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Man on the Street

Hold on to your seats people, I’m about to give you a how-to guide for doing man on the street stories.

First, some of you may ask, “What is man on street?”

Good question! Man on the street is simply going out of the newsroom (yes, you have to leave the newsroom!) and talking to everyday community members.

Getting started:

I like parking lots, personally. Walmart, Target, malls — any place where an array of people would be walking in and out.

Parking lots offer a sort of anonymity and are less likely to cause a stir, which for reporters would mean getting kicked out of stores. In the store = Kicked out, In the parking lot = Sneaking around cars.

While some would suggest tucking your press badge in a pocket or leaving it in your car I find that to be dishonest. Instead, wear it proudly so you can flash it as soon as you approach someone. People find you less scary with the badge as oppose to being a weirdo stalking shoppers.

Next up is a very important step: Approach with caution

If you come on too strong people will think you’re attempting to mug them or are a Jehovah’s witness. I like to say, “Excuse me (sir or ma’am – I’m in the south), do you have a moment?”

Then, because everyone likes a good sense of humor, I smile and tell them, “I’m not creepy (could be replaced with the words a stalker), I just work for the newspaper and have a story I’m working on …”

Now, some of you may start this and be rejected by the first few folks you approach. Have heart, someone will say yes it might just take a little longer than you first thought.

Once they agree to talk to you it’s time for the most important step. That’s right, this one is the one to remember.

GET THEIR NAME BEFORE ASKING ANY QUESTIONS!

I learned this lesson the hard way: I’d be talking with someone for several minutes, getting really great quotes and when it wrapped up I’d ask for their name and then they’d go, “Oh, you have to have my name? I’d rather not.”

Ask for it in the beginning, and you avoid wasting your time with someone who thinks a reporter wouldn’t require a name. Seriously, people, we ALWAYS need a name!

Now that you’ve got them cornered: Ask your questions

Be nice to these people, this is a choice they made to stop their day and talk with you. If they seem hesitant or rushed, offer to walk with them to their car while you write.

I like to grab a mugshot while I’m with them too. That way you have something visual you can add that shows the readers — Look, John Doe is just like you. Here’s his picture to prove it!

Then you’re done. Easy peasy.

Balancing Act

Dun, dun, dada, du du, dun dun dada du du … Presenting the amazing Angel! …

For the past few months I’ve felt less like I’m living life and more like I’ve taken up a job in the circus and I’m trying desperately to keep up.

I started graduate school in August. Just two classes, no big deal. Yeah right.

I knew it would be challenging to work 40+ hours a week and attend classes at night. I never knew how challenging.

And the masochist that I am has decided to add yet another class to my plate next semester. I always think I have it awful and then it gets worse and I miss the way it once was.

College seemed so stressful and I was so ready to get started and do something. Now, looking back, college was a cinch. I worked a part-time job, played with my friends  and I had weekend breaks.

Now, my Friday nights and Saturdays are either dedicated to going to class or doing work for class. My evenings are me looking at an empty fridge and then grabbing a handful of research articles to read.

I’m not complaining, really I’m not. I signed up for this. I chose to add to my plate.

And I’m excited for the possibilities that a master’s degree could give me. I just don’t know how to keep up with everything!

First Day Dreams

Today was the last of the first days of school for the three counties my paper covers.

Since three weeks ago, I’ve been heading to schools, taking pictures and talking with students while trying to come up with a creative way to write about the first day of school – and, of course, each of the three has to be different.

It’s weird. The first day, at least to me, always has a scent that reminds me of knots in my stomach, reminiscing with old friends and the excitement of all the possibilities the year had to offer.

Up until my later high school days I would work hard preparing what I would wear, how my hair would look and what I would pack for lunch the entire first week.

Now, I get up and am out the door in five minutes usually looking pretty atrocious.

Each time I’ve gone to the schools to take pictures, interview the students and check to see how smoothly things are going I’ve realized how much I miss it.

Who would have ever thought. If you would have told me in middle school that the real world is not all it’s cracked up to be and I’d actually miss those awkward days, I would have timidly smiled and thought you were insane.

My how time has changed.

I would love to be back in the classroom getting excited about seeing my old classmates rather than catching up at a friend’s baby shower,  but this is where I am.

No longer do I look forward to the homecoming dance, but the wedding that’s next month. Friends are having children, moving away and becoming real adults.

Heck, as much as I hate to admit it, I’m even becoming a grownup – Yikes!

I know I have so much more to look forward to with work, relationships and all the things that come with growing older.

It’s just nice to look at students in their brand new shoes, nervous faces and schedules clutched tight in their little hands and remember that not too long ago I was there and know that not too long from now they’ll be where I am.

Happy first day of school everybody, enjoy it while it lasts!

Why I Got Into Journalism

In my short time as a reporter I have gotten to meet some truly amazing people.

I think that’s my favorite part about this job. I get to go places, see things and meet people I would have never been able to otherwise. This is true of my experience yesterday.

I was told earlier in the week that I would be covering a woman who was a guest speaker at a gala. Whoop-de-do, yet another thing to put on my long list of Saturday tasks.

How wrong I was.

Friday I did a little research to prepare me for the interview and as I read I became more and more amazed at the woman I was going to get to meet. Her story was not only horrific, it was inspiring.

She survived the Rwanda genocide, a story in itself, but after that she went on to forgive the unforgivable and become an inspiration to not only her country but all over the world.

After that, I got to go to the reopening of a park that had been remodeled. This park was just a park to me, but to the neighborhoods that fought for years to get it cleaned up and family friendly it was an answered prayer.

In a predominantly black neighborhood, the children were not the ones swinging in the park or laughing in the grass. No, drug deals were going on and crime scene tape had been put in place several times after people were murdered.

So while the hamburgers and hot dogs served Saturday were nice, the park meant hope and a future to the people living there. I asked one woman how she felt about the park and all she said, and all she needed to say was, “It means a lot.”

One little boy was asked the same question and as he looked at the huge park with newly planted grass and the shiniest play set he’d ever seen he described the beer bottles and the needles that used to be strewn about. Then he described the park he now saw. He said it was a mansion.

Wow.

I get to meet people and hear their stories, I get to see there faces during moments of joy. My job isn’t always easy, and sometimes I get down. But times like these make me realize how lucky I am to be doing what I do.