Tag Archives: Journalism

The Columbia Journo Diaries: Journalism Bootcamp, My First 2 Weeks in NYC

Columbia Journalism School

#DailyWings“One belongs to New York instantly. One belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years.” -Tom Wolfe

The Columbia Journo Diaries is a series on my blog where I share my accounts of what it’s like to be a journalism master’s student at Columbia University in the City of New York during a time when the media landscape is relying on digital innovation to survive. 

It’s Friday night, and I’m raising a solo cup filled with red wine in my right hand. Someone sitting a few feet away whistles to get everyone’s attention.

“We made it through the first two weeks! Cheers!”

“Cheers!” I place the cup between my lips. The wine warms me from head to toe.

It’s the first night I’ve actually gone out with friends – mainly, other journalism students at Columbia who decided it would be a good idea to celebrate the end of our second week of reporting bootcamp. We have a picnic set up in Riverside Park right by the Henry Hudson Parkway, barely five minutes away from my apartment. I’ve been living here since the end of July, and not once did I notice before how beautiful the sun is when it sets over the skyline. I remind myself to do this more often. No matter how stressful journalism school gets or how many times you fail, I say to myself, never forget to appreciate what’s right in front of you.

It’s getting darker now. Instead of sitting in a circle, everyone has broken off into smaller groups to have more personal conversations. I ask a friend of mine, Courtney, if she misses her hometown.

“I’m homesick, but I’m not unhappy,” she says. I nod. I know exactly what she means.

There are days when I miss North Carolina so badly that there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for a Cheddar Bo biscuit or for someone to say “Hi, y’all.” Then, there are other days, like this particular Friday, when I look around and wonder how I ever lived outside of the city.

Henry Hudson Parkway

Across from the Hudson River (Manhattan side), you can see Edgewater and part of the New Jersey skyline.

Before I moved to New York, it always took me 40 minutes to drive to work every day. Once I got to the office, I sat at the same cubicle for seven hours. Now, it takes me five minutes to walk to school in the morning, but on any given day I spend at least two hours walking inside the city either in search for a compelling story or to run errands. Of course, that doesn’t include time spent taking the tube. I’m confident that, by the time I graduate in May, I will have gotten off of every subway stop in Manhattan. At the rate we’re going, maybe even two or three times.

This “semester” (I put “semester” in quotation marks because technically each semester of j-school is split into four mini semesters), my reporting class is covering Midtown West (FYI send juicy newz tipz to wendy.lu@columbia.edu). I have class from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day, with a 2-hour lunch break. Occasionally, class is swapped instead for “reporting time,” or chunks of our day that are built into our schedules to give us time for research, interviews and writing. On days when we’ve got reporting time, I walk at least five miles a day.

Like most transitions in life, this one hasn’t been easy. One week into the program, I cried in fetal position for an hour on the bed because New York felt lonely and my computer charger had broken a few days earlier. I spent my first week of j-school stuck in the computer labs well past 10 o’clock because my laptop was out of battery and every project was hitting me like a train, full speed ahead. On one occasion, we had to interview eight different people in the city (AKA street reporting) and then compile a 1-minute audio story using those interviews – all in the span of eight hours. We were to present them, one by one, the next day.

Street reporting in New York isn’t as scary as I thought it would be. Ironically, it’s the interviews I do with random people that make me feel like the city is and friendlier smaller than it feels. Sometimes, you do get funny looks or flat-out rejections. Other people will insist, “Oh, I don’t want to be interviewed,” but offer a little fact about yourself and slip in just one open-ended question, and they’ll ramble on about their lives/passions/pleasures for half an hour.

Then, of course, there are those people on the streets who come up to you instead with a comment or opinion they’d like to share. A few of them are cat-callers. Others are just a category of characters all their own. Like, the other day, my friend and I were chatting in Central Park when this random person came up to us and said the strangest thing I’ve been told so far since coming to New York: “I’m sorry to interrupt, but might I say that you ladies are just GORGEOUS. You (the person pointed at me) with your long, beautiful black hair – you would turn a gay man straight. I mean, I’m just gonna go take my eyeliner off now and find a beautiful woman just like you and we’re gonna have some babies.

Every day, New York surprises me with something new.

bubbleman

“You guys have been the best bubble poppers all day.” -The Bubble Man in Central Park, where he earns money by blowing gigantic rainbow bubbles to amuse children and their families.

Despite the curveballs, I know this – Columbia, New York, the city – is where I belong. Even though my undergraduate degree is in journalism, it doesn’t feel like I’m “repeating” anything. Columbia has a completely different pace and curriculum from those of UNC-Chapel Hill. Sure, we learn about nut grafs, ledes and kickers (the building blocks of a story based on good journalism), but the lessons are coming from different professors who have their own unique standards of quality, reporting experiences and teaching styles.

The other thing is that everyone here is just so damn talented. There are students who have had internships – even entire careers in journalism – at incredible media companies I’ve only dreamed of working for. And that’s both inspiring and terrifying at the same time. But one of the first lessons my reporting professor shared with us on the first day of class was, “Put your head down and focus on competing with yourself, not other people.” In other words, become better than you were on Day 1.

And that’s what I intend to do.

Wendy Lu

I’m Moving to New York City to Live (Not Chase) My Dreams

#DailyWings: “You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.” -William Faulkner

Happy June, writers and friends! Wow, has it really been a month (and some change) since my last blog post? A part of me is appalled that I took a month-long hiatus from writing, but the other part of me wants to remind myself that there is a very good reason why I haven’t been around.

Four days ago, I was finally able to make an announcement that I’ve been waiting to make for months. It’s the kind of announcement that is usually made right after a college graduation, when people are moving to new places, taking on summer internships and full-time jobs, and traveling to other countries. Honestly, it was hard for me to keep blogging without being able to share this announcement with you; I felt like keeping it inside was more difficult than not blogging at all.

Thankfully, I’m finally in a good place both emotionally and professionally now where I can share this publicly with you and my friends here on social media.
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Charlie Hebdo and Journalism in the Marketplace of Ideas

#DailyWings: “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” –Eduardo Galeano

I was at work when I learned about what had happened in Paris on January 7. At the office, we have about seven or eight television screens, all of which display breaking news from CNN or sports on a daily basis. I walked past the largest TV during lunch, a napkin and utensils in my hand, when I saw the headline about terrorists on the loose in Paris. People were wounded, even dead.

Why would anyone want to attack the French?” was my initial reaction. Admittedly, I don’t know much about France outside of the stereotypes revealed to me through movies and other media growing up, and unfortunately I don’t follow French news the way I follow Chinese, American and UK news. Even with the underlying knowledge that French people aren’t all alike, I’d always viewed them as being romantic, chic and peaceful foodies.

It wasn’t until later that I learned three masked individuals — later discovered to be Islamists — had attacked the headquarters of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical Parisian weekly newspaper known for publishing crude, controversial material (mainly about religion and politics). The attacks didn’t stop there. Two days later, terrorists related to the first incident attacked people in a supermarket where many Jewish Parisians live and congregate.
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Meeting Khaled Hosseini: “And The Mountains Echoed” Book Tour (and My 21st Birthday + The Great Flood of 2013!)

#DailyWings: “When I was a child my mother said to me, ‘If you become a soldier, you’ll be a general. If you become a monk, you’ll be the pope.’ Instead, I became a painter and wound up as Picasso.” -Pablo Picasso

A couple weeks ago, I read John Green‘s “The Fault in Our Stars,” one of the best Young Adult novels I’ve read in a long time. (If you haven’t done so already, I highly encourage you to read one or all of John’s books and/or check out the awesome vlogbrothers, a YouTube video project he coordinates with his brother Hank.) One of the book’s subplots involves the characters traveling to Amsterdam to meet the writer of their favorite book in person.After I finished reading the book, I Skyped my boyfriend — who shares my passion for good literature and was the one who introduced me to John’s work — and said to him, “Wouldn’t it be so cool if we could just meet our favorite authors like Augustus and Hazel do?”
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Observations of an Editorial Intern: Here’s to Punchy Ledes (& Other Farewell Stories)

#DailyWings: “We live not only in a world of thoughts, but also in a world of things. Words without experience are meaningless.” -Vladimir Nabokov

This post is a part of my blog series, “Observations of an Editorial Intern” (as inspired by the CAFME Summer Intern Diaries). This series focuses on my experiences of interning as a journalism student for a news publication. Any viewpoints expressed on my blog are not reflective of the publication I work for. 

This semester, I completed an editorial internship at The WEEKLY, the town newspaper published by Chapel Hill Magazine.

Last Monday, I wrapped up my last few assignments for The WEEKLY and concluded the spring editorial internship. Walking out of that office for my last time this semester was bittersweet, as the end of most valuable experiences — ones that are both challenging and rewarding — tend to be. 

I like to think of the past — in this case, the “past” few months — as one huge timeline. Placing a finger at any point on the timeline, I remember where I was in the internship process at that point and how much there was still ahead of me. 
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Observations of an Editorial Intern: On Being Deadline-Driven

#DailyWings: “Life is so constructed, that the event does not, cannot, will not, match the expectation.” -Charlotte Brontë, Villette

This post is a part of my blog series, “Observations of an Editorial Intern” (as inspired by the CAFME Summer Intern Diaries). This series focuses on my experiences of interning as a journalism student for a news publication. Any viewpoints expressed on my blog are not reflective of the publication I work for. 

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It’s been a while since I updated my blog series for this semester, Observations of an Editorial Intern. Juggling classes, multiple school organizations and an editorial internship has been both a challenge and a rewarding experience. I’ve become much more attentive to news values, email communication, deadlines and interviewing tactics; at the same time, I am still learning new things every week. 

For anyone who is hoping to gain a better sense of a particular field, there is a lot of value in learning from experts — essentially, others who have been working in the industry for much longer. You can ask them about trends they’ve seen over the years, impact on the public and the micro-level details of working in that field on a daily basis. These people can include long-term employees, graduates who have gotten their feet through the door and are navigating the waters, even your mentors or bosses. 

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Call for Submissions: Wander Magazine Wants “Travel Horror Stories” From YOU!

#DailyWings: “I am on the alert for the first signs of spring, to hear the chance note of some arriving bird, or the striped squirrel’s chirp, for his stores must be now nearly exhausted, or see the woodchuck venture out of his winter quarters.”
– Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Earlier today, we were greeted — as if “greet” is the right word — with a flurry of snow. On my way to class, the wind and snow almost knocked me over! Either North Carolina weather is being ridiculous or I need to start eating meat again. What is going on, y’all? I mean, it’s almost April.

Now that we’ve established the peculiarity of April snow, I wanted to share an awesome opportunity with you: Ever wanted to be published in a magazine? 

One of the best things about being a student at the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Journalism & Mass Communication is getting involved with various media projects in a professional news setting. This semester, I’m on the staff for Wander travel magazine, a JOMC 456 class project that has just released a call for submissions. My wonderful readers, if you have studied abroad (or currently are), spent a holiday somewhere exotic, conducted research in different parts of the world or engaged in other all-around cool things while traveling, this might interest you:
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Observations of an Editorial Intern: A New Weekly Blog Series

#DailyWings: “I’m glad you’re getting a chance to bust your chops on the journalism block.” -an anonymous friend of mine

Introducing a new weekly post series on my blog: “Observations of an Editorial Intern” (as inspired by the CAFME Summer Intern Diaries)! This series focuses on my experiences of interning as a journalism student for a town publication. Any viewpoints expressed on my blog are not reflective of the publication I work for. 

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This isn’t reporting class, I thought at my new work station. This is the real thing.

The first day tends to be the most nerve-wrecking. You’re getting used to the work environment, the publication’s style, the pacing. It’s the one day when you really feel like an intern, because everything is so new. 

My “working girl” outfit

Friday was my first full work day at Chapel Hill Magazine’s THE WEEKLY, where I will be serving as an editorial intern for the spring semester. I report on local news and events, take photographs, conduct interviews for profiles, copy edit articles and anything else that needs to be taken care of.
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My “Do Not Be a Critter Killer” Article

snails, slow writing, writers
Question of the Day: What type of writing do you enjoy the most? Poetry, short stories, creative nonfiction, essays, or other?
Good day! The March issue of my high school newspaper came out today. =) Unfortunately, I only had one story and only a couple photos published in this issue, but that is because I was put in charge of our April Fool’s issue that is coming out, well, on April Fool’s! More about that later. Here we have my “Do Not Be a Critter Killer” article, and yes, that is the original title. Please enjoy, and let me know what you think about it!
“Do Not Be a Critter Killer”By Wendy

There once was a very small snail named Jack. He was a brave fellow admired by all of his friends and family. Jack sported a beautiful, coral pink shell that other snails believed would bring him good luck and fortune some day.

One day, our friend Jack rolled his way outside into the bright sun to fetch some food for his family. As Jack whistled his way towards some crunchy-looking plants, he suddenly heard vibrations all around him. The ground below seemed to shake slightly, and before he could turn around and realize his inevitable fate, Jack was smashed underneath a large, human-sized shoe. His beautiful coral shell was crushed into a thousand little pieces. There went his luck, and Jack was no more.
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My “Texting While Driving Sucks” Article

As I have mentioned in past blog posts, I work for my high school’s student-run newspaper. This semester, I serve as the Production Editor and write for the Opinion section. Our first issue of the semester comes out next Thursday…here is the article I wrote on how much texting while driving sucks:

“Texting While Driving Sucks”
(official title to be determined)

You twiddle your fingers on the steering wheel while sitting in your brand new Lexus on the intersection between Candy Lane and Cellular Drive*. The red light has not changed for two whole minutes, and you are growing impatient.

Suddenly, a loud ding! causes your heart to skip a few beats. You scramble around your pocket, pull out that must-have Blackberry and look up just in time to catch a glimpse of the green-glowing stoplight signaling Go.

Before pressing down on the gas pedal, you glance at the phone and notice a text that your BFF Sally sent, asking you about your last cruise to the Bahamas. Um, there is no question about it. You HAVE to text her back. Now. Never mind that this particular intersection is one of the dangerous ones in town. Never mind that you witnessed a car accident only last week, which caused you to be late for school. I mean, who wouldn’t want to break their neck from texting while driving?
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