Tag Archives: news

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!

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I’m Sorry For Your Loss

Warning: This post will likely be incredibly depressing.

Encouragement: You should still read on.

How do you know when it’s going to be a tough day at work? When you get a text and phone call from your editor the night before with a full list of things to do.

How do you know that you are too emotional? When you cry after every interview.

How do you cope with said emotions? Probably you should do something productive, but I choose to eat … a lot.

There was a family of seven killed Saturday night in a plane crash, so of course first thing Monday I was on it. Driving to the businesses the mom and dad owned, talking with teachers and daycare workers of the children.

Read the story.

I’ve done this before, but not like this. Not when there’s a mom and dad and five young children killed in the same accident. Not when the oldest child is the only survivor.

I went to the daycare the mother owned and spoke with the teachers. My heart broke when a boy no older than 4 came up to one of them and asked, “Is Miss Terresa in heaven now?”

The teachers were composed for most of their interviews. But when I asked how they were coping their eyes swelled up with tears and their voices cracked.

The sadness seeped into me. I closed the door to my car after the interviews and tears fell down my face. Tears for the lives lost. Tears for those left behind. Tears because this is what happens in real life.

Real life is the worst.

After six chicken minis, a diet coke and a promise that I would treat myself to macaroni and cheese for lunch, I regained my composure.

I know I’ve written about this before and talked about how I think I’m getting better at it. But the truth is I will never get used to doing this.

Hours after my interviews, I’m still finding it hard not to cry.

Learning Lessons or Strategies?

I’ve found myself more than once in my everyday life thinking about stories I write about and circumstances people get themselves in or find themselves stuck in.

Since working the cop beat, I certainly find myself using a little more precaution in my life away from the paper.

There was a story I worked on with a co-worker about a man who was driving along his merry way and as soon as he stopped at a red light a man toting a gun and a pension for stealing money jumped in his car. The man was shot, but luckily survived.

From that point on, I made sure my car was locked at all times. It was something I should have always done but the man’s near death experience put the scare in me enough to make it a regular habit.

But more than just keeping myself alert, I plague those around me with my new-found paranoia. Are your doors locked? Are you walking alone in the dark? Are you watching out for a knife-wielding stranger?

While my concern is sincere, I think my friends and family may wish I wouldn’t preach about all the chaos and how many different ways someone can find themselves in a sticky situation.

Although, my father would disagree, my new-found fears are right up there with his. He’s elated when I spout out more reasons why I should carry a gun and dead bolt the door even when I’m only in the house for a minute.

So while this may have some positive attributes, my going through the arrest reports also has me thinking about the mistakes the criminals make.

More than once, I’ve said (out loud even) when a cop pulls you over and asks to search your car say no, they’ll never find the drugs if you just say no.

Lately, it’s been the misdemeanor charges that have me thinking.

I just moved into a home. That’s right, cutting the cord and getting out of the folks house.

Little known fact (at least to me before this experience), living in a house is expensive. Cable is $40 a month, power is another $70, water can be up to $20 and the list goes on and on.

So my roommate and I have decided to try and forgo garbage for as long as we can. The idea came to me after reading several notice to appears about people illegally dumping their trash.

OK, I know that this sounds stupid and illegal, but c’mon. How simple is it, just put your trash in a nearby dumpster and save $40 a month – and then the cable bill seems a lot cheaper!

I haven’t actually done it and my roommate has thus far not agreed to be my lookout, but the thought of just making sure not to make the same mistakes as the people I write about has come up.

I know that in my year working the cops beat my perspective on life has changed, I just can’t decide if it’s for better or worse.

Parking Lot Pleading

I’m wet.

I smell a little funky.

I’m grouchy.

I spent my entire morning in parking lots stalking people and pleading with them to a.) Give me their blasted names and b.) Let me interview them for a completely innocent story.

Most newspapers and journalists will call it “Man on the Street” reporting. I call it “Hanging out in store parking lots because I’m not allowed inside buildings” (see earlier excerpt entitled, “I got yelled at by a mall cop”).

This weekend, for Florida, is a tax-free holiday.

So, of course, I was told to find out if people are shopping, what are they buying and find out if there are any good deals.

This is not my first rodeo, so to speak, in parking lot reporting.

It started when I first got on day shift. My boss wanted to know what average people thought about some subject and told me just to go to some place where a lot of people are.

That was easy: Walmart.

I came back with good quotes, a variety of people from all over the county and wrote the story up quick. Since that day, all parking lot stories go straight to my desk.

Most times it’s been fine. Every now and then I get frustrated because it takes me forever to find someone who will talk with me.

Everyone is weary when it comes to talking with the media.

Today, underneath a gray sky threatening to pour on me at any minute, I stood in Walmart’s parking lot not having any luck finding a shopper with more than three items.

Then, here comes a man with a cart full – GLORY!

I approach like I always do, “Excuse me sir, sorry to bother you. My name is Angel, would you mind if I asked you just a few simple questions for a story I’m working on?”

Then, I explained it was a nice feature on the tax-free holiday. Nothing racy, nothing hard to answer, really just a nothing story if we’re going to be honest.

He said no.

I said, “It’s nothing bad and I see you’ve really done quite a bit of shopping. I promise I’ll take up less than five minutes then I’ll leave you alone.”

Side note: All of this is said in my sweetest, little girl voice that I use like a spider trapping prey (WaHaHa – evil laugh).

He again said no.

At this point I gave up and was just irritated since I’d been getting drizzled on and in the hot, humid Florida air for going on 15 minutes.

“Well, when I get wet you should feel bad,” this was said in a joking manner, but with completely serious undertones.

He didn’t care.

I finally got someone, came back and wrote the story.

But alas, I have the rest of the day with the stench of my parking lot reporting lingering on me and the anger of rejection keeping my mood from being a little less pleasant than usual.

Driving the Distance

I hate driving in most circumstances.

It’s only partially that I’m cheap and don’t want to spend the gas money, but most of it is pure laziness.

I like to relax on the road and not have to be the defense driver my mother told me to be when I was 15. But at work, I don’t mind so much.

I live a little more than an hour from my work. Probably like all of my co-workers have vocalized, this sounds ludicrous and absurd – why live so far from work?

It started out with me moving in with my parents to save money and figure out what to do with my life. Then I got a job about 40 minutes away in a community of homeowners – as a bright-eyed 21-year-old recent grad, staying with my parents seemed like the right move.

Then I quit and was more grateful for having understanding parents then I ever thought possible.

Three months later, I was hired and asked if moving was an option. At first it wasn’t, why ruin a good thing with free rent. Doing the night shift, however, was tiring and the prospect of a five-minute drive home was incredibly appealing.

Then I saw the prices: $700 for apartments without fans or washers and driers. No thanks.

So the drive continued.

Right now, I’m in the process of moving out of my parents house. The thing is, I’m still an hour from work.

I just love my community, being close to my family, going to my home church and being near my friends. And what’s more, I’m starting to like the commute.

I know I’m poor – hello, I work in journalism – but I knew my car ride would be something that would need to keep me alert, awake and entertained so I purchased XM radio.

I’m obsessed, but not with music. I love talk radio.

Whoda thunk?

So now at work I look forward to the long rides, the all day stories and going from county to county. I enjoy listening to the whole program and getting a break.

It’s like watching TV at work, almost. I get to just take a break from reality and listen to the lives of other people – and I get paid to do it!

So for new journalists, it is my suggestion to find something entertaining to listen to so that the drive is not a hassle but a nice break from the day.

Suggestions:

NPR’s Talk of the Nation is awesome, Cosmo Radio from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. makes me look like a lunatic I laugh so much, and Stars on XM has the Covino and Rich Show that is hilarious.

Is This Real Life?

I would imagine in most jobs people don’t find themselves simply asking, Is this real life?

Since beginning the journey of journalism, which dates back to college, I have found myself asking that very question over and over again.

The first real “what-the-heck-is-this” question came when I was studying court reporting in college. Our assignment was to go to the courthouse, sit through the case and write a story.

It seemed like a normal story, DUI felony. Then the first witness came to the stand.

Let me preface this by saying the defendant was an older man that looked like he would make a good grandpa.

The witness talked about seeing a car wreck, engine steaming and walking up to the car and there, sitting in the driver’s seat, Grandpa is butt naked and passed out.

When asked if he helped, the young man talking to the jury could not have been more honest, “Heck no man, he was naked — I was not getting any closer than I had to!”

Amazing. I got the best grade I ever made in that class on my article about the naked drunk driver.

More stories are intermittent in the time from school to where I am, but last Thursday really topped the cake.

I was told to drive to the home of a man who will be featured on the Biography Channel’s show, “My Ghost Story.” You can imagine the thoughts that went through my head.

I’m what the two men I interviewed would deem as a “non-believer.” I think ghosts are figments of the imagination and when he showed me the “apparitions” in the smoke he photographed I had to fake amusement. I mean really, if you look in the clouds you’ll see something if you look hard enough.

But there belief in ectoplasms was only the beginning of my questioning reality.

As soon as I pulled up to their zebra-print mobile home I knew this was no ordinary story. When I walked into their home I was surrounded by golden cherubs, five-tier candle holders, walls decorated in fabric and more gaudy/antique crap than I’d ever seen in my entire life.

Then I met Michael and Rai — two fabulous men that love their decorations as much as the circus they told me they retired from 18 years ago.

It gets better.

Michael talks with the ghost haunting his home and one of his first encounters involved the doors to his and Rai’s mobile home shaking profusely so now their home has no doors with the exception of the front door — this includes a bathroom door.

My day at their home ended with Rai showing me the kilt he made for his partner and escorting me out calling me honey the entire time.

Please don’t think I’m making fun of these men, because they were kind and treated me more kindly than many other interviewees, but c’mon.

I anticipate more opportunities for me to question the world I live in, but for now the ghost house has topped the rest hands down. But who knows what’s around the corner.

Stop That Blasted Ringing

The phone rings nonstop in the newsroom. Even as I type, the phone is blaring it’s annoying jingle in my ear begging me to pick it up to cease the noise that rips away at my ear drums.

OK, obviously that is a little over dramatic, but that ringing – it just gets to me.

Our secretary is out, so of course the duty of picking up the phone falls on the part-time employees in the newsroom and the two cop reporters — don’t ask me why but everyone else acts like they don’t even hear the ringing. So along with the assistants, the two most recent hires do all the talking.

Most of the time I like talking to people. Even my extraordinarily long list of cop calls is fine. I like chatting, hearing about people’s days and wishing them a good rest of the day.

But when you pick up the main line you never know what you’ll get.

Today alone I had a woman yell at me because the theater she wanted to see a movie in was not listed in the paper, a man called asking for directions and another man called to complain about … well about everything.

In a job that people view as the “watch dogs of society” I expect to sometimes talk with people who are less than pleased, but when I get yelled at because someone can’t find the sports score they’re looking for it just feels wrong.

To divulge even further on my rant of people calling the paper, some of them don’t let you get a word in while they go on and on over whatever is annoying them. Then when they’re done, I have to tell them that I am merely the person directing phone traffic and I have to send them else where.

I never before answered the phones, at my old job the boss turned off the ringers so we could hear the scanner and focus on writing. So the world of the crazy people who call the paper is a bizarre one to me.

Everyday, I am surprised by who is talking on the other line. But today, I just want them to leave me alone.