Tag Archives: lessons learned

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.

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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.”


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.


What I’m Looking Forward to this Spring

In my first two weeks of living in D.C., I have already developed a pretty good idea of what I plan to get out of my time here. To sum it all up, by the end of this semester, I expect to be engaged.

I know, that is an odd statement to find on this blog. What those who know me may find even more striking is the fact that I am 100% single. But, I’m not talking engagement like proposal, wedding dress shopping and cake tasting (although I do plan to eat my share of sweets here in D.C. 😉 ). What I mean by “I expect to be engaged” is I have a feeling that living and working in a city with such unique dynamics will teach me to go out of my comfort zone and learn to engage with the neighborhood and consequently the world around me.

Engage with the Community 

One aspect of the Washington Journalism Center that I did not expect, but am extremely grateful for, is the fact that since the day we have arrived here, our leaders have been encouraging us to get involved in the community around us. Whether that is through finding a local church to plug into or looking for opportunities to volunteer, they want us to not just be tourists in D.C. and not even to merely be young professionals here, but to explore and discover the rich culture and community that surrounds us. Believe it or not, D.C. is not all business and government. There are neighborhoods full of people with an unlimited amount of untold stories and pasts (and that excites the aspiring journalist in me).

Last semester, I took online classes from home and got a taste of life after college. In that time, I realized that there is at least one thing campus life does not prepare you for, and that is taking the initiative to get involved. To a certain extent, yes, you have to learn to go out and find organizations that you like and want to be a part of, but all your options are all crammed together in one location and every single organization vies for your attention. All you have to do is go to an “org fair” and sign up for whatever piques your interest. In the “real world,” the “campus organization fair” is a lot larger, and unless you learn to get out into your community and learn about what different businesses, churches and organizations have to offer, you will be stuck in the dreaded work, home, work, home cycle completely oblivious to all the community events and outreaches there are right in your neighborhood!

Engage with People 

This area for me is a work in process. When we got here, we were told to interact with the people we encounter just waiting at the bus stop or riding the metro because of the potential to learn so much from talking to different people. While part of me is excited to meet total strangers and be blown away by the stories they have to share, the other part of me (the part that has seen some harsh realities of human nature) is hesitant to just talk to everyone I meet. This challenge made me realize just how far I’ve retracted into my shell in the past year. The people here in D.C. are so kind and helpful, and it is so fun and easy to interact with everyone…when I’m in a group. However, when I’m traveling alone, I find it hard to find the fine line between being antisocial and being safe.

Clearly, I haven’t mastered this area of my semester of engagement, but this is just the beginning. While I am a little intimidated and scared, I am up to the challenge. I know that if I consistently apply this, it will stretch and grow me. Sorry Mom, but I’m going to talk to strangers.

Engage with my Future 

This is the last one and kind of self-explanatory so I’ll keep it short since this post is already much longer than I anticipated. Basically, besides knowing that I want to go into journalism, I have no idea what that might look like in my future. Being able to actually intern and be mentored by someone in the field is exactly what I’ve been looking for. I’m excited to see how this semester will shape and mold my goals and dreams giving a more specific direction for my “journey to journalism.” I may not be getting a ring this spring, but I do plan on being engaged on so many different levels.

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Lessons from Being Stuck in Traffic

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Estimation of what this past holiday season’s traffic will be like. Courtesy of Skift.com

The holiday season is wrapping up and with it (hopefully) the crazy traffic. There are many reasons why being stuck in traffic can be frustrating, but I think the biggest reason is because we are so focused on the destination. Traffic keeps us from getting where we need to go in the amount of time we want. However, if we take a step back, there is actually a lot to be learned  (and dare I say, enjoyed?) in traffic.

One day, I was on my way to work and happened to leave right when everyone else wanted to go to the mall. Sitting behind rows of cars, I turned on the radio and actually started enjoying the time in the car to just listen to music and slow down in the midst of the most hectic, fast-paced season of the year. I found myself admiring the scenery around me instead of worrying about whether or not I would make it to work on time. Then, it hit me. The past 5 months of my life were very much like a life version of a traffic jam. Going from a busy campus life schedule to taking three classes online at home was definitely a change of pace… and I hated it.

Just like we get frustrated with rush hour traffic, I was extremely frustrated with the detour my life took. Why? Because I was focused on the destination instead of the journey. After my five month traffic jam, I would be headed to Washington D.C. for a journalism semester, but in the mean time, I was stuck with a lot less to do than I had before. I didn’t like this little, uncertain plateau of waiting and planning. I wanted to experience, travel, do something exciting!

Thanks to being stuck in traffic on my way to work, I had time to reflect on this and realize that sometimes, life’s traffic jams are necessary. They can be painful and annoying, but they also give you time to slow down. Perhaps last semester was God’s way of getting my attention to get things in order before things started to pick up again.

The next time I hit traffic whether it be on the road or on my journey to journalism, I will choose to be thankful for the time to slow down and reflect on the finer things of life. Happy New Years!


Nothing But The… Bad News? (It’s all about perspective)

Do you know someone who doesn’t read the news anymore because it’s “depressing” or “always negative”? Perhaps those are some excuses you use to avoid keeping up with current events. If that is you, don’t worry, this post isn’t meant to call you out, but I do want to challenge our perspectives (yes, our, I’ll be the first to admit that I have had times where I have felt intimidated to approach all that is “the world of news”).

Anyway, what does perspective have to do with this? Well, if you will bear with me a little longer, I’m going to digress a bit further and then (hopefully) bring this back full circle to answer the big question of “Why is the news always bad?”

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As you may or may not know, I’m from Hawaii. If you’re not from Hawaii, you probably are thinking I live in paradise, and in many ways, you’d be right. Hawaii is beautiful, the weather is relatively nice (especially this time of the year), and it is my home. However, growing up here, as with growing up anywhere, hasn’t been easy. So, tied with my view of Hawaii is the valleys I’ve faced in life, the fact that I’m not on vacation somewhere else, and the high cost of living! And recently with transferring schools, being in Hawaii also means that I’m no longer enrolled at Houston Baptist University. That said, this isn’t meant to be a complete downer about Hawaii because ask any tourist who has paid their whole life’s savings to spend a week here and they will tell you how amazing Hawaii is and how they cannot wait to be back here. Now, there’s nothing different between my Hawaii and that tourist’s Hawaii, but there IS a big difference on the perspectives we have… see, I told you I’d bring this back around.

Perspective and News 

While there are a lot of unpleasant things that are going on in the world today, a lot of how we see the news depends on how we read the news. What is the perspective you have prior to even reading that first article? If you’re expecting a story about a tragic event or social injustice, you’ll definitely find it. BUT, if you’re expecting an inspiring story of someone who survived a tragic event or took action to right a social injustice, then you’ll find that too. Combining my Hawaii analogy and this lesson on perspectives might be a stretch, but sometimes, we need to see our news like a tourist sees Hawaii. I’m definitely in need of a perspective check, how about you?


It Takes a Village to… Run a Paper

While the beginning of this semester was filled with unexpected changes, there was one major change that I had all summer to prepare for — no longer being editor-in-chief of my university’s newspaper. Now, when I say that I “prepared for” leaving this position, I really mean I had a lot of time to reflect over my experience.

Little did I know that when I joined The Collegian, I would not only gain journalistic experience, but I would also learn many life lessons along the way. And to keep it exciting and interesting, a majority of these lessons came out of the most peculiar sources, from rotten pumpkins to secret menus and everything in between.

Of all the lessons that I’ve learned from my time at The Collegian, there is one lesson that surpasses them all: You can’t do it alone. Both in life, and definitely in a newspaper or magazine or whatever you’re trying to produce, it all won’t happen without a team.The moments I tried to do everything on my own, I found myself burnt out and stressed. Thankfully, I was blessed with a loyal team, or rather, family, who kept me sane and made the stressful times a little more enjoyable by either lightening the mood with some random outburst of song and Russian accents or lightening my load by being so ready and willing to help wherever needed.

(Most of) the people behind the paper. This was taken in Austin when we took a staff trip to attend the 2014 ISOJ conference.

(Most of) the people behind the paper. This was taken in Austin when we took a staff trip to attend the 2014 ISOJ conference.

Looking back, I know that, without a doubt, the biggest take away I got out of my time as editor-in-chief was realizing that I can’t produce a paper by myself. I know, that sounds like it should’ve been obvious, but in the midst of all that is deadlines and breaking news, it is easy to forget how much I needed and relied on my fellow editors and writers. I don’t think I expressed my gratitude enough while I was editor-in-chief, but these people really made my experience what it was.

Thank you, Collegian family!