Healthcare doesn’t care

This morning, I was going through some of the media organizations’ websites to look at the news. I, for some reason, felt very compelled to look up what is happening around me. I’m not sure if this is because I am back home and not around the Missourian to know what’s happening or if I’ve created a good habit. But I went to USA Today and saw an interesting headline:

Hidden camera shows how WWII veteran died after calling for help, gasping for air

That stuck out to me. Not only was the story already something people would want to see, but the verb “calling” and “grasping” really put an image in my head. I clicked on the link, and the article was supplemented with a video.

The piece was an investigative story that took quite a long time to actually retrieve the video they wanted. Andy Pierrotti’s story was published November 18, 2017, but the actual incident in which James Dempsey called out for help happened February 27, 2014. The reporter said the nursing home operators tried to go to the state’s highest court so they didn’t have to release the video. Clearly, the investigators on this story did not give up and finally retrieved the footage.

Some things that I like about this piece was that the story was set up very well. The journalist introduced the incident, showed the footage of Dempsey calling out and then showed the nurses laughing. This made it clear to the readers that this man is dying and the nurses are having fun rather than saving a life.

Another part of the story I enjoyed was when the Dempsey’s lawyer talked to one of the nurses and asked if they continuously tried to help Dempsey. The nurse said yes, but then the lawyer counters her by showing her the film of the nurse not helping. This was a subtle way to show the nurse he already knew the answer, but he wanted to see if she would confess that she didn’t help.

The lawyer continued by asking if the nurse would have written up the nurses in the video for what they did – if she wasn’t one of them. She said she would have. This allowed the reader to understand that the actions of the nurses were completely inappropriate.

Lastly, because I could go on about how much I enjoyed this story, Pierrotti talked to an experienced nurse. He showed her the footage of the nurses failing to help and said, “In 43 years of nursing, I have never seen such disregard for human life in a healthcare setting.”

That was such a powerful quote to get and one that sums up the whole story. It will be interesting to see the responses to this story.

Watch the story here.

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Powerful pictures

One of my favorite things to do at the end of the week is go to BuzzFeed’s website and look at their powerful pictures of the week post. This week, there are so many things that gutted me.

Click here to look at the whole list.

I will be pointing out two pictures: one happy, one sad.

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To begin, this photo was taken in Sydney, Australia after the decision to allow same-sex marriage. For me, I am always one to speak as an ally with the LGBTQ community. I am minoring in women and gender studies, and to me, this was a huge accomplishment for Australia.

When word came out about the majority vote in favor of same-sex marriage, I instantly went to Twitter to retweet the news. I wanted everyone to know the good news.

One thing that is still astounding to me is that it took until 2017 for Australia to accept same-sex marriage legally. For England and Wales, it became legal in 2013, and in Scotland, it became legal in 2014. For the U.S., same-sex marriage became legal in 2015. That puts Australia at a huge disadvantage.

Although there are so many countries that have yet to allow same-sex marriage, this one step can mean so much to millions of people living in Australia.

The second picture I wanted to get to is the shooting that happened in a Texas church.

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This is the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs. After the shooting, the church was painted white and there were 26 chairs with a red cross to honor the victims in the shooting.

The reason this stood out to me so much is that this is a church where people went every day or every Sunday. The white represents the innocence of the people who were murdered there. The red roses show the love to the victims regardless of who they are.

There is so much sadness that fills my heart when looking at this picture. As someone who has family in Texas, thinking that this could have happened to my own family is terrifying.

There were so many innocent lives taken that day from a selfish man. The victims had no idea what was going to happen when they went to pray and praise Jesus that day. That, I think, is what hurts me the most. That is supposed to be a sacred, safe place for everyone, but it is clear that churches are no longer considered a safe haven.

Pictures speak more than words ever could sometimes, and I think these pictures say enough.

Veteran’s Day special

I worked on a featured article about alternatives to veterans’ health for a couple of months. It started as a central focus on one program that had new coaches, but after realizing there is much more to this than originally thought, I had to go back multiple times talking to different people to understand the whole picture.

The story slowly transformed from a narrow program focus to a broader, larger reach of how this program and others help veterans. It took about five times or so of going back and forth with Katherine about what is missing, why it is hard to understand and what can be added to make sense to finally get the finished product.

At first, I interviewed people on the original idea of the Integrative Health and Wellness program. I talked to the program coordinator and two coaches. After meeting with them, I learned there was a lot that goes into this single program. It is more than just a program but a long-term lifestyle. Only writing about this program would not do the community justice on understanding the impact of this creative approach to veterans’ health.

When I went back to Katherine, I had to explain a lot of what was written. The piece seemed to be all over the place because of how much information was packed into this one program. We decided that this can’t be a piece just about this one program.

From there we brainstormed and found a focus – mindfulness. Was this what was being used in other programs at the VA hospital? Along with Katherine’s investigation, I began to interview a cardiologist who works on mediation for heart problems and a doctor who believes in similar therapy ideas like the Integrative Health and Wellness Program.

The final missing piece in this article was an authentic veteran voice. I reached out to all my sources about finding someone who would be willing to talk to me about their experiences, and soon enough, there was someone within a minute.

The alignment of how long it took to get all the information and interview everyone somehow perfectly lined up to where it would be ready for Veteran’s Day. I’m glad I was able to do some justice and bring attention to an idea that does not use medication to treat common veteran health problems.

Read my story here!

FINALLY *DUN DUN NUN*

Monday rolled around, and the front page of the Missourian was the HPV article I worked on with another reporter. I feel like I have been waiting for this day for so long.

It seemed that there was always something that needed to be fixed before it could be published, so the publication date kept getting pushed further and further back.

Once the article was posted, I immediately tweeted it out, tagged people, posted it on all my social media, just hoping for some interactions.

My editor notified me later that day that AP wants to pick up the story. I was overjoyed and thrilled. I did not realize that the AP even read the Missourian, but obviously, I was proven wrong.

I call the AP editor, and she tells me they will publish it the following day, Tuesday. Unfortunately, Tuesday comes around and there is nothing. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, nothing. I have been waiting all week to write this because I was hoping that it would get posted sometime this week, but it hasn’t.

While my 10 seconds of what I thought would be fame was brief, I am still extremely happy to even be recognized by AP. Knowing that I did a story where they felt it was worth the interest of one of the biggest and most credible news organizations is so satisfying to me as a writer.

AP is not the only contender who matters to me though. The community around me and their level of interest in a topic is what drives me. All the hard work that went into this piece wasn’t for nothing. There has been a lot of community engagement on Facebook with this article. Many people feel the vaccine is deathly to people and are sharing their sources in the comments.

Whether people’s minds changed after reading the article is almost out of my hands, I am still happy to know that people are passionate about topics and are reading the news. I think I sometimes forget how blessed I am to be at MU – the greatest journalism school in the nation.

HPV is a controversial topic because of political bias, but starting that community conversation is what’s important.

Read my article here!

Missourian reporting

While the semester is starting to get near closing time, the Missourian has not slowed down. I especially feel like I am not slowing down. I wanted to take time in this blog post to reflect on everything I have been through this semester.

To begin, I must say that I did not expect to like news reporting. I always saw myself as a magazine journalist, but the more time I spend in the news room and reporting on breaking news, the more I realize how much I love it. I am constantly spending all my time on reporting and neglecting my other classes. I know that is really bad. I just want to be put in the real world and give my life to reporting.

I’ve really found my love for journalism during this class. Going to journalism classes has been fun, but it is nothing compared to the real deal. Here is a small list of things I have learned this semester:

  1. How to report breaking news
  2. What questions to ask in breaking news
  3. How to find stories
  4. How to interact with the audience online
  5. How to better my writing as a journalist
  6. How to not waste time in the newsroom
  7. How to use outside sources for help in a story
  8. How to use other journalists for help in a story
  9. How to make a budget
  10. How to write briefs
  11. How to write in-depth reporting
  12. How to find records
  13. There are so many more… so to be continued

News reporting may make me change my major! I have enjoyed every moment. Every mistake I made has helped me become a better journalist, and trust me, I have made so many mistakes this semester. But, that’s what I needed to help me learn and move past this idea that I will always do everything perfectly.

I am thankful that I spend hours a day on reporting news because it will set me apart from other journalists when I try to find a job.

Breaking news – car accidents

Today, in the middle of budget, Marta, a photographer, ran into the room talking about a serious accident that happened on Interstate 70. What she heard on the scanner was that two people were ejected from a vehicle. From there, it was kind of a blur.

The conversation probably went something like, “Who wants the story?” Me hesitantly saying I’d go even though I’m scared of trauma; then Katherine telling me to hurry up and leave. Sounds about right.

Liz, another editor, helped me put on a reflective media vest and out we went.

On the car ride there my heart was racing, and my head was screaming:

“What do I ask the police? Or do I ask the ambulance people? Is the fire department there? Will I see the bodies? I don’t like blood. Please don’t let there be blood. Okay. I can do this. Don’t screw up!”

When we arrived on the scene, it is only us and ABC 17. “Awesome,” I think. “I get to have the first pick at who I want to talk to.”

Walking up to the scene initially, I did not know where to go. There were police cars everywhere and only one other reporter. I did not want to be in the way or go where I wasn’t suppose to. I probably asked Marta 100 questions.

After talking to the police and fire department, Marta and I raced to my car to warm up. Note: it was like 39 degrees outside, and your girl from Texas is not a fan.

Back in the newsroom, I quickly wrote up a story. When Tyler, the ACE on duty, asked me follow-up questions, I realized what other questions I could have asked.

“How many times did the car roll?”

“How old were the victims?”

What I learned from this experience is to not be afraid of breaking news stories that may involve trauma. Although they seem scary, they really aren’t. It’s fun to get out in the field to report and talk to people instead of sitting in a newsroom. It’s also a great time to challenge your interviewing skills on the spot.

Read my story here.

NOTE: It is still being updated with more information.

The importance of editing

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I recently came across this post on social media and it got me thinking: THANK GOD THE MISSOURIAN HAS MULTIPLE ROUNDS OF EDITING.

It was inevitable that I would get to posting about editing because it is the blood of a newspaper. While I am not equipped with how every newspaper handles editing, it is clear that this newspaper did not take the time to have other eyes look at the headline. Or, if others did look at the headline, they all felt it didn’t need a hyphen, which seems ridiculous from the outside looking in.

At the Missourian, it is great to know that not only the ACE or editor looks at the story, but it also has to go through ICE for posting. This way, the articles have multiple eyes looking at the story to catch any mistakes.

For small newspapers, I think that having minimal people and need for quick turnarounds lead to articles like this. The bad thing about this is that the credentials of the journalist and newspaper are lowered.

This is why there is a constant need for journalists to practice good self-editing skills as well as be knowledgable on grammar and AP style. Even if grammar wasn’t a strong suit in a journalist, AP stylebook clearly states that when there are two adjectives describing a noun, a hyphen is needed. Since “first” and “hand” are adjectives describing the noun “experience,” a hyphen would have saved them from cyber humiliation.

When a journalist is constantly looking at their article, I understand. It is hard to catch tiny errors, but an example like this proves the necessity of finding techniques for editing. Even if an editor can’t get around to look at an article, I feel it is the journalist’s responsibility to print out the article and mark it or read it out loud.

That is one thing that Katherine has taught me this year. It is important to read your article out loud. For me, I struggle with transitions. I often hop right to my thought without setting the reader up. If I read it out loud and act like a clueless reader, I can find my errors and correct them. This saves me embarrassment in the editing stage and the final stage.

So when I get to a job where there may not be enough eyes to look at my article before posting, I will use Katherine’s advice to save me from my article becoming a meme.

Turned Tables

Wednesday was an exciting day for me. I was asked to be interviewed by 93.9 The Eagle for the Wake Up Columbia show. Not only did I feel extremely honored to be recognized, but I was also humbled to know people really read my stories.

I know that sounds weird. Like, of course people are reading my articles. They are on the Missourian! But, honestly, I didn’t know how much of an impact I could make with writing.

Let’s back up. I received an email Monday at 2 a.m., radio hosts have strange sleeping schedules, asking if The Eagle could interview me about my prescription drug monitoring story. My angle on this story was how the PDMP has affected pharmacists. Well, The Eagle was really interested in this.

I was hesitant to do the interview because I was really nervous. What if I sound stupid? What if I mess up? What if I don’t know the answer to their question? It was going to be a live interview. One stupid comment and I could be the laughing stock of my family reunions – I may have gotten excited and told everyone to listen.

Like any good interviewee, I prepared myself. I carefully read over all the materials related to what I would be interviewed on, so if worse comes to worst, I will have notes readily available.

Wednesday came fast. It’s 7 a.m., and I am reading over the notes I had taken the night before. Next thing I know, it’s time for the interview. I take a deep breath and begin.

Listen to my interview here. My section begins at 3:15.

Things I Learned

  • Being interviewed is scary and weird. Sorry to all my sources if you felt the same
  • It really wasn’t that bad
  • It was fun to feel important and impactful
  • Always be prepared, and you will do your best
  • People think my name is funny because it sounds like Queen Elizabeth if read last to first name

Patience for the press

At the beginning of the semester, I proposed a story about an update on the prescription drug monitoring program. I wanted to get the perspective of the pharmacists since they deal with the opioid addicts face-to-face. They have had to deal with people lying to get prescriptions and out-of-towners trying to convince the pharmacists to fill a certain prescription. Now, with the drug monitoring program, pharmacists can search for any customer and see their history of prescriptions.

I talked to two pharmacists who had similar views on the program. They both felt that the program allowed them to become more aware of which patients actually needed the prescriptions and who was abusing the system.

Before, pharmacists would just communicate between each other if they felt there was an abuser going around to pharmacies, but now, they can simply look into the system to check.

While I was interviewing with Alex Smith, he made things very simple and easy to understand. He actually printed out what the program looks like online and showed me step-by-step how he uses it. This allowed me to clearly understand what pharmacists are able to do and look up.

The one difficulty with this story was waiting for the county to release data from the program on if it was successful. There were some claims that needed to be backed up with the program data. That alone took an additional almost two months to get. While the story was written in early September, the data didn’t become public until mid-October.

By the time I got around to editing what I had written in the past, I realized how my writing has already improved. Before it was lacking structure and giving information not necessary for the story.  That moved the focus all around. After, there was a clear point to the story.

I have learned through this that the story needs a focus and structure before writing. While I’m gathering information, I need to figure out the story and focus on that. Although there will always be information that is interesting, it may not be needed.

Read my story here!

Covering news with a present threat

Wednesday brought fears and uncertainty from students, parents and faculty as a suicidal woman with a handgun trespassed on the MU campus. As I was writing a CPD press release article about a shooting that happened Wednesday morning, an alert went off in the newsroom for a threat near campus. We moved to the basement as we awaited further information.

I knew I wanted to cover this story, so I was gathering information through the police scanner and students on campus. When we moved back upstairs to the newsroom, I talked with Katherine on writing up something on what’s happening and got the article. I quickly thought of a unique way to present the information other than the regular nut-graph style. I wanted to do a timeline that shows a step-by-step update.

Within about five to ten minutes, I wrote the article with information up until right before the all clear was given. Once we heard she was in custody, I wanted to know how police knew she was suicidal. Katherine wanted to know if she was a student. I reached out to MUPD but heard nothing. I then reached out to CPD’s PIOs through phone and email. I didn’t hear anything back from them until the press release on the incident was sent out. That was their plan, I assumed – hold off on telling the media anything until after the release.

By that time, my mind shifted to how students felt about the incident. I went to Twitter and found that people were not happy with how MU handled the situation. Many people found that the alert system lacked timely and specific information that could be helpful to students. There were also uncommon terms to students used like White Campus. Students did not know what White Campus was, so they did not know if they were safe. Students also said MU failed to take the situation seriously because teachers still held class.

Here is my story coverage on Wednesday’s incident.