the apps, websites, technology, software and resources mentioned throughout the sessions. The job description of “reporter” seems to have grown to “coder,” “photographer,” “graphic designer,” “entrepreneur,” “social media guru” and, well, you get the point. I don’t know about you, but that definitely overwhelms me. However, after unloading all this information on us, the speakers frequently clarified that it’s not about becoming a professional web developer or tech expert; we learn these things to understand the process behind what we do and add to the way we deliver the content–it’s still about the content. The digital world has provided journalists with so many different tools to enrich the way we tell stories, but notice that even though this summit was about the digital age, it was also about storytelling which is at the heart of journalism.

It will always be about people: Similar to the way stories continue to drive journalism, at the core, journalism is about providing information to the public. The news industry is a service just as much as it is a business. It’s no secret that news organizations are faced with big issues surrounding what works best to make news profitable. Despite this business model crisis in journalism, the focus continues to be about how to best deliver the content to provide the public with both the information they want and need. It’s also about how to best engage with the audience, not just to get views but to provide a service. Journalism is both about having an audience to sustain the industry and being a source of information that the public can depend on. It’s really a symbiotic relationship.

One of the sessions we had on interviewing really highlighted treating people (especially sources) as more than just a means to an end. Baltimore Sun crime reporter, Justin George, talked about interviewing and the main tips he stressed revolved around empathy and treating each person like… a person. It always has and always will be about not losing sight of why we do what we do and what this whole industry exists for. Granted, there are journalists who cut corners and see sources as nothing more than a good quote that will make their article better. However, the interesting fact of the matter is, the best journalists and most profitable news organizations are the ones who put people first. When service is forsaken for profit, the business side almost always ends up suffering, too.

Problems + Journalists = Great discussions & innovation: Like most industries, journalists are challenged with keeping up with the fast pace of the digital age. Despite these challenges, many of the speakers throughout the session referred to this time as the “golden age of journalism.” Instead of all these recent changes in technology and society being a barrier to the industry, it is an opportunity for growth. In fact, there was a whole session led by OpenReporter CEO, Misha Vinokur, talking specifically about how to approach news like a startup. The current state of the news industry provides so much room for innovation. Journalists are already trained to examine both sides of a story or issue. So, when journalists face challenges within their own industry, they aren’t hesitant to critically examine what needs to be changed.

Over lunch, during the conference, I had a really great discussion with a few other students attending the event. We were talking about the challenges of integrating social media with journalism. In the midst of our discussion, we stopped and kind of laughed about how we were, in a sense, critiquing the very industry we were here to learn about. It’s all part of being a journalist–being so obsessed with what you do that you are willing to think deeply about what’s working and what can be improved. I really enjoyed that discussion and felt like I grew so much from not being afraid to think and talk about issues that need to be addressed in the industry that I love so much.

My journey to journalism is not over: Ever since I came to DC back in January, I’ve wrestled a lot with my “career path choice” as I was reminded over and over again how much I don’t know and can’t do. It was (and continues to be) a humbling experience. Sometimes those moments are necessary. Life is all about learning new things; that’s what makes it exciting. However, honestly, I was feeling discouraged. I knew I wanted to be a journalist (A LOT), but I doubted whether I actually have what it takes to be a journalist. Then, this opportunity came along and while it showed me that I have even more to learn and improve on, it also reminded me why I chose to pursue this career in the first place. This weekend, I realized that the reason why I want to be a journalist is not because it comes easily to me. It’s not because I have fully developed all the skills I need to succeed in this field. I want to be a journalist because I love the industry. Simply put, I love journalism.

While I tried my best, this post does not do the sessions justice. It’s funny because that was kind of the whole point of the summit. There are some things that words alone can’t fully capture. We still need those words and people who write skillfully, but now we have all these tools at are disposal that can help us improve the way we capture and share stories.

If you’re interested, all the sessions were recorded and will be available online soon. I highly recommend checking it out. When the sessions are uploaded, I’ll put a link here!

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Becoming an Adult in a Social Media Driven Age

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courtesy of Dean Meyers via Creative Commons

Today we had a speaker in class who focused on the importance of having a LinkedIn account and networking through social media. What she had to share was really helpful especially to someone like me who is starting to transition out of school and into the “real world.” As she was talking about the importance of having a professional profile across all social media platforms though, there was one question that came to mind: When it comes to social media, do I have to sacrifice my personality for professionalism?

As I talked about this topic with one of my suitemates, I realized that millennials are the first to truly have to make this transition from college to career in a social media driven age. Social media isn’t a new concept to my generation, but the social media that we grew up with was just that–social. It was important to be wise with the photos and statuses we posted; however, for me at least, social media didn’t have anything to do with whether or not I would be hired for a position. That is, until I got to college.

When I realized just how important social media is to my future career and occupational goals (especially in the world of journalism), I created my Twitter account with the sole purpose of using it for professional posts.

Confession: There would be times when I took so long arguing with myself about whether or not I should actually post a tweet I constructed that by the time I came to a decision, it was no longer relevant and I ended up not sending it.

However, my Facebook and Instagram profile were a completely different story. I kept both of those accounts private so that for the most part, the people who would see these posts know me and understand where I’m coming from when I post something I think is funny or “rant” about an experience I’ve had. Please don’t get me wrong, I do not advise being careless with posting on social media just because the account is “private,” but I felt like I could post things that were more personalized to who I am, how  think, and what I like. For example, on Facebook, you might find a lot of posts related to how much I love Texas. If you didn’t really know me, you’d think it completely weird and disturbing especially given the fact that I’m from Hawaii and don’t even live in that state. Granted, even people who know me well, might still think I have an unhealthy obsession with Texas, but at least they have some context for those posts and, well, it’s TEXAS! I also love Jimmy Needham, Jimmy Fallon, and puns. None of those facts about me will get me hired, in fact, some of that might actually be a disincentive to hire me, but the thing is–that’s part of who I am.

Now that I basically made all these personal facts open to the public, my whole concern about whether I should keep these things private may be irrelevant. However, it is still a balance I would like to know how to strike. Private or not, I want to be very cautious about what I post and avoid posting something that would put my job, or character, in jeopardy, but I would like to be “me” sometimes. I don’t always want to hide behind a professional front that says”’ “I have it all together and I love everything I am doing right now.” Especially with my close friends spread out around the country and possibly soon around the world, I want to be able to keep a real, unedited part of me on social media.

One point though that I thought was interesting and a bit convicting is that sometimes, I forget that those things can be expressed in person. I was talking to a fellow intern about this and asked her when I’m supposed to express my opinions or rants. She simply replied, “in-person.” Talk about a stereotypical millennial moment. So, yes, there is a time and outlet for everything. Whether you’re trying to demonstrate your freedom of expression or not, there are certain things that just shouldn’t go on social media… save it to discuss with your mom or something. However, I can honestly say that I don’t like the idea of hiding behind a professional front on social media.

What do you think? Am I reading into this too much? How do YOU balance professionalism and personality on social media?