(Mis)quoted and noted

I have a problem with email interviews. I don’t like using the method as a journalist reporting on a story, and I don’t like being asked to give quotes through them.

J-School Buzz posted about how the Journalism School should embrace the practice of email interviews. I disagree. My friend Laura Li, a fellow J-Schooler who is way more eloquent than me, contributed her countering opinion that students need to learn to establish direct contact in order to accurately report on a subject.

When I was recently emailed a list of questions from a reporter of a student publication about a campus event that I attended, I declined to answer them (primarily because I was only in attendance for part of the event and clearly wasn’t the best interview candidate). I ended the email by offering to meet in person to answer any other questions she had. This wasn’t the first time that I had declined an email interview, but in the past reporters have arranged face-to-face interviews with me to get their material. I waited to hear back from this reporter, but figured she had gone with another source in the end.

So imagine my surprise when I found out, through a series of coincidental events, that I was in fact quoted in an article. But since I didn’t give her any useable quotes, she made up her own and tacked my name to the end of them.

At first I thought it was completely hilarious that the reporter would do something that was the complete antithesis to journalism. And then I was completely perplexed as to why she thought it would be okay or necessary to do what she did. In all honesty, I just want clarification as to her rationale for fabricating quotes in the first place. The article has since been corrected and the publication offered its apologies, but I really just want the reporter as an individual to be accountable for this situation and be transparent enough to make it known.

I want you to know that I stutter sometimes. I say “like” and “um” way too much. I have a nervous laugh that kicks in when I get the sinking realization that I’ve lost my train of thought in the middle of a sentence. And a person would only know this if they’ve talked to me directly, heard my voice and picked up on my body language. Because what I say is best understood when how I say it is taken into consideration. And that doesn’t include how well I can craft a type-written sentence.

All I ask, both as a journalist and as an interviewee, is that the reporter upholds the integrity of good journalism. And please don’t write that I said something when I didn’t. That’s not journalism, honey; that’s fiction. And to quote the J-School’s own Jacqui Banazynski, “Go over to the English department if you want to make shit up.”


I have a running countdown of the remaining days until Spring Break

It’s official, folks: I’ve successfully completed the year’s first round of no-pants-week. That, of course, means the end of winter and the onset of the Spring Break season.

There’s no use denying it; the infamous collegiate Spring Break culture scene is a reflection of our current values of popular culture. MTV-esque displays of young adults getting themselves into all kinds of shenanigans are the norm for film, TV shows, celebrity idols and music alike. While we can consider whether this is life imitating art or art imitating life, we can also go ahead and throw in how technology is fits in the mix.

A recent New York Times article reports on the observations of business owners in Key West, Fla., of the new toned-down behavior of their customers. The primary culprit: social media. When Facebook profiles and video recordings are at the public’s (and potential future employer’s) display, people seemed to have adopted a heightened social awareness of their appearance to those with access to the web.

As we move along with learning about mobile reporting in class, it’s interesting to consider the gravity of social media expanses, for journalistic purposes and otherwise. Perhaps people’s recognition that all of their actions are being captured via photographic lens will ultimately change elements of human behavior. It seems that today, it’s so much easier to dispel written evidence of an event or story, whereas the added dimension of visuals will have us smiling for every hidden camera.

In the meantime, I’d suggest becoming familiar with the photo untagging selection. I mean, let’s be honest, everyone’s mother has a Facebook now.

Magazine: the place to be

People come from all over the country – the world, even – to attend the Missouri School of Journalism. For a lot of them, it’s a only thing that would have brought them to Missouri. It’s a fly0ver state. It’s the Midwest. The summer’s are humid. But then again, we also have a pretty good J-School. Go figure.

I grew up with the J-School. I remember taking walks through campus with my mother, learning about the archway statues and hearing about the impressive funding for the newly renovated Reynolds Journalism Institute. I had considered leaving Columbia for college and studying fashion design or journalism elsewhere, but none of it really made sense when what I needed was right in front of me.

I’ve always loved storytelling and think it’s the best reason to write – to be a record of the ordinary and the extraordinary and really understanding why we are the way we are. As much as I hate talking about myself, I’m always itching to hear someone else explain exactly why they do something or how they ended up where they are, or even where they want to go. It’s so interesting to let their stories unfold, and to be able to convey that passion or experience through whatever medium is an enormous responsibility but can yield great outcome. Journalists, writers, photographers, documentary filmmakers; we’re all storytellers.

This week in lecture, we heard about what to look forward to in the upcoming years as we move into our interest areas and dive into the field. Nearly two years in and I’m still excited to get to learn the about the resources and tools of the magazine world. Years ago, the goal started off as a dream to work for a glossy fashion magazine (think The Devil Wears Prada, or I’d probably even take Ugly Betty if it meant being a part of a major NYC fashion publication industry). And while my aspirations have changed and I can’t decide between journalism electives or describe where I see myself in 10 years and I’m simultaneously anticipating and dreading writing for the Missourian next fall,  I know going into my interest area that, at least for right now, I’m in the right place.

Why I love the True/False Film Festival

If you’ve been anywhere within earshot of me for the past month, you’ve probably heard me mention True/False at least a handful of times. No, I wasn’t talking about an exam, even though I think we can all agree that those are the best kinds.

The True/False Film Festival is a documentary film festival that roots itself in downtown Columbia every winter. For the past eight years, filmmakers and musicians have come from around the world to show off their work to thousands of documentary enthusiasts, converging in the Midwestern college town for one weekend of cinematic splendor. In its ninth year with no signs of slowing, the festival weekend now includes events such as the March March kickoff parade, the True Life Run and to benefit the chosen True Life Fund film of the year, panels with filmmakers, and plenty of visual and auditory pleasures for the now four-day celebration.

I saw my first T/F film during my sophomore year of high school. Thanks to a social studies teacher who brought filmmakers to the school to give presentations and special screenings, discounted passes for students, and a newfound eagerness to explore downtown with a freshly-acquired driver’s license in tow, I found myself at the Blue Note queued up for the Friday night showing of American Teen. The film itself wasn’t altogether inspiring, but as a festival-going experience, I was hooked.

Since then, I’ve volunteered in some capacity for the past two years. Senior year I had the opportunity to help out with the Filmmaker’s Fête where I dressed up in fancy clothes and served fancy hors d’oeuvres to filmmakers and higher-up pass holders. Last year I worked theater operations at The Chapel and this year I’ll be camped out at Ragtag Cinema.

I guess what I love so much about the festival is how Columbia truly comes alive during the event. After living here for 17 years, the college town routine gets old. But throw in the artistic drive of international filmmakers all wanting to show somebody’s experience or allow the audience to live their own through film and we’re on to something. People come here wanting to hear a good story, and that’s what the festival is all about. From the aesthetically pleasing Life In a Day to the politically-charged Burma VJ, there’s so much to gain in participating in the fest. Through film, music, stimulating discussion and new introductions, it’s a way to find a bigger world in the small community here. And even though it’s gotten so big in the last several years, the volunteer-run weekend still maintains an air of friendly support and camaraderie. Every year, I learn so much not only about the films that come through and the issues they raise, but also about the community that has helped sustain this event and keeps it thriving. I look forward to it every February and can’t see myself growing tired of it anytime soon.

Good storytelling has me here to stay.