Party Like A Journalist

There’s a twitter account I ADORE right now: @JournalistsLike.  The account administrator (I’m not even sure who he/she is!) shares tweets from around the country from journalists, using #PartyLikeAJournalist as our connecting thread.

@SunGriwkowskyC: Wonder if the fact that the election is on Cinco de Mayo will mean newsroom burritos instead of the traditional pizza?

@MissyRileyNews: I probably won’t sleep until Sweeps is over.

@jlivi2: Waiting for calls back like…….

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Speaking for my fellow reporters here at KETV.. it is AMAZING how representative this is!!  We ALWAYS have pizza on election night!  Ratings periods, dubbed ‘sweeps’ in TV news, are arguably the most stressful times of our year when we put in extra hours for more in-depth stories.  And waiting for calls.. on deadline.. often FEELS like FOR.EV.ER.

No matter what market you’re working in, where you are at in your career, or what type of beat you cover in news every day, there are things that bind us all together as journalists.  I saw that firsthand Friday night at the Omaha Press Club, honored to present closing remarks at the 2015 OPC Scholarship Awards Dinner, which also recognized this year’s Career Achievement and Journalism Educator Award winners.

I was also at this dinner 12 years ago… as a scholarship recipient.

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The recipients of the Mark O. Gautier, Jr. Intern Award.  SIX of us either work or have worked at KETV.

When I applied for this scholarship, I had interned at KETV THREE SEPARATE TIMES; twice in news and once in sports.  I was a senior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and mentioned to my mentor, the man who hired me and guided me through each of my internships, KETV Assignment Editor Joe Kasmir, that I was applying for the Gautier Award.  Joe suggested I ask KETV News Director Rose Ann Shannon to write me a letter of recommendation.  Thankfully she did, and with her much appreciated support I was honored with this scholarship.  It was the first of many ways Rose Ann offered me a hand when I was a green, wannabe broadcaster, opening a door for me to get into this business with a little extra oomph to push me along.

This is all part of what I shared in my speech Friday night, and I’m sharing it all here on my blog as well with a few hopes; first, that it encourages anyone reading this to consider a donation the Omaha Press Club Scholarship fund, and second, that maybe it connects–that we connect–with aspiring journalists just like I once was.  These awards not only provide a nice financial bonus for students who are often trying to take on unpaid journalism internships in addition to classwork, but it shows them someone out there believes in them.  Someone wants them to succeed.  Someone thinks they’ve got what it takes to be a journalist; to tell good stories, to tell their community what’s going on in the world, and to be trusted that what we are telling them is FACT.  I didn’t think Rose Ann Shannon even knew my name back then; I won that scholarship and thought, ‘hey, maybe she does know who I am.. and maybe she thinks I’m doing a good job.’

Three of this year’s scholarship recipients, one from each university represented, briefly spoke at Friday night’s ceremony.  Mara Klecker has already spent time in Australia and Ecuador, chronicling current events and interning with major outlets like National Geographic.  Scott Prewitt is the editor-in-chief of the Creightonian, even filming, editing and narrating a mini-documentary which debuted at the Omaha Film Festival.  Matthew Barros has been an active contributor to UNO sports radio and spoke with so much enthusiasm and professionalism Friday night, he made US excited to be in the same field as him.  I daresay I speak for many people in that audience as to how excited we are that these students are the future of our business.

Broadcasting is constantly evolving and changing, never more than now.  The world can turn to Twitter, to Facebook, to cable, to text messages and Google searches, but in the end, journalists can provide something no one else can: FACT.  True information.  We are the microphone for the child’s voice who isn’t heard.  We are the siren for the scandal under the radar.  We are clarity when people are confused and need answers.  And we are passing the torch on to people like the 18 students in that room Friday night.  It’s an awesome responsibility, and it’s one hell of a ride.

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Photo courtesy Dailykos.com

December 5, 2007 was a day that arguably, no Omaha journalist will ever forget.  We all started very early that day because President Bush was in the city.  By early afternoon, most of us were back in our buildings, formulating presidential visit coverage for our newscasts, websites and papers.  1:00, I was sitting at my desk when the scanners in our newsroom started going crazy; there had been a shooting.  Rose Ann came out of her office and we all heard ‘man down at the bottom of the escalator.’  I will never forget Rose Ann’s reaction in that moment, saying ‘we’ve got to put everything we’ve got on this.’  In those short seconds, I hadn’t even had time to process what dispatchers were saing, yet Rose Ann just KNEW this event was unprecedented.  Her instinct told her this was very, very bad.

Inside Westroads Mall, a teenager had shot and killed nine people, including himself, and wounded four others.  That cold, overcast day right before Christmas became one of the darkest days in Omaha history.

But that’s the thing.  That day was history.  As unthinkable, as tragic, and as terrible as that day was, Omaha journalists chronicled that history.  It’s our job to tell people what is going on.  Thankfully we also cover INCREDIBLE moments; reunions, joyous events that bring us to tears, things that literally seem to be miracles before our eyes.  I’ll never forget covering my first Nebraska football game, standing on the field at Memorial Stadium and literally feeling the adrenaline rise within me as 85,000 fans surrounding me screamed for the Huskers.  Who else, in what job, gets to witness history like journalists?

The other reason I brought this up Friday was because of what Rose Ann showed me that day: instinct.  Sheer listening, feeling, knowing what was a story before anyone else did.  Rose Ann has been in broadcast journalism now for 40 years, and that day, it was like she was still a beat reporter out in the field everyday.  SHE JUST KNEW.

THAT is something within all journalists, something that drives us to want to tell stories, and to tell the rest of the world what is going on.  It’s the common thread that links all of us, from the college student just starting out, to the news veteran with decades under his or her belt.

And all of us were in one room together Friday.  Ironically, as I spoke to these 18 scholarship recipients and their families, I also spoke to Rose Ann, still my News Director, Larry Walklin, my college professor, and arguably the best of the best in Nebraska news.  Rose Ann and Dr. Walklin were honored Friday night for their dedication and accomplishments in journalism.

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KETV News Director Rose Ann Shannon, receiving the 2015 Omaha Press Club Career Achievement Award

To Rose Ann and Dr. Walklin, THANK YOU for believing in me and helping me believe in myself a little more.  Thank you to all of the parents, teachers, mentors and friends who encourage and support aspiring journalists; the hours are long, the timing is terrible and the stress is high.  Most of all, to the 18 men and women who are joining us in this crazy world, and reigniting our passion all over again, CONGRATULATIONS, and good luck.

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CONGRATULATIONS to the following 2015 OPC Scholarship recipients!

UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA – LINCOLN

Joseph Hoile, Vanessa Daves, Jane Ngo, Madison Wurtele, Brent BonFleur, Mara Klecker, Christopher Heady, Natasha Rausch

UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA – OMAHA

Angela Eastep, Matthew Barros, Nick Beaulieu, Maria Brown, Marin Krause

CREIGHTON UNIVERSITY

Anthony Robinson, Catherine Adams, Michael Holdsworth, Krysta Larson, Scott Prewitt

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Click here for more information about the Omaha Press Club and how to become a member. (You DO NOT need to be a working media member to join!)

Click here for more information about the Omaha Press Club Foundation and scholarships for future journalists.

One thought on “Party Like A Journalist

  1. Pingback: This Just Into The Newsplex.. | Anchor's Away

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