Thursday, February 11, 2010

It is funny how a simple little note... No more then one paragraph, can change the course of a day. I was lucky enough to receive that note before I even got out of bed this morning. It came in the form of an email, to the blackberry I keep plugged in next to my bed at night. I must admit, the loud beep that interrupted my dreams made me want to scream. The note that followed made up for the rude awakening.

Considering how short it was, I thought I'd share the entire thing.


I thought that I'd share with you that after your story aired, I had a call from a friend that leads that local Cub Scout Pack. He volunteered for his organization to supply a trash can and bags for the coming year, if I could dispose of the bags once full. In turn, I asked the City if they would place a couple of the trash cans back in the park if we maintain them. Today I received a response from the City saying that they will place 2 cans back at Woodstone Park. Your story helped the problem!



Everyday I get up and come to work. I produce a story or two, conduct some interviews, shoot some video and call it a day. Sometimes I piss people off and insult people. Often time, people piss me off, threaten me, and leave me feeling like a worthless piece of you-know-what. Rarely though, do I get a note like this one.

It is a simple note that probably took thirty seconds to write. Nevertheless it put a smile on my face that lasted throughout the day. I got into this business because I wanted to help people. I'm not going to go as far as to say that I thought I could change the world, but I will say that I thought I could make a difference. Recently however I've let that dream slip. I've become disheartened by a business that forces me to compress emotion and real life drama into a thirty second story. I've begun wondering if any good can really be done in 1 minute and fifteen seconds.

There have been nights where I've left the station hitting my steering wheel, and cursing "the nature of the biz." There have been days I've worked my rear off only to watch the whole thing wash down the drain at five o'clock. But today, I heard five simple words that will keep me going for a least another month... You're story helped solve the problem!

Sweet affirmation. Affirmation that people saw my hard work, that people listened to me, that just getting the word out did SOMETHING. Oh, so sweet is this affirmation.

So thank you Terri for your simple words. Little did you know how much they would mean to me. Now I guess it is my turn to apply this simple lesson to my life. How easy is it to say thank you, to tell someone that they've made a difference in your life. It takes two seconds, a few words will do... But it may just mean the world to someone.

This is the story I put together, five days before receiving this wonderful note!

Friday, February 5, 2010

I can't seem to escape this issue, so I may as well embrace it. Maybe this is the universe telling me that until I've formed a concrete opinion, I can't just brush aside my jumbled feelings and pretend like they don't matter. So, while redundant as this may be... homelessness once again.

Side note: being a news photographer sometimes means redundancy. There are stories that we cover over and over and over and over again. It is all about exploring the same issue from a new angle, and doing it creatively. While I can not really claim to be creative today, I did examine this forever heated issue from a new angle today... outsiders, insiders, and the homeless themselves.

As the clock strikes twelve noon I am standing outside Colorado Springs city hall. A chilly wind is blowing incessantly, but the sun is shining and I'm content. Standing in front of me is a group of benign looking homless people holding signs that say "being homeless is not a crime." Interspersed in the group is a few citizens who represent a Colorado Peace group. They are the ones who have organized this rally, and who are vocally speaking out about the treatment of homeless people in the community. Another news station starts their live hit and that's when things start escalating.

From behind the camera a woman starts to scream. "who are you Eric? I never see you at the homeless outreach meetings! As of yesterday none of these people knew about a rally! Did you just hand out flyers today at the soup kitchen!? You don't care about them! How dare you be here!" The shouting continued, but you get the idea.

Of course Eric, and his compadres, could not be outdone. So, like the grown-ups that we all are, they start shouting back. I meanwhile am rolling on the whole thing, and thinking to myself... My how we are accomplishing so much.

The rally was organized in response to a vote city council is expected to make on Tuesday banning camping along the creek. If I was just an innocent bystander, I don't think I would have ever known that. Wouldn't it be more beneficial to hold a sign saying, "where should I go?" or "if I can't camp, I will die." Anyways, that is beside the point. The point is that when I left the rally, I had a lot to think about.

While they may not be completely put together... Here they are.

I think that everyone thinks that they have the best solution. Some people say let 'em stay. Others say compassion is giving them a bed to sleep in and help getting on their feet. The funny thing is that both of these groups legitimately want to help. They want what is best for the homeless. I guess I just don't understand where screaming at one another helps.

I do believe in compassion. I've said before, and I'll say it again... Everyone deserves help when they need it. I do believe that we all have a right to enjoy public land, whether for camping or recreational use. I don't however, think that letting people live in their own filth, freeze on cold nights, and sleep along a creek for the rest of their lives is compassion. Sometime we need to use tough love. Sometimes tough love hurts. But tough love is not heartless or inhumane.

It isn't about who has the best idea, and shunning everyone else. It can't be. If it is, nothing will ever get solved. Didn't we learn in kindergarten that working together solves problems much faster. Aren't two heads better then one? I feel like our homeless advocates in Colorado Springs are their own little Washington. I don't know if it is partisan because they are all fighting for the same federal funding, or because of personal vendettas... But "helping the homeless" in this community has become a partisan issue.

I can't say leave 'em to die... Or let them pollute our water and scare the rest of the citizens. That is not fair. It is also not fair to accuse city council and the Colorado Springs Police Department of being completely heartless, cruel mongrels who want to brush their problems on to other communities. The group protesting today needed to get their facts straight... They needed to take an adult approach. They needed to bring their concerns to the people they involved and sit down and have a serious discussion. The first answer cannot always be protest. It cannot be anger. When we jump to anger and accusations people don't listen- they shut down. So no... It can not be that.

The first solution needs to be talking. It needs to be listening. It needs to be compromise. The city can compromise and treat the homeless with the dignity and kindness that every person deserves, but the homeless need to compromise too. They need to take the help offered to them. They need to cooperate. They need to make it clear that they are willing to better their lives, not just for themselves but for the good of the community as well. It needs to be compromise.

Listening breeds learning. It breeds understanding. In the end it breeds compromise. I don't see how we (we being church groups, peace organizers, homeless advocates, citizens, homeless people--- all of us!) can go wrong if we try a bit of that.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Fact of life: rejection stings.

Whether it is rejection from a crush or from an Ivy league law school, the pain is real. For the past month this news photographer has been floating on a cloud of acceptance. First it was NYU, then Loyola, DePaul, Colorado, Georgetown, and Northwestern. Today that balloon of elation was popped with one single page letter. It wasn’t that the letter was written well. In fact, I was extremely impressed by how elegantly they told me that I just wasn’t quite up to par. The message arrived on thick card stock, an official seal stamped into the bottom of the page. For a second I almost felt like writing back, “it’s ok, I know your job is tough. Please don’t feel bad for rejecting me. I’m sure that the candidates that you will end up selecting for your entering class of 2010 are an extremely qualified group of individuals.”

Ok, it never went that far… but I did almost feel like I had to apologize for wasting their precious time. Then the sting hit. The freefall of negativity started engulfing my mind and all the positive self-esteem that I had built over the past month vanished. It was if I blinked, and when my eyes reopened the world was a completely different place. Where I once was so sure of myself, the path that I would take, the direction I was going, now I was completely lost.

I know what you are thinking. Yale is the number one school in the country. 3,300 applicants (out of 3,500) get rejected every year. I am not alone. I know all that, but still the rejection stings.

Now I want to call them, just to let them know that I didn’t really want to go there anyways and they are infact doing me a big favor. Who wants a Yale law degree these days anyway? But I know that is a lie. I did want to go there. Very much I wanted to go there. If nothing else, I just wanted to hold the acceptance in my hand and know that I had accomplished something that most people will never accomplish. I wanted to hold that packet of accepted student information and think to myself, “I did it! I got into the number one law school in the county!”

But today, holding my single page letter, I know that I need to let those dreams go. I know that while the sting of rejection is still new, it will quickly fade. I will go to a great law school, graduate in three years, and start a career that I was meant to pursue. I know that with the right attitude I will find the happiness I envisioned for myself (remember that dream of holding my acceptance packet) anywhere. I know that I’ve already proven my capabilities far beyond what I dreamed possible. At the beginning of this law school journey I only hoped for an acceptance from a top fifty school. Sitting on my desk is a pile of information about NYU, the 5th ranked school in the nation.

So while I am feeling the sting of rejection I am also committing to my sanity. I am committing to giving myself credit for all that I have accomplished (and all I have yet to accomplish). I am telling that gift of anger (or sadness, loneliness, depression- you pick) that is sitting outside my door to go away. It is not wanted here. I am looking out on this beautiful Colorado day, taking a deep breath of fresh air and whispering a slogan that we’ve heard so many times over the past year, “yes, I can!” (I know, I put a personal twist on it.)

Yes I can get into a great law school. Yes I can succeed once I’m at law school. Yes I will be a successful lawyer, a happy woman, and a loving person. Yes I am worth everything that I dream about. Yes I will grow from my setbacks. Yes I will emerge stronger, more confident, and more ready to face the challenges that lay ahead. Yes I can. Yes I will.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

In the hoopla of applying for law school, getting my butt to karate class, and not letting my life fall apart- this little blog has been forgotten lately. I've now officially made the tranisition to MMJ (if you've read my previous blogs you know that means Multi Media Journalist). If you haven't been following me, I'll save you the rant that everyone else has been subject to, and just let you know that it means "jack of all trades." Today however I've been given the privilege of working with an actual reporter, so I have a few minutes to write.

On this beautiful Sunday afternoon, stomach full of a glorious Subway sandwich, Jeannette and I head down to the creek to talk to a man "walking a mile in the shoes" of homeless people. Josh left his cushy Colorado Springs apartment to live in a tent just south of the Bijou street bridge. On a mission for God, his goal is to help the homeless people for the inside out. Instead of forcing them off the streets, he wants to get to know them, and use compassion to figure out the best option for each of them individually. Noble goal Joshua... but what about me?

Ok... no like that. What about my SAFETY? What about my ability to use the trail? Now, lets make one thing clear, I have compassion. Lots of it infact. I feel horrible that any person (addict of not) has to spend one freezing night in a tent along the creek. I don't even like camping in the summer, when it's nice out, and I have a bed to go home to the next day... so I feel their pain. But...

What about my safety? Walking along the side of the creek with my reporter, three young gentlemen, and of course the camera that is permanently attached to my hip... I am the one singled out for a thrashing. First I'm accousted by a screaming drunk (and his girlfriend) who kindly tell me not to put them on tv. Let me give you a little hint about how tv works...

If I'm following a gentleman walking down a path, and the lens is pointing toward him, chances are you aren't on tv. If you run toward the camera, as oppose to just stepping off to the side, I can't help the fact that you've just walked into my shot- and therefore are now on tv. If you would like me to stop shooting in your general direction, a simple polite request goes a long way.

That being said, I did put the camera down... not out of principle but sheer fear that the verbal accousting would turn into something physical and my nice new coat would be soiled. Plus the idea of getting shanked on this beautiful Sunday afternoon just didn't apply to me. Camera down (yes still rolling just in case) the scene continues to develop.

Drunk girlfriend manages to pull my lovely suitor back to the camps, but not before an aid worker (who was serving food along the water) comes to our party and kindly tells us to leave. Not in the mood to argue, I was grateful when my reporter stepped up to the plate to deal with this one.

"The camera is on the ground, and this is a public trail," she says.

"Yes, but they feel you are invading their privacy," is the rebuttal. "Frankly, I wouldn't like it if you came to my house and started shooting video."

Biting my tongue I keep my mouth shut. What I want to say is, "I have no probably coming to your neighborhood and shooting video. In fact. I do it all the time. It is my job. If you don't want to be seen (or captured on tape) you are more then welcome to go in your house. If they don't want to be on tape, they are more then welcome to sit in their tent. I have no intention of unzipping the flap and shooting through the opening."

But I dont. I keep my mouth shut. Eventually we start heading back to Josh's camp. A fair distance from my new friends tent I stop, set up my tripod, and commence doing my job... shooting video that is.

Almost immediately I hear a holler, luckily it is coming from across the water this time. "Hey you! You know you are being rude right now! You should probably ask people before you just start taking video of them! Oh, you are going to ignore me."

I look up, pretend like I don't hear anything, smile and start shooting again. Then the insults start flying. Here are just a few of them...

Apparently I embezzle money. I am rude. I am disrespectful. I need to sleep with one eye open- because he does have my drivers liscense and ID and will find me. He knows where I work and I sleep.

Sigh. Good thing it is such a pretty day. Five shots later I decide that the tirade is starting to ruin my good move and suggest we move on. Jeannette assures me that I'm a good person, so I promptly disregard all this mans claims. Still, it is hard for me to wrap my head around. I want to show compassion. I want to be respectful. At the same time, I want to use the trail. Everyone else can walk around wtih cameras... so what that mine is a bit bigger. If you want respect, then show me some respect.

I don't have a solution to the homeless problem... and I don't think I ever will. All I know is that today was gorgeous, homeless people don't like news cameras, and Josh has a lot of learning to do if he thinks that sleeping in a tent is going to magically solve all the city's homeless problems.

Here is the story that came of the day... not too shabby.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

DAY 29

Version 2.0
Apparently version 1.0 was a bit scathing. So, taking the advice of a friendly producer, I am toning this one down a bit.

Writing my diatribe the other day made me realize how much I've missed this little blog. As a result, part two is coming a little sooner then expected...

I think I left off contemplating my struggle to find balance between what I love to do, and what is expected of me. Before I elaborate, let me admit that I am a bit of a cop out. In a desperate attempt to find satisfying work that will actually support the lifestyle I want, I've taken the law school admissions test and plan to enroll in law school next fall. That leaves me with a little less then a year to smile and bear whatever working conditions that I am subjected to.

While I am excited about this new phase in my life, part of me is still mourning the loss of the vision that I had for myself when I left college. I truly saw this career taking me places. I saw myself as a seasoned veteran of the biz... Giving speeches to college classrooms about pursuing your dreams and working hard. I saw myself struggling at first, and then figuring it all out. Naively, I saw everything falling into place.

Reality is never as clear cut as our dreams, but sometimes it comes close. This is certainly true in my case. I love breaking news as much as I thought I would. I love pressure, deadlines, adrenaline, and yes, the satisfaction of a story well told. In those cases reality has actually far exceeded my dreams. I never dared to imagine that I would be standing face to face with a future president, but in reality it happened! I never envisioned the heat of flames shooting ten feet into the sky, but I've experienced that too. I've experienced so many exhilarating things, that it saddens me to call it quits.

But reality has also let me down. It has strung me along, built up excitement, and not delivered. It has given me managers more concerned about the bottom line then doing what is right and ethical. It has put me in compromising situations, that I refuse to fall in to again.

When our station first began transitioning to the platform of multi media journalists (MMJ's) I was the guinea pig. I was the first photographer to be given a story to write. I was the first photographer to voice a package. While I looked forward to producing more NAT packages, I quickly realized the impossibility of what was expected of me. I took on new responsibilities with my whole heart, doing my best to succeed.

After a few weeks of MMJing I quickly realized that I was not only capable of doing the additional work I was asked to produce, but that I was also good at it. When this happened, I approached my manager asking to be compensated for the additional work. I didn't need a lot. I just wanted to be paid fairly. I knew that I would never been given what I was really worth, but somehow that didnt matter. I was ok as long as it was made clear that the extra work was appreciated and would be compensated accordingly. During our meeting it was made perfectly clear that extra compenstation was not in the picture. It was also blatently obvious that I didnt have the option to remain a photographer.

Since then however I have been coming to work with a new outlook. It is called the silent rebellion outlook. Rather then attempting to find NAT pkg ideas everyday (which by the way is pretty much IMPOSSIBLE) I walk in the door and immediately ask who I will be working with. I make it clear that I expect to be given a reporter. When I'm told that I'm on my own, which I normally am, I voice my opposition to the idea. I am still handed things that are impossible to accomplish. I am still given duties that far exceed my job title, but now I make it clear that I don't think it is acceptable.

Don't get me wrong. When I am given a task (whether with a reporter, or alone) I still give 110 percent. Just because I am unhappy with the way that I am being treated, doesnt mean I dont take pride in my work. I do. I still want to improve as much as possible before I leave. I still want my story to be the one that people talk about at the end of the day. Regardless of how I feel about our news organization as a whole, I want my piece to be the best that it can be. No, it isn't my work ethic that has changed, it is my attitude.

I've adopted an indifference toward my superiors. I'll do what they ask because I have to, because at the end of the day they are still signing my meager pay check. I won't do it with a smile however. I wont do it with a skip in my step. My capabilities far exceed the respect they show me. When I go above and beyond, I will do it for myself (for my own pride) and not because I want recognition. I've come to expect that my work go unnoticed.

Yes, I am frustrated. I am angry. I wish that they would acknowledge my worth. But I also know that I can not change them. The only thing that I can change is myself. So I have taken responsibility for my own happiness, and I am moving on. I will ultimately know that I have done far more with my life then I could have ever done if I had quietly accepted their version of my worth. And that in itself will make me happy.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

DAY 28

First of all, let me apologize for the brief hiatus. I've been concentrating on law school applications and publishing my "station mandated" blog (which is definitely not as interesting as this masterpiece!). Needless to say, I haven't had much time to write. Don't worry my friends, I am back... and back with a vengeance!! So here goes nothing...

If I could offer one word of advice to aspiring journalists who are contemplating embarking on a career in television news, it would be this: don't do it! Now don't get me wrong, these last few years have been full of awesome adrenaline pumping situations, and once in a lifetime opportunities. There have been days where I seriously couldn't imagine doing anything else with my life. I love shooting video, meeting new people, and knowing what is going on in the community. My passion is visual storytelling. I can't explain how excited I get at the prospect of a really powerful, colorful, news event. I know, I know... I sound like a total dork right now, but it's true. I still get butterflies in my stomach when I walk out of the newsroom on my way to a potentially great NAT package. The natural high of endless opportunity waiting for me at an event is like no other... Especially knowing that I am in total control of the end product.

Similarly, I still get excited when I turn on the tv and see my work broadcasting to the world. Granted, as a news photographer, nobody knows that it is something I've produced. But I know. I know the painstaking attention that I gave to every single edit. I know the time and effort that went into the final product. And although I may not ever get viewer credit for what I've accomplished, I know that because of my work our viewers are able to experience at least a hint of what it was really like to be at the scene.

Having said that, I'm starting to think that it is time for me to hang my hat on the news business. It is a sad day when this corrupt industry could take such a passion, such a calling, and squeeze the life out of it. Although I haven't given up all hope yet, I'm starting to think that is the direction this particular dream of mine is going.

So now the question is why? Why would I ever give up something that has brought me so much joy and excitement over the last few years of my life? Well, let me tell you.

I did not get into this business to get rich. I knew as a photographer I would never be famous. I certainly didn't expect bankers hours and holiday's off. No, I got into this business because I have a passion for storytelling, and an addiction to knowledge. I did however hope that by the age of 25 I would be able to afford a small one bedroom apartment, gas for my car, food on the table, and some extra money for beer. Of course a limited shopping budget would be appreciated.

I knew that the work wouldn't always be easy. When I first embarked on this journey into television news, I knew that I would have to prove myself to my colleagues, and earn what little pay I received. I was willing to go the extra mile... Learn the Satellite truck... Write stories for the newscast... Even report if necessary. I was willing to do what it took to make a few extra pennies, so at the end of the day I could live comfortably in my miniature apartment.

To be honest, I still am willing to put in 110 percent. When you love what you do, giving 110% isn't difficult. It is almost natural. But I won't do it for free. Only a fool works himself into the ground and has nothing to take away from it at night. Only a fool agrees to long hours, uncertain work conditions, and ever changing expectations without demanding something in return.

The news business is changing. Since I first crossed the threshold into the "professional" realm, I've known that little fact. I considered myself lucky that I was capable of adapting to the changing times. I knew that my youth would eventually work in my favor. What I didn't know was that part of that change included expecting people to accomplish tasks that they've never been trained for, and refusing to pay them for the work they actually do.

As our station joins the ranks of news organizations nationwide who are adopting a news platform based on "multi media journalists," I personally have become a victim of "the changing times." MMJ's are essentially one person crews. They shoot video, write stories, voice packages, update the web, and somehow in the course of the day manage to sneak in a blog post and a few twitter updates. Let me make myself clear, I have no problem with a platform based on the work of MMJ's. I think they provide a level of efficiency otherwise absent from newsroom.

My problem is that people who were not hired as MMJ's, or paid the going rate for MMJ's are expected to do the work of MMJ's (and smile while doing it!). As you may have already guessed, I am one of those people. I am struggling to find the balance between what I love to do, and what I am expected to produce. But that is a completely different story, that I look forward to telling in future posts.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

DAY 27

Sometimes my job is less about the stories I tell and more about taking pretty pictures. Luckily for me, it is easy to take pretty nature pictures in Colorado in the fall. A bit hungover from my post LSAT celebrations last night, I wasn't exactly thrilled when I was told this morning that my task for the day included driving around the mountains looking for changing leaves.

To be honest, the drive was miserable. I was tired. My head hurt. I needed (and I mean NEEDED) water... course I had neglected to bring any. The drastic climb in altitude didn't help things either.
I did a loop from Woodland Park through Cripple Creek, Victor and back down to the Springs. While the drive may have been miserable, I did see some pretty amazing sites. Unlike a midwest fall, autumn in the mountains is a majestic gold. The Aspens glow in the sunlight creating an image meant for fairytales.

Now that I'm back on solid ground, I can appreciate the true beauty of the day. These are just a few of the images I captured. I hope you enjoy them!