Grab the Coffee! I’m an AM Newser!

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Hello there! It’s time for another update in my news journey. You’re looking at a recently minted #amnewser. This perpetual night-owl (seriously, I’ve been a night owl my entire life) has now joined the ranks of morning television. When I first started working at my station, I started on our night shows. My work day began at 2:30 p.m. and finished at 11:30 p.m. (give or take breaking news). I was lucky I was such a night person because adjusting to that schedule took no time at all. I had a blast working on our night shows, primarily because I was working with a fantastic group of people. Not only did I love our evening broadcasts, but my co-workers were great people. My nightside and weekend warriors definitely made every day something new and interesting.

Recently, I was given the opportunity to move to our morning shows, and I jumped at that chance. Now I’m working with a totally new (but equally fantastic) group of people. As an assignment editor, my job is made exponentially easier when I’m working with top-notch crews, and I refer to both my nightside and morning co-workers as “The A Team.”

So, I’ve joined the ranks of AM Newsers, and set my alarm for 3:00 a.m. Not much about my job has changed except for the fact that I make a pot of coffee at four in the morning before I leave for work. Working early mornings and days provides a new set of challenges and experiences, but as I said before I’m still working with the A Team — different people, same fantastic caliber of work.

Perhaps one of the funniest aspects of moving to mornings has been discovering the good-natured humor of AM Newsers. There’s so many unique challenges to morning news that searching #amnewsers on Twitter is an exercise in hilarity and an ode to the wonders of coffee. It’s so early when we start our days, we have to laugh about it, right?

I’m only a few weeks in, so there’s so much more to learn, but I’m so excited for all the new experiences and challenges that come my way (the least of which is finding quick, healthy and on-the-go breakfast foods)! But here’s to my next chapter of news!

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Life Updates and Other News

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So first things first, I realize I’ve committed the cardinal sin of blogging — I’ve gone quite some time between posts. But, I have a good reason! Drum roll please….

I finally have a job!

After graduation, I spent about a month in State College and then moved back home. When I moved home, my retail job transferred me to a location in my hometown, so while I was job-hunting, I was also working part-time. But recently, I accepted a position at one of the local news stations in the Scranton area.

I’ve mostly been working on the assignment desk, which involves fielding news tips and helping producers coordinate with reporters. I’ve also been working with the web content team clipping video and posting stories to the web. But one of my favorite parts so far was learning how to line produce a show. I line produced two of our 10:00 shows, which means I help keep time between blocks and packages as well as give the anchors time warnings. I’m starting to get the hang of it, and it’s very cool to know that I had a small part in the process that makes a news broadcast.

It’s incredibly exciting to be back in a newsroom and working in the business I love. I’m so excited to keep learning from all the professionals around me and take in as much as I can. Even though I’ve only been on the job for a few weeks, I can’t wait to see where it takes me! (And hopefully part of that journey involves me updating this blog more regularly — I promise I’ll try!)

Shipping Up to Boston

After graduation, I’ve been spending time at home while job hunting. This summer is actually the first since my freshman year of college that I’ve spent at home. So, after unpacking for the first time in four years, it’s been pretty great to spend some time with the family.

But, as I’ve said many times before, I love to travel. In addition to this being my first summer at home in three years, it’s the first summer I’ve had time to visit a lot of my friends. We’ve spread out across the country as college progressed, so I finally had a chance to visit their necks of the woods. A few weekends ago, I drove up to Boston to visit two very wonderful friends of mine who are students at Boston University.

Boston is a fantastic city, especially for college students and young adults. It’s a great combination of city life and history, two of my favorite things. And of course, I couldn’t resist some great photo opportunities while I was there.

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This was taken from the 19th floor of StuVi2, which is one of the dorm buildings at BU. The 19th floor has floor-to-ceiling windows and panoramic views of Boston and the Charles River. In this picture, if you squint hard enough you can even see the State House in the background.

In the interest of full journalistic disclosure, this is actually an Instagram I posted over the weekend, so it does have a filter on it (I’m pretty sure I used Dogpatch). I love playing around with Instagram and using it as a social media tool. Some of my favorite classes in college were those where we discussed the use of Instagram and filters. Since this picture was for my personal account and not a journalistic piece, I figured I could get away with a filter or two for the weekend.

I had a great time in Boston (especially visiting the North End and the famous Mike’s Pastry for some cannolis), and I can’t wait for my next New England trip.

Life Updates: I’m a grad!

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So, for a few life updates since I last posted. If you head over to the “about me” section on this website, you might notice a few changes. That’s right. Instead of “Penn State senior,” I am officially a “Penn State alumna.” It’s the most awesome and terrifying change ever.

One the one hand, it’s pretty darn cool to say that I’m an alumna. It took four years of hard work, a few tears, and maybe even a little blood and sweat, but I am now officially an alumna of the Pennsylvania State University with bachelors degrees in Journalism and International Politics with a minor in History. I also had my Schreyer Medal Ceremony and received my honors medal for completing the honors requirements and writing my thesis.

After a wonderful, whirlwind weekend of graduation with equal parts joy and nostalgia (yes, yes I did cry while singing the Alma Mater for the last time), I threw everything in my room into my car and drove home…

…Only to return to State College the very next day (even when I leave this place, I can’t stay away for very long). I had one more week of work before my job transferred me to a location closer to home (the plan is to work for the summer and job hunt). I also wanted to stick around to help celebrate a good friend’s birthday, so in order to deny that graduation actually happened and it’s time for me to be a “real adult,” I decided to stay in State College for another week or two.

State College summers are probably one of my favorite things. Ever since spending all of last summer living and working in State College, I realized that the only thing better than going to school at Penn State is living in State College during the summer. State College summers have all the perks of the regular year at Penn State with none of the lines or wait times. It’s basically a win-win.

I’m staying with one of my best friends who also just graduated, and we’re enjoying our time by putting out all the job applications in the world (which isn’t actually as scary as movies make you think it is — believe it or not, once you nail a cover letter, it’s kind of fun!)

Anyway, that’s it for now with the life updates. Always more to come!

Launching Girlnalist

This semester, I had a few extra credits to fill, so I decided to take a Journalism and Entrepreneurship pilot class taught by three professors. I expected the class to mostly deal with the business of journalism and freelancing — it’s common knowledge that many journalists spend some time freelancing.

While we did talk about freelancing and self-employment, most of the class focused on building and learning entrepreneurship skills, learning about startups and the startup mentality, and the innovation loop. Our final project for the class was to create a startup or business idea and then pitch it to the class.

After a mock Google-style design sprint, a few of my classmates and I came up with the idea of Girlnalist — an online network of resources for women in media and journalism. We decided to use this idea as our final project. But the more we worked with it and thought about it, we realized that this idea could actually work and was something we really wanted to pursue. So we’re launching Girlnalist. I could tell you more about it, but I think I’ll let our pitch speak for itself. Check it out (Oh, and follow us on Twitter at @Girlnalist)!

 

Girlnalists from psucommedia on Vimeo.

A Love Letter to the Place that Built Me

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Dear Penn State,

Four years ago, as a senior in high school, I fell in love. No, not with a boy. I fell in love with something much better. I fell in love with a place. Specifically, a few square miles of campus in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania. I accepted my offer of admission to Penn State, and I never looked back.

Over the next four years, I fell even harder. I fell in love with blue and white and Success with Honor and football Saturdays and wrapping my arms around my best friends as 108,000 people sang the words to the Alma Mater as we played and cheered for those who came before us and those who will come after us.

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I fell in love with the Nittany Lion and the Blue Band and drum major flips over the 50-yard-line and 99-yard interceptions and quadruple overtime games and being recklessly thrown into the air by strangers and rallies in Beaver Canyon when we were given back what was rightfully ours.

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I fell in love with terrible $1-a-slice pizza and Wings over and Death by Chocolate milkshakes from the Creamery and grilled stickies and West cookies.

I fell in love with a college newsroom and trips to Marg’s for ravs and inside jokes and R-Kelly marathons and random quotes. I fell in love with a new type of journalism and spending too many nights out at Innovation Park.

I fell in love with FTK and Springfield and raising my diamonds and crying alongside 15,000 other students and water gun fights and bubbles and the joy of a child.

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I fell in love with gorgeous fall days on  HUB Lawn and spring at the Arboretum and snowball fights on Old Main.

I fell in love with $4 Cafe pitchers and Monkey Boy Thursdays and Twenty-Phyrsts and closing down the bar shouting the lyrics along with  My Hero Zero and Phyrst fries and late night trips to Jimmy John’s.

 

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I fell in love with all the late nights spent with friends as we laughed while doing mountains of homework because we weren’t sure if we should laugh or cry and laughing seemed easier. I fell in love with Bachelor Wednesdays and Friday night movie nights and heart-to-hearts and movie nights in Borland and taking naps on the conference room floor because we were too tired or too busy to actually make it to bed.

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I fell in love with academics and classes and the hearing the stories of the most interesting professors I’ve ever met and trips abroad and getting lost in Prague and exploring London and learning from my peers and maybe teaching them something too.

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I fell in love with all the good times for the memories they have given me. I fell in love with the wonderful friends who will have my back long after I leave this place. I fell in love with the lessons I’ve learned and the experiences I’ve had. And I fell in love with the bad times too for the lessons they’ve taught me and the ways in which they made me stronger.

I fell in love with all the big things and a million little things at Penn State. I fell in love with this place, this school, this family, this feeling. I threw myself into Penn State completely, unreservedly and wholeheartedly. I have loved Penn State with everything in me, and somehow, Penn State found a way to love me back.

I’m a different person now from the person I was four years ago when I first moved in. I’ve grown and changed and learned and loved and laughed and lost and hurt and cried and thought and moved and danced and lived. Penn State is the place where I truly, completely felt 100% comfortable being me. Penn State accepted me for who I was and made me into the best version of myself. Penn State is the place where I learned to love who I am and feel confident and wear black leather jackets and red lipstick just because I can.

Penn State took me in as a wide-eyed freshman still trying to figure out life and turned me into the best version of myself. At Penn State, I am my favorite version of me. These few square miles of campus have been my home for the past four years, and I can’t imagine a better place to spend them. I don’t know a lot in this world, but I know more than when I came in. I don’t want to leave, but I can do so knowing that I have zero regrets. If I could do it all over again, I would. And I wouldn’t change a thing. So thank you Penn State. Thank you for loving me and building me and letting me live life to the fullest. Thank you for being more than a school. Thank you for giving me a second family and the knowledge that no matter where I am, I’ll carry you in my heart. Thank you for making this place feel like home and then making sure that I’ll feel at home anywhere I find another Penn Stater.

I love you Penn State. I loved you four years ago, and I’ll keep loving you long after I leave. I’ll be seeing you again.

Love,
Mary

Another Day, another photo

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I don’t know if this is a multimedia journalist thing or just a me thing, but I love taking pictures. My friends know that any time we go anywhere, I’ll probably be the one whipping my phone out to take the perfect picture and document the moment. I’d much rather have pictures than souvenirs.

This was from my recent spring break trip to Jupiter, Florida, a small town twenty minutes south of Palm Beach. During our time there, my friends and I checked out Square Grouper, a favorite bar/restaurant among the locals. Square Grouper is located on the bay and is almost entirely outdoors on the sand. When I took this picture, we were seated on the bay wall with our feet dangling over the water in our best impression of a Jimmy Buffett song while eating french fries.

This was taken with my iPhone, so the quality isn’t fantastic, but it was right around sunset, so there were a million different lighting opportunities. At the time I just snapped the picture, but looking back on it, I was pretty pleased with the composition of the shot, the lighting and the fact that I somehow managed to work the rule of thirds in.

Of all the places we visited while in Florida, this might be one of my favorites, and this is definitely one of my favorite shots, especially because of the good memories.

Multimedia Minute

I love being a multimedia journalist. I love creating multimedia. And I love finding and sharing good multimedia. Ever since I took an introduction to multimedia class my sophomore year, I’ve been more attuned to finding good multimedia — ranging from the New York Times to student publications. And ok, I’ll admit. I am a major NYT fangirl. You know how 14 year-olds obsessed over One Direction when they first competed on the X-Factor? Yeah, that’s how I am with the Times. The New York Times is one of the best in the business when it comes to multimedia. They have a relatively large staff and the time, money and resources to sink into new projects. The NYT does video content better than some video stations.

Everyone’s heard of “Snowfall,” and rightly so. It’s an amazing piece of journalism. But the Times does a lot more amazing pieces, and sometimes, the lesser-known pieces are the best.

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One of my favorites is “The Russia Left Behind.” I think the reason I like this piece so much is the gorgeous integration of text, photos, video and graphics. Graphics can be tough to integrate into a multimedia piece if you don’t know what you’re doing. Luckily, the NYT has an amazing graphics staff. The parallax scrolling style works really well for this piece. Additionally, one of my favorite parts of the story is the road map on the side of the story. As the viewer scrolls through the story, the map is responsive and allows the reader to jump between cities and view parts of the story at will.

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Another component of this story I really like is that it focuses on a different person or family in each city. The various subjects show the various problems and issues facing the Russian people. While this might be confusing in another story, it works well for this piece. Even though there are a lot of components, it ties together well.

I’ve always been interested in foreign relations and politics, so the subject matter is really interesting to me. But even if this wasn’t one of my favorite topics, I’d still be interested because of the presentation. The New York Times has a way of taking even the most niche subjects and making it accessible and interesting to a larger population. It’s definitely worth a read. Screen Shot 2016-03-16 at 11.38.45 PM.png

Behind the Photo

The Image, Deconstructed is a weekly blog that spotlights different photographers. The blog looks at one or two pictures from a photographer and then interviews the photographer on every detail that went into making that photo. While I don’t consider myself at the level of these professionals, I do consider myself a fairly decent photographer, and I thought it would be interesting to share one of my own photos and how I made it.

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This photo of Mike Gesicki, a Penn State tight end, was taken at the annual Lift for Life event in July 2015. The Penn State football team’s chapter of Uplifting Athletes raises money and awareness to fight kidney cancer. Every year, the team holds a “Lift for Life” event as one of their marquee events. Basically, the team gets people to pledge money and then they lift very heavy things such as massive truck tires.

When I showed up to the lacrosse field for the event early in the morning, it was already a sweltering July day with temperatures reaching the 80s. On arrival, after I picked up my press pass, all media was herded behind the outer lines of the field and told to stay put. Getting good photos was an exercise in jockeying around other reporters — definitely an important skill for any aspiring journalist.

Split between offense and defense, the players compete in teams to finish a series of challenges, such as bench presses, tire rolls and deadlifts. There’s a lot going on, so I needed to pick and choose which events I wanted to focus on. This picture was definitely unplanned, but I’m so happy with the way my “accident” photo turned out. I was on my way to the other end of the field when I saw some of the offense getting ready for the sled pull event. I was able to elbow my way across the field just in time.

Sometimes, being five feet tall can be a hindrance while covering live events and trying to get the best shot. But in times like these, being elbow height to other reporters is an asset that allows me to dash through the crowd.

Gesicki’s team had just won the sled pull event, and I was just in time to capture this moment as Gesicki celebrated. One of the reasons I like this shot is the color. The blue and white of the players’ uniforms is a great contrast against the green field and blue sky. And I like that I was able to make the shot with Gesicki in the foreground.

But looking back, there are a few things I would have liked to do differently. I would have liked to get Gesicki more centered in the frame so he would be more of the focus. I also would have liked to frame the shot with less  distractions in the background. And of course, I would have loved to get a few shots of his face, but being corralled behind the field lines prevented that.

Covering this event was definitely one of my favorite assignments during my summer internship. I don’t usually get to cover football-related events, and as a huge football fan, it was definitely cool to see. It was also a chance to try a new style of reporting and a great learning experience.

All geared up

Lots of girls like their accessories. My preferred accessories just happen to be microphones and tripods rather than necklaces and rings. Ever since I started delving more into multimedia, I’ve been having a lot of fun figuring out the gear and equipment needed in multimedia. (Of course, let it be known that I have almost no money for all the gorgeous gear I’m drooling over, but that’s a different story).

But, as I’m learning and exploring more with multimedia, there have been times when I’m utterly confused about gear or unsure as to what the best type of microphone or camera would be the best for certain situations. Luckily, I’ve had some great professors and fellow journalists who have been great about giving advice and helping a girl out. So, in the spirit of passing it forward, I thought I would write a few posts on my favorite gear or the different things I’ve tried and how they’ve worked.

One of the first tools I started using when I began working on multimedia was at the suggestion of one of my professors. When I started playing around with audio recording, one of my professors suggested I download iRig Recorder. iRig allows you to record uncompressed audio through your iPhone. Normally, the recorder feature on an iPhone will compress audio in order to prevent people from recording and selling music from concerts and other events. Compressed audio usually sounds awful and is awful to edit.

iRig has two versions — one that’s free and another for $7.99. I would recommend spending the money for the paid version. It has been the best $8 I’ve spent. The app is downloaded directly to your iPhone and allows you to record quality uncompressed audio. While it’s not quite as powerful as the professional gear, it’s almost as good as a Zoom recorder (unfortunately iRig only records in mono, not stereo).

The app also allows you to sync a SoundCloud account to upload the audio. Audio can also be shared through email, iTunes File Sharing and several other ways. I linked my SoundCloud account and it’s worked seamlessly.

The app also has links to the store and accessories. One of my favorites (and next purchase) is the iRig lavalier mic. The mic plugs into the headphone jack and can clip to a shirt or collar. The mic could also be used for video recording. One mic is available for $49.99 or two for $79.99. Unfortunately, you can’t wear headphones and use the mic at the same time, but it’s a tradeoff for better audio.

I’ve been using iRig for about a year now in a number of different interviews and nat sound situations. So far, I’ve had good experiences, and it’s definitely my number one recommendation for both starting and seasoned journalists. It might not replace professional equipment, but it’s a great way to ensure you always have an audio recorder in your pocket.