Cosmetology Requirements for African-style Hair Braiders

Tameka Stigers and Joba Niang are suing Missouri over a law that calls for African-style hair braiders to obtain a license under cosmetology requirements. The case appeared in the U.S. 8th Circuit Court Wednesday morning for an oral argument. Read the story here.

I learned a lot through this story. For one, I reported across fault lines, which is something I had as a personal goal this semester. I went to braiding salons and contacted those involved in the case.

While attempting to get sources for this story, there was a lack of participation on the sourcing side due to scheduling. The story needed to be turned around today, but the stylists were busy with clients.

One braiding service was out of her home. When I pulled up to the house, there was not any cars or indication that anyone was home. I called Katherine to ask if I should ring the door bell or call the line for the salon. She told me to go up to the door and if no one answers, to leave a note with my number on the door. So, I did as instructed. I rang the door bell, but no one answered. I wait a couple of minutes and decided to leave my number. I also attempted to call the salon line, but it was no longer working. I did not hear back from this possible source.

I then went to a salon off Providence. When I arrived, there were two stylists, but both informed me that the owner of the salon would be best to talk to. I waited for about 10 minutes for the owner to arrive. When she did, she informed me she was already late for a client but would call me when she gets a free moment. I began explaining the court case to the owner to start a conversation. Luckily, the client in the chair waiting for the owner was also a stylist/salon owner. She had some things to say that I was able to quote her on. I did not hear back from the owner.

I worked with Myles Poydras on this story, and he reached out to another braider that was able to meet. We also called those involved in the case – the two plaintiffs and their attorney. We were able to quote one of the plaintiffs and get background information from the attorney.

I learned that patience is key to developing a worthy story. I did intense research to make sure I knew everything about this case since it started all the way back in 2014 – accuracy is key. When reaching out to sources, their time is just as valuable as mine. Coordinating with what is reasonable within a day is hard. For busy stylists, a couple minutes could mean eating lunch. I understand why some sources did not return my calls. I was happy with the sources we were able to talk to. Practice patience. Research yields to informed reporting.

I am really interested in this case and plan to follow it as it moves with the court of appeals.

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When Study Meets Practice

In addition to my magazine writing major, I want to get a minor in women and gender studies. For this, I am taking a class right now about domestic violence. For a journalist, when covering sensitive topics like this, it is imperative to know your research. In my opinion, specializing in how to communicate with victims of domestic violence is crucial in the newsroom and outside the newsroom. It will not only allow the victim to open up but also feel more comfortable and trusting in the journalist.

A small incident happened today that put my studies into practice. I have got to say that I freaked out because I did not plan to handle a situation so immediately – especially with only the little practice I had.

A phone call came to the Missourian in which a woman was seeking help. She saw a post on Facebook from the Missourian, from 2016, about resources for homelessness called “Missouri Pay It Forward.” Upon seeing the post, she called the Missourian because she was a victim of domestic abuse and needed to leave her abuser.

Immediately in my head I was like, “Okay, okay, okay. Stay calm. What can I do? What CAN I do?” But when it came out loud it sounded like, “TYLER!”

Okay, so I may have felt helpless and ill-informed on the article she was talking about. I asked Tyler to help me. We found the article, and he talked to the woman about contacting her with information on who can help her.

Yeah, so it may not have been the type of practice I am studying for, but I learned how I need to remain calm in all situations. For example, if this was a breaking story on someone who, hopefully never happens, died in a burning building, and I had to go to the scene with the body, I would need to stay calm. Get the information. Report the facts. Inform the public.

I learned a little about myself today. I am still a novice journalist who has never been put in real life dangerous or serious situations. Next time I will remain calm, listen to the person and do the best of my ability as a journalist.

Interesting that journalism is able to inform the public of options even if it was from years ago. It’s kind of like journalism is the unsung hero – especially with all this fake news nonsense.

Working with Sources’ Schedules

This week has been a rollercoaster with getting interviews. At the beginning of the week, a coworker and I reached out to two sources for one of the stories we are working on. I also reached out to another source for a different story. By mid-week, we heard back from the sources. Great! We couldn’t wait to get the story started and talk to the sources.

Well, the day comes when we are to interview the sources, and we get THAT email. “Something came up. Can we reschedule the interview?” Okay. No big deal! We will always work with our sources’ schedules. It is only one of our sources. We can start with one and add information from the next when we meet with him/her.

We reschedule the source for an interview next week. Now we are preparing for our other source’s interview only 30 minutes away from our meeting time. We have our plan of action and general guideline questions ready. *Bing.* It was our email. “Something came up. Can we reschedule?” No. Our other source also had to reschedule on the same day that our first source rescheduled. Okay. No big deal. We will reschedule for next week as soon as possible.

My coworker and I looked at each other and laugh, and we go our merry ways. As I am walking back to my car. *Bing.* “Please, no,” I thought.

“Something came up. Can we reschedule?” I received from my source for my other story. Three reschedules in one day. That is a record!

There is nothing we can do in this situation other than work with the sources for their availability. Their time and voice is important to us and imperative to the story. What I learned was that, while I didn’t get to publish a story this week, I learned how crazy people’s schedules are and to be prepared for change. I need to be adaptive and patient until the source is available.

PIO. Why didn’t I know?

This may seem like a silly and quite short post, but clearly I am oblivious to the common journalism world. When I reached out to institutions, I would usually call the mainline, like the front desk. Calls were usually never returned, and I would feel like I was at a dead end. Little did I know there is an amazing position in most institutions called a PIO. A PIO? What is that? A public information officer.

Yeah, yeah. That is a pretty common knowledge thing, but not for me!

For example, I would continuously call the mainline for the police station and fail to get a  returned call. I was really confused. I would leave multiple messages, but nothing. Clearly they were just doing their job because the PIO handles all the information!

So, short but sweet post. I now am a big girl who knows what a PIO is and how helpful they can be. I reached out to a hospital PIO about a story I barely had information on. I had one lead, and by the end of the conversation, he set up three interviews for me with the important people.

So the conclusion of this lesson? PIOs are cool, and they help clueless journalists find the information they need to carry out a story.

My First Article

Big day for me Wednesday! I was given my first GA assignment, that didn’t fall through, and it made it on the front page of the Missourian! It was about Missouri Task Force One returning home from Texas after spending 13 days there to assist with hurricane relief. Read the story here.

Let me begin by saying I learned A LOT just from going on my first GA assignment. The time of arrival for the task force was constantly changing, so as I was doing research on them, I needed to refresh Facebook every once in a while to make sure I wouldn’t miss them. Soon enough, it is around 10:50 a.m., and I refreshed the page. “Missouri Task Force One will be arriving at 11:30 a.m.” NOTE: The original time was 12:30 p.m. So, here I was struggling to write down all the facts and questions I wanted answered and running out the door.

I texted my photographer that they are arriving early, she informed me that she wouldn’t be able to make it and that I needed to not only take pictures but also conduct the interviews. “GREAT!” I thought. First GA assignment and thrown right in there.

When I arrive, my heart was racing a little. I wasn’t sure where to go because I was the first news reporter to arrive. Thankfully, the chief was there to show media where to go and when.

The families of the task force began to arrive and suddenly it is like a race of the journalists to see who can get to the families first. I kind of stayed back to allow the families to not be overwhelmed. I knew I would get my chance. As I watched the limited number of families get photographed and talked to by reporters, I observed what they did. I was really nervous about messing up my first assignment, which don’t worry, I still did.

Finally, the task force arrived, and the press waited for members to come out and talk. In the mean time, I am took notes of all details I observed for possible background or details for the story. I noticed a trail effect happening. I walked over to the task force trailers to note the number of deployments, another reporter walked over after I walked away to see what I was doing. Then, he did the same thing. Real original.

Anyways, once the task force came out to be interviewed, I talked with each one. The interviews were great and recorded for accuracy, but I messed up the most important part: get everyone’s contact information. I got half of the contacts I needed because I had a huge brain fart. Once I got back to the Missourian, I literally sat there and jumped thinking, “Crap! I forgot to get contact information.” Luckily, the ones I had helped with the accuracy of my story.

Best part of the experience? Watching a homecoming for hard workers and having the privilege to report on it.

What did I learn? Don’t forget to get everyone’s contact information! Just a rookie mistake, but is it okay since I’m a rookie? No. Won’t happen again.

Declaration of Religion – Ethical Move?

Lecture on Tuesday, Sept. 5 brought multiple questions up for discussion. One that seemed to have stumped students was, “Should a journalist declare their religion on social media?” Declaration can be in a bio, likes, retweets, shares, photos, etc. The ethics behind this question is calling on my Christian side and journalist side.

While declaring a political party can be a problem for a journalist, is religion also a problem? When a source/friends/reader/anyone looks at your social media, there is already a present bias on if they believe they would like you and/or get along with you. If a journalist puts that he/she is a Republican, there is judgement coming from all sides. Someone who is a Democrat could be a potential source or reader that may avoid your work and/or publication because there isn’t a common interest. The potential source or reader may believe your stories have bias, so it is clear to see why politics are a problem. But religion? Do the same implications apply to religion as politics?

To answer this question, we need to ask the same questions we do with politics. Will a source/friend/reader see your religion and believe there is a bias? Well, yes. It is known that religious people tend to lean more conservative, so there may be an implication that the journalist is a conservative, even if they’re not. In addition, if someone is a religions journalist, declaring a religion can question the neutrality of coverage.

While assuming politics and religion are exclusively related is not always a guarantee, sources/readers can infer whatever they want, and they will. In my opinion, if you want to keep as much credibility and neutrality in reporting, avoid declaring a religion publicly. That isn’t to say a journalist cannot retweet/share/like religious-related content – because it is likely to be unbiased if from a credible news source.

Now on a personal level, I have strong Christian values and having a Bible quote or sharing Christian content is part of my identity. Do I personally think it will affect my credibility as a journalist? Considering I do not report on religion and politics, I do not find a exponential problem with what I do. Ethically and morally, I do not feel right taking away such a huge identity in my life despite the oppression that can come with my declaration; however, no matter what we say or do in life, there is always an oppression. Journalists are humans too.

Gaps, Optimism and Persistence

While writing a story, I want to make sure I hit every question a reader will ask. This is especially important in journalism. If a reader is reading a story, but still has questions to ask after reading, did a journalist do their job? In my opinion, there are two ways to go about this situation. One, if there is not an answer to a question yet, state that in the story. Updates are important! Two, when editing your work, pretend you have no idea what is going on in the story. Be as unbiased and “uninformed” as possible, and ask those questions a reader would ask.

As I was writing my story this week, I went back through my piece and asked every question a possible reader would ask. What I learned was that my story had gaps. There were parts within my story that had a source’s quote on statistics. While this is helpful, the reader would ask, “How does he/she know this?” That is where the gap is and where I need to fill it.

To fill this gap, I need to talk to the police department. One problem, it is not always the easiest getting ahold of police. So, I called the police department and immediately received a voicemail that informed me the PR woman is not in the office, and she will not be back until Tuesday, which is in a couple days. The story is not urgent, so I say, “Okay I will leave a voicemail and call back Tuesday.” A theme I believe will be brought up in my next blog is optimism and persistence. The statistics I need from the police may not be easy to get, but I will need to stay optimistic when talking to the police and persistent.

The Perfect Source

Today I had my first interview for my first Missourian story. While I have interviewed people in the past, this interview felt especially real and terrifying, in a sense. Since it is my first story, I want to have the perfect interview with the perfect person so I can have the perfect story. Did that happen? Well, actually, maybe.

My source was extremely nice AND had documents, history and news to share with me. Not only was I prepared, but he was prepared as well. While I was freaking out on the inside, my source’s composure and professionalism relaxed me. I hadn’t experienced someone who was professional like my source was. All my past sources have always gotten the job done, but today, I learned what equality looks like in the interviewing process. I was bringing my knowledge and expertise as a journalist to the table while my source was bringing his knowledge and expertise as a pharmacist to the table.

Having a source that is more than willing to talk to you, give you information with hard documents as examples as well as providing more knowledge than I expected is rare – well, for me so far in my career. As a student especially, my source did not let that restrain him from providing insightful information and experience.

As a student journalist set off on her first interview for a reputable news company, I was terrified. I learned that going into an interview, you never know what is going to happen. While sometimes the interview can lead you to a dead end, I experienced an open door.

Hurricane Harvey

As I pulled up the Missourian to read for the day, two articles caught my eye: “Missouri Task Force One deploys for Texas to lend emergency support” and “With time running out, thousands flee Hurricane Harvey.” The hurricane is set to hit Texas late Friday or early Saturday, and since my family lives in Texas, I wanted to know what was going on.

After reading the two articles, I asked myself a couple of questions. How is a hurricane that is expected to be a category 2 hurricane going to do as much damage as Hurricane Katrina? In the AP article, University of Miami senior hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy said that Hurricane Harvey is “on par” with Hurricane Katrina; however, The National Hurricane Center classified Hurricane Harvey as category 2. Hurricane Katrina was a category 5. Something between the research both parties did does not add up.

Secondly, why aren’t bordering states sending their task forces to Texas? In the feature,  the Boone County Fire Protection District accounted for Ohio, Utah, California, Tennessee, Nebraska, Indiana and Colorado as states sent to Texas. Where is Oklahoma, Arkansas and New Mexico? I would think the bordering states would do as much as they can to help, but maybe there is more information or efforts once the damage of the hurricane is done.

I am excited to see how the story unfolds. Will the hurricane be predicted correctly by The National Hurricane Center or McNoldy?

My First Day as a GA

The news room is something you think you know and understand because of the movies, but it is a little different than what you, or should I say I, thought. Here are some comprehensive lessons I’ve learned as my first day as a GA:

1 – Keep track of time.

When I first started the day, I was unsure what I was stepping into. I knew that a newsroom works at a fast pace, but I underestimated how fast time goes. When there are deadlines, research and interviewing to be done, that alone can take hours. When you get back to the newsroom, the deadline could be minutes away.

2 – Be ready to shift at any moment.

You may be working on a story that calls all your attention. You’re intently researching and calling numbers, trying to get anything and everything done. Suddenly, a breaking story comes through and there is a scheduling conflict. Well, that happened to me. I originally had a conference to report on, but then, breaking news called. I gave up my conference and fled to the breaking news scene.

3 – Don’t be afraid.

A new responsibility calls for new experiences and new relationships. Unsure of how to approach these situations can lead to extreme anxiety, well, for me; however, I found that eagerness can get keep you busy when jumping into a new situation like a news room. I was eager to start this new journey and get rolling. I was researching everything I could in search of that breaking story. I knew I was constantly asking questions, possibly annoying people, but I needed to do that in order to push myself out of my box.

Being a GA is pretty cool. I’ve learned so much in a little amount of time. This semester is going to give me exposure to an experience unlike any other, and I can’t wait.