Monthly Archives: August 2013

Find out who you are, and do it on purpose. – someone, I forget who

Has it really been two weeks since I last blogged? Wow… that was the day after my internship at Patch abruptly ended a week early. I was sad, of course, but in many ways, the extra week has been a blessing. I had time to write on my own work, do some more planning on my senior project (which is still very much in planning stages…), practice cello, and hang out with my friends. So I guess I don’t have a whole lot to blog about. But I will anyway. Here’s what I’ve been up to:

– having coffee with Kendall, the local editor of the Mercer Island Patch. He kept me informed about what’s going on with the company, plus we had great discussions about reporting on the Island.

– having coffee/lunch/dinner with several other friends from home, a great chance to just talk about life.

– going to Wild Waves and a Switchfoot concert there to celebrate my friend Kaleb’s birthday

– having an informational interview with a woman who works for the same company as my mom in corporate communications. She wanted to be a journalist when she was younger but is equally happy in corp. comms. I certainly haven’t ruled out this career choice.

– played a small cello house concert at my home. It was a small affair; three friends from high school came, plus my former cello teacher and my aunt, uncle, cousin, her boyfriend, and my grandma. I played as well as I could and feel well-prepared for orchestra auditions because doing this motivated me to practice. Cello also became a haven for me to forget about all of the junk that was going on at work. That will probably be true for the rest of my life.

– packing and keeping in touch with my roommate and friends who are living across the hall (whom I will see tomorrow!)

– flying out to Minneapolis-St. Paul for 3 days. We had some great times there, including going to a Twins game (they’re not very good…), walking along the Mississippi River, going to the MN State Fair (where they eat everything on a stick), visiting my parents’ old friends Doug and Betty who are always a hoot, and stopping in Northfield to visit my friend Ngaire from LSM, who goes to St. Olaf College.

Now I’m in Rochester, MN, which is approximately halfway between Minneapolis and Decorah, IA. We’ll leave before 8 a.m. tomorrow morning to get there by 9, get my room keys and move into College Apartments. My roommate, Laura, will be there about that time as well. I think it shouldn’t be too difficult, as I’ll bring in stuff gradually from storage instead of all at once. And it won’t be so hot either, knock on wood. The heat was a bit of a shock when we arrived but has diminished since then. It could be worse. I’m just trying to readjust to the Midwest again.

The good news is that I’m not stressed about school, or anything right now. I have faith that I can accomplish everything I’ve set forth for myself, because it’s all things I want to do. It’s weird – last year I signed up for a lot of things that I was also very excited to do, yet I got way more stressed/emotional. Of course, there are other factors which contributed to that which no longer exist, but I won’t go into that. This summer helped me a great deal with figuring out myself and where I best fit career-wise, which I think I lost sight of during junior year. With the way senior year is set up, that will not happen. I’m going to have fun and be productive, hopefully at the same time. (Famous last words? We’ll see!)

Go Norse!

Brita

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The End… and the beginning.

It’s over.

As in, my internship with Patch. Not the world. But my little world will never be the same. 

I don’t know what to do with myself now. I don’t have to check my email first thing every morning for urgent news breaks. I don’t have to turn my phone on for a call with my boss at 8:30. I don’t have to drive an hour to go interview someone and sit at Forza in University Place to hash out all of the information.

And I’m going to miss this stuff like heck.

It just felt right, you know? Even when it was tough, I never felt like I was doing the wrong job. It’s something I can stick with for the rest of my life, which was an experience I hadn’t had yet. And thank God I did, with one year left of school to sort it out for good. I was an intern, so I wasn’t expected to be perfect. But I was expected to listen, learn, and grow. That definitely happened. And I made friends and connections in communities I had no familiarity with before. I got off the Island.

My co-workers and I are a network of resources for one another. Now that we’ve heard the news that Patch is leaving Washington state, this is going to be crucial. Several of them have been laid off already, and others will be done on Oct. 15. This is happening around the country, and I fear that we have suffered the worst of it. I don’t know if the sites are just going to go black in October – they are still there now. It’s just so disappointing to develop such a connection with a group of people, but then you can’t come back to them in the way you wanted to. I was planning to return in December and guest edit so others could take vacation time. Now all I can do is talk to them. If I’m lucky, I’ll work alongside them again in a new way someday. It compels me to return to Seattle after graduation in May. They were so supportive of me, the intern, wanting me to keep up and learn what it’s like to be a real journalist, out there in the field, making contacts, and telling stories.

I remember at the beginning of July, I had a minor slip-up with a story, posting it on the site when it wasn’t ready to go. I felt terrible. I called Lauren for 15 minutes to talk about it and make sure we were on the same page – she made me feel so much better and that I was doing a good job. I never made this mistake again. The fact that she took the time to help me and say she was there for me if I was stuck was a huge boost, and I want to tell her how much I appreciated that. I will, soon. That’s just one example of the amazing support my co-workers provided me and the success of Patch’s team mentality. If we can create that everywhere else we go, I’ll be optimistic.

I’m also thrilled with the people I got to meet through my stories. I met police officers, soldiers, Miss Washington candidates, baby seals, a NASCAR driver, teenage rock stars, you name it. Many of them are people I would hope to keep in touch with for years. They make me want to stay here and not go back to school. They are the community members, the ones who make our jobs worthwhile. Where would the news be if there was no one around to make the news?

But alas, I must return to Decorah, Iowa once again. I just had three girls from there stay at my house for a night, as they were out on a road trip. (I knew them from before, of course.) So that helped get me into school mode and keep my mind off the fact that I’ve been cut short of time on my work. We drove around Seattle, on Capitol Hill and Pike Place Market. I also took them past Microsoft and my old house in Redmond. It sounded to me like they had a nice time, which makes me glad, too. And I’m planning a low-key cello performance a week from tomorrow at my house, for a few family members and friends. I’ll have time to practice for it, most definitely, as well as for auditions. Then of course, I have to pack.

So really, it’s not the end, now that I know another great thing is beginning: senior year. I hope my weekly blogs have been informative and somewhat entertaining about what it’s like to be a journalist. I still believe it’s fun and completely worthwhile. So thank you, Patch, for all you brought me. And thank you to everyone who has supported it and me throughout these two and a half months.

Cheers,

Brita

P.S. This blog isn’t going away – I’ll use it to provide updates on my next big thing: my senior Shakespeare project!

Layoffs. Yuck. But a new passion too.

So… this coming week is make-it-or-break-it for Patch. If you haven’t seen it in the press already, we’ve got layoffs coming, as the AOL CEO wants to restructure things a bit with the goal of making it more profitable. He said he would keep the top 500 performing sites as they are, while the bottom 400 will either be cut or partnered with other local media. None of us have any idea what this means, really, so I’m not going to speculate. But we do know it will have deep impact on the job field, meaning many employees will be getting laid off. I truly hope none of my colleagues in the Greater Seattle Area Patches will. They all deserve to be here. But it’s not my decision.

We learned about these cuts on Wednesday from a call with the CEO. Tension set in pretty quickly – we didn’t know what was coming from one day to the next. We had to have a group call to make sure we were ready for a shutdown. This was on Thursday, after I’d been in Puyallup in the morning for a city council campaign thing (which was kinda boring, I hate to say it). Then I got stuck in traffic on SR 167, which didn’t help me feel any less stressed. My work was already piling up on me for that day, with two extensive police blotters to write and the looming uncertainty of my company’s fate. On the conference call, we were advised to back up all of our work, which I spent a great deal of time doing, and that’s probably a good thing anyway. It just sucked up time I probably should have been using to work on the stories. I stayed up until 1:45 a.m. getting everything done, which certainly didn’t benefit the quality of it, along with the fact that I couldn’t stop thinking about what was coming. Was I about to lose the chance for my ideal career? Being shut down wouldn’t hurt me too much now, but Patch has been such a perfect choice for this summer. I can imagine working with a group like this for a long time. And I’ve had a blast with the people on my team. They are supportive, engaging, funny, charismatic, everything you could want out of a group of journalists. So I don’t want to lose this window of opportunity.

While Patch is heading in a bit of a different direction right now, we have to keep focusing on our work. Truly, that’s what keeps us going. When I let it get to me, my work suffered. But when I dove into it, as I did with the video story I did on Friday in Gig Harbor, not only was it better, but I was happy. I am doing what I love here at Patch. We can still do what we love, in this time of uncertainty. And hopefully those who can’t be with us anymore can still use the same skills in new opportunities. I think we will start finding out more tomorrow (Monday) about the strategies for re-structuring. All I know is that I’m going out on Tuesday in Seattle with the Patch gang so we can de-stress a little. And of course, back to work.

This weekend I’ve had some time off. It’s nice, but I must admit that I’m bored. It’s quite sad, when I’m not getting 498579 emails an hour (exaggeration) I don’t know what to do with myself. I always feel like I should be out doing something. I just have a hard time unplugging. Sundays are typically slow news days, and today especially I found myself sitting there, thinking, “OMG, something happen!” I played cello in church in the morning and went to the farmers market, worked out at the gym, read a book on Queen Elizabeth II, wrote on my fiction project, and ate salad. But I’m itching to get back out into the field again. Case in point: the other night I was awoken by thunder (a rare Seattle occurrence), and immediately I thought, “OMG! I have to post about this on Patch!” I turned my phone on and scoured it for news. I was barely awake, and that was what I did. I may have a problem…

Speaking of the field… another thing this summer has taught me is that military life is super interesting. Random interjection, I know, but visiting JBLM three times now is really an eye-opener. I’m always excited to get back there, even though entering the base terrifies me a little every time… But it’s always worth it. I wish I could just spend hours with the soldiers and listen to their stories, and maybe even make a difference for those of them who are struggling. Long story short, I would love for my career to be one that includes work with the military. Considering that JBLM is one of the largest bases in the U.S., moving back here would make sense if I want to do that. It’s the calling I never knew I had. If Brent ever moved on, for any reason… I will totally take over the Lakewood-JBLM Patch site. I think it’s deeper than just meeting a lot of attractive men (although, that is a perk). It’s something I find myself drawn to now, in all kinds of ways. So I will continue to pursue this.

What else did I do this week? I did my first restaurant review, at The Forum in Puyallup, I did National Night Out for University Place and Puyallup (intense night. I was running around so much), I met warriors transitioning out of the Army working at Habitat for Humanity, I had a minor panic attack at Tulio’s at my parents’ anniversary dinner (so much food!), and I finally cleaned up my room a little bit. I don’t know what this week will hold… I pray for the very best, as always, but keep the worst in my mind.

To quote a fairly well-known Seattle artist: make the money, don’t let the money make you.

Cheers,

Brita

What Up, Pierce County?

I’ve posted my last “Today in Enumclaw” story as the temporary Local Editor of that site. Which means I can go back and work in Pierce County! WOO! (Well, I didn’t completely abandon PC this week. But I missed it a lot.) Being an LE meant spending three days in Enumclaw, a city I’d never been to before this summer, drinking coffee and iced tea in Mountain Aire Mercantile, getting yelled at by a cop just for taking a picture (although I’ll give him that the truck that crashed into the electrical pole would probably have killed me if I touched it), feeling awesome for posting a breaking news alert, spinning out content as fast as I could, procrastinating and staying up late just like in college (and getting up early), and analyzing the business landscape of the city. It also meant dealing with pinning stories on the site… not fun at all.

My favorite story was about a blueberry farm a ways outside of town. A couple started the farm a few years ago and has just opened it for picking. I made a video and wrote a story along with it. Dave let me try some of the blueberries – they were so good and fresh! Hopefully the birds don’t get to all of them – his wife, Sue, had to drive around the fields in a golf cart to scare them away. But I don’t blame them for wanting to eat the berries. It was a lovely morning visiting the farm.

I’ve also had to do a couple pieces on Enumclaw’s economic development. The city recently drafted a plan to help boost the local economy, which has suffered in recent years, and I wrote some “talker” pieces to get citizens to generate ideas about what to do. One woman, who used to own a local business on the main street, said that people are just opening the same kinds of shops over and over, so not everyone can find what they need in Enumclaw. I just hope that the comments people have given us on the site will be directed towards city management so they can consider it equally as I can. I have no clue what the answer is, anyway.

Lastly, on Thursday I stayed late to cover a meeting about this new non-profit for reducing bottled water use. I learned some shocking statistics about what the plastic used for the bottles does to the health of both people and animals. Did you know that it contains antimony and bromine? Uh, yuck! I think I’ll use my own water bottles from now on… But the upside of that experience was meeting two very active Patch users. Being an LE means connecting with your communities and knowing the people on some level, and that’s just what I did. I’ve made a bond with Enumclaw, and unfortunately I can’t stick to it as strongly as I did this week. Unless I come back someday to run the site for good… but let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.

Besides working my tail off, since a week ago when I last blogged I went to Belfair twice to visit my aunt, uncle, cousin, and friends. It’s beautiful out there – their property is right on the Hood Canal and it’s easy to go swimming and catch crabs and oysters. They don’t actually live there but they spend time up there every year. My family and I have gone with them several times. This time it was just me, for those two days a week apart from each other. My cousin Laurel is 2.5 years older than me and we talk about just about everything, so it’s always great to catch up with her. Plus her boyfriend, Colin, was there too, and he’s going to Honduras for six months in September. He’s a friend of mine as well, and I was glad to catch him one last time. I don’t know when I’ll be back to Belfair next… hopefully next summer. And I had coffee with an old high school friend today. We joked around about the MIHS newspaper and all the fun times we had.

Well, I’ve got a book to finish and probably another crazy week ahead of Pierce County madness. I also have to order my textbooks at some point… which I don’t want to do. I want to delay school as long as possible. (I also want to stay 21 forever. I hate time. MAKE IT STOP!) But I need to get back to Decorah at some point, too. 

Cheers,

Brita