On the Internet and in life, the importance of showing up

April 8, 2008 at 2:25 pm | Posted in law school, the media | 1 Comment
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Gretchen Rubin’s blog, The Happiness Project, is at times a bit too self-congratulatory for me (I’ll admit that this is just because I’m jealous), but being the sucker that I am for anything self-improvement related, I like her general premise. One of her “happiness resolutions” (or whatever she calls them) is to “show up.” I know this is an area in which I could make some major improvements, starting perhaps with not over committing myself in the first place. Drinks with the girls, a board meeting, a lecture:  I put them in my calendar with genuine eagerness, but the realities of work, school, and Little Bug often lead me to either cancel or attend begrudgingly. However, in the end, I’m often glad I did go to whatever it was I was dreading. (The lesson is, again, to schedule with restraint so that both the anticipation and the after-effects are pleasant…)

 

As a direct result of my own vow to keep commitments, then, yesterday I embarked on a long-planned visit with my journalism school classmate, Mike Scully (no, not the Summit Mike Scully—a mistake my sister made when she quickly friended j-school Mike Scully on Facebook only to find his profile to be vastly different from her expectations) in Bristol, RI, where he is a journalism professor at Roger Williams University. I toured the ocean-front campus (which is home to the only law school in RI, and where Justice Scalia happened to be speaking yesterday), we had lunch in the cute, historic town center, and I sat in on his media law and ethics class, during which Mike deftly discussed pornography and the First Amendment in a way that elicited almost no adolescent snickering. Mike was the president of our j-school class (or something akin to it) and went on to a series of big-time journalism positions, but told me that he spent the first part of his career feeling like he was butting heads with the newsroom hierarchy. He’s certainly found his stride in teaching, and he’s very good at it.

 

Why I’m glad I drove down to Bristol:  a whole hour each way—by myself­—in a car with top 40 radio, coffee, and my thoughts; being near the ocean; and reconnecting with my love of the news, writing, and journalism. There’s something fun about talking shop journalism-style (no discussion of legal precedent! Or studying for the bar! Or associate pay advances!), especially as the journalism we studied at Columbia is all but defunct: beat reporting, newsrooms, and even what then counted as online journalism have morphed into something we couldn’t have foreseen, much less even imagined. Mike is rightly teaching the importance of mixed-media skills: reporting and writing, but also shooting digital video and creating stories for the Internet reader.  In lieu of textbooks for his Digital Journalism class, for example, are tiny $150 Canon digital video recorders with which his students shoot footage to embed into online stories. I’m going to mangle his lucid theory of Internet journalism, but basically he believes that we writers are like bees and the Internet is a beehive (ooph – forgive me Michael for slaughtering your analogy – feel free to comment and restate more eloquently!), and at this juncture, we’re all making it up together as we go along and every one of us million bees can have a comb. The most important thing for a writer, then, is to stake a foothold online. How to do this? Blogs, of course.  Blogs that incorporate not only text, but still and video images that bring multiple layers to a story. And then each story itself becomes the tradable unit of knowledge – replacing the greater structure of the newspaper. For example, the average citizen who blogs about the zoning decisions at a city council meeting provides a greater service than can the struggling small-market daily who can’t afford to send a reporter out to cover the same meeting.

 

Before I get too deep into the theories of internet journalism—which, after talking with Mike, I now even more fully embrace—I’ll circle back to my original point: reaching out, connecting, making the effort can yield important results. Mike urged me to incorporate more images into my blog (iPhone, here I come!), and to start thinking about, even if not on this particular blog, making myself an “expert” in an area that will draw readers (if indeed I still want to keep my finger in the journalism currents). More important, I was able to make a tangible connection to a potential future for my combined interests (and prior experience) in journalism, teaching, and the law.  And most important, I was reminded why my journalism school experience—both in terms of its professional breadth and its personal connections—is still so relevant.

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  1. I just read a few entries on the Happines Project. I like her suggestion of making one-sentence journal entries each night. I read a column by Carrie Fisher a few years ago in some magazine where she confessed to keeping a Polaroid Journal. Every night she would take a Polaroid of something – a thriving houseplant, her newly-painted toenails – to remind her of a highlight from the day. I kept that in the back of my mind, always planning to copycat the idea. Now Polaroids are extinct and I can’t find my old one. Carpe diem is the lesson here. Also: carpe camera.


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