Exotic spring break adventures

To complete my semester of traveling, I took a trip to Africa and Asia. Of course, these “continents” I traveled to were merely exhibits within the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Neb.

Before you make fun, you must know that this zoo is amazing. I visited once before with my Girl Scout troop in elementary school, and I loved it. When I found myself with a free weekend, I somehow managed to convince my boyfriend Ryan to drive the three hours north to go look at some animals with me. You still might be thinking, “Even with cool zoo, I’m not sure I’d drive six hours round trip for some animals in Omaha.”

You may be right. I may be crazy. But this just might be just the childhood fix you’re looking for:


Meerkat Omaha Zoo

and his sidekick Pumba.

Pumba Omaha ZooA sleepy Nala with some cubs.

Nala Omaha Zoo

All the finest fundraiser dinners and zoo exhibits are sponsored by HyVee.

Omaha Zoo Hyvee

Now for the controversial part: A whole slideshow of creatures in the same evolutionary family as humans.

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Truman the Tiger on a lunch break.

Truman the TigerThese guys are taller than all those guys playing in that basketball tournament everyone seems to be obsessed with.

giraffes omaha zoo

Now, to Antarctica to see penguins.

Penguins Omaha Zoo

And back to the warmer waters for these jelly fish.

jelly fish omaha zoo

We even survived sharks swimming over our heads in the aquarium.

Omaha Zoo AquariumBut wasn’t until I arrived home, (interestingly enough at the Shawnee, Kan. HyVee store) that I saw the most frightening creature of the weekend.

jayhawk hyvee

The lesson here? Omaha has a tiger and is therefore infinitely cooler. M-I-Z.


First Spain Post: exploring Pamplona and looking for housing

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It’s my third day in Spain, but I still have those moments where I think, “Holy crap, I’m on a whole different continent.” While Pamplona is nothing like Kansas City or Columbia, I still surprise myself when I remember that I get to live here for a whole six months.

On paper, Pamplona is a lot like Columbia. It’s a town of 200,000 people, equidistant from Barcelona and Madrid. And it’s home to two universities: the public University of Pamplona and the private Opus Dei-run University of Navarra where I will be attending.

But the landscape of the town couldn’t be more different. The biggest similarity is that they both have a large landmark stadium. Except that the one in Pamplona is for bullfighting, and if it ever used for futbol I’m sure it’s not the americano kind.

Every building is at least seven stories tall: the first floor is dedicated to store fronts and the upper floors are residential apartments. In Pamplona, everybody lives in apartments–families, students, young people, old people are all intermixed in buildings. It’s a cool, neighborhood-like atmosphere walking around the streets. Because everything is built up so much, the town is very walkable. It takes about 20 minutes to walk from the downtown area which is actually at the northern edge of town to the Univ. of Navarra which is at the very southern edge.

Every few blocks there are plazas with playground equipment for children (Full disclosure: my friends and I do desire to play on this equipment). And every few blocks has it’s own famacia (pharmacy), grocery store, fruit and vegetable vendor, florist, papeleria (mini-office supply store), boutique. There is probably a bank store front for every ten Pamplona resident. So if the Spanish banks do fail, there will be lots of Pamplona real estate for rent.

Abbey, Bridget (two other girls from Mizzou who are studying in Pamplona with me) and I walked much of the eastern and southern parts of the city yesterday, and were struck by the beauty of everything. The “downtown” section of Pamplona is very old and european-looking with narrow, cobblestone streets, balconies, statues of deceased important people and beautiful plazas. The Univ. of Navarra in contrast is very modern looking with huge terraces and striking architecture with a great view of the Pyrenees mountains.

Many people are still on holiday in Pamplona, because the break from Christmas for many businesses extend until epiphany on Jan. 6. In Spain, many people receive there Christmas presents on this day to symbolize the gifts the wise men brought to baby Jesus. The Pamplona streets are bustling with last minute shoppers and families out enjoying the time off work.

Pamplona has lots of festivities to celebrate the holiday, including three camels you can ride in the main plaza (again, symbolizing the three wise men). Parades, concerts and performances. Yesterday we saw a small parade with a marching band and male flag twirlers dressed in leggings (I don’t think this was a direct reference to the wise men, but nevertheless a cool surprise). There are several more performances/events this evening that we look forward to attending. (Of course on the stipulation that we can find them. In typical Spanish fashion, logistical details are not a focus. So the advertisements for all these epiphany events don’t list a location).

For those of you who have searched for housing in Columbia, I cannot express how much easier it is to find a place to live in Pamplona. Landlords actually email you back in a timely manner. And these people operate on Spanish time! Today we plan to look at a few more apartments and hopefully be able to move into a place by tomorrow.

Ideal presents for my ideal friends

10,000 words published a list of the top 30 gifts for journalists this holiday season. Most of my friends are journalism majors, and so these are the gifts I would give them if I had unlimited resources.

Shaina: Citation Needed Sticker
So you can ask “How do you know that?” in a sticker form and get the education beat in line and libel-free. If you have extra’s feel free to send them to a certain small-town Illinois opinion’s editor who isn’t too concerned with the facts.



Kathryn: iPhone Telephoto lens
Attach this lens to your iPhone to take high quality zooming photos on the fly. It also works well for taking “creeper” photos of something way in the background without being overt. Share with Brenda!


Andrew: Daily Calender from The Onion
Fake news for your desktop everyday! I think this has much potential to be morphed into story ideas for all those B3 KOMU shifts.


Katie: PageLever Analytics
This analytics program lets you track facebook page views and data…not that you’d be interested in tracking who is looking at your facebook.


Kate: Newshound Bracelet
A commemoration of a job-well-done at the Missourian. Plus, it will look great on-the-job at a Chicago Mag internship (fingers crossed).



Sherman: Agloves
So you can stay in contact with three-word nonsensical text messages no matter how cold. This was funnier when I was still holding your texting gloves hostage in my car.






Amy: Coffee Cup Power Inverter
Plug this fake coffee cup into your car to charge your laptop, phone, iPod, etc while driving. But knowing you, you will use this to curl/straighten your hair on the road. Nothing wrong with that 🙂





Myself: I Heart NPR t-shirt
Because obviously this shirt describes my life. If only it could say “Listen to This American Life” on the back…

Sifting through news

I recently read an article from newsworks.org talking about how younger generations are woefully uneducated about the news because we don’t read print newspapers anymore. I don’t agree with everything the author says. The author is pro-print publication and anti-online, citing that when reading a newspaper online you only click on a headline if it interests you, instead of skimming the first few graphs.

I don’t entirely agree that a print publication is necessarily better than all of the digital formats available, but I do agree with the author’s overall point:

“It’s fashionable now to say we want our news unfiltered. But too often that means we don’t find what we need to know because it’s too difficult, like trying to drink from a fire hose.”

And this makes sense. College students use Twitter and Facebook to find out what is happening in the world. I’m one of them. I enjoy sharing articles and reading articles that my friends post. One tool I have recently started using is the Washington Post’s Social Reader. It allows you to see what other articles your friends are reading through news feed updates. I think problems arise when we rely on social media to find out the news.

Facebook released a list of Most Shared Articles in 2011 and there are some legitimate news stories on the list, like No. 1 Satellite Photos of Japan, Before and after the Quake and Tsunami and No. 23 Obama’s and Bush’s effects on the deficit in one graph. But there are also a lot of things that are amusing, but maybe not the most most newsworthy or educational, like Twin Baby Boys have a Conversation and No, your zodiac sign hasn’t changed.

The vast majority of the articles that made Facebook’s list are human interest stories, opinion articles or weird news tidbits. There are very few stories that will help people vote better, understand how their tax dollars are being spent or understand the effects of major world events. Reading a newspaper or listening/watching a newscast allows one to get the news that someone with good news judgment has deemed important.

I have fairly news-conscious Facebook friends and follow people who tweet newsworthy things (partially thanks to the Twitter list that Amy Simons created for her J2150 class). But I don’t trust the people I follow or my Facebook/Twitter use habits enough to rely on that as the prime means of getting news.

A newscast and a newspaper front/home page is designed to give prominence to more important stories. I can see what is the most timely and important even just by skimming the headlines and decks. Of course, I then have to to and read those stories to get get the full benefit.

I find out a lot of interesting things via Facebook. And I like seeing what my friends are reading, and what they find interesting. But we owe it to ourselves, and to the journalism industry to also seek news from a trusted source.


Who are these 15 percent?

The Nielsen online ratings for the top ten website parent companies for August 2011 says that 85 percent of the IP addresses monitored accessed a Google site during that month. That’s a pretty wide reach.

But who are these 15 percent who don’t use Google ANYTHING for the entire month? No Google maps, search, Gmail, blogger, anything. Not even using Google+ (wait, that’s pretty normal to not use that).

My mom, who despises all technology and can barely use email, still uses a google site at least once a month.

My favorite set of statistics to reverse is the “Most of Us” survey conducted by the MU Wellness Center.

This annual survey asks students about their habits and attitudes toward alcohol, drugs and partying. The survey reports numbers like: 51.1 percent of MU students have chosen to drink less or not at all if they had academic obligations the next day, 77 percent have refused a ride with a drinking driver if they have been in the situation and 85 percent of students would rather spend time with family than party with alcohol.

So this means: 49 percent of MU students drink when they have academic obligations the next day, 23 percent have ridden with a driver who has been drinking and 15 percent of students would rather drink than see their family.

That’s not all that impressive. Granted, “academic obligations” could mean a class at noon, rather than an 8 a.m. test and a “drinking driver” could be a 21-year-old who had one drink. But based on a student population of 30,000, 4,500 MU students value partying more than their families.

Who thinks like this? Well, college students. But maybe these aren’t the numbers to print on T-shirts and display on posters to promote the decisions of MU students.

These don’t necessarily make me proud of how MU students value wellness. These certainly aren’t the statistics I would want to hear as a parent of a student.

The good news? I feel fairly certain that 100 percent of students have used Google in the past month.

My final story pitch

Subject/Slug: Squirrel Attack

Based on our research so far, the headline for this story might read:
Convergence students suffer squirrel attack after failure to heed warnings

Based on our research so far, the lead sentence of this story is:
Convergence professor Lynda Kraxberger always warned her students to leave the Futures Lab, before midnight citing safety concerns. But what students didn’t know was that this safety concern was a band of stuffed security squirrels that come to life at night.

In other words, this story is about:
A display of what was presumed to be stuffed squirrels in a convergence professor’s office turns out to be a new security system known as Squirrel Squadron. These squirrels attacked six students writing story pitches in the futures lab late one night. The students suffered cuts, scrapes and minor bleeding, but were told to “walk it off” by doctors at the Student Health Center.

Squirrel Squadron is a security unit of squirrels who pretend to be stuffed during the day, but patrol journalism buildings at night. The Squadron is trained to attack comm students, jayhawks, people who have drinks in the futures lab, or journalism students who prop open the doors. Jill McReynolds sent an email statement from the School of Journalism saying that the attack on the convergence students was a programming mistake and the students were not supposed to be attacked.

This incident has exploded over the internet opening the discussion about using rodents as university security guards, a practice that is only done at Mizzou.

A full-out Twitter fight is currently waging between J-schoolers and PETA about safety concerns about the trained guard squirrels. J-Schoolers believe they should have been about the possibility of violent rodents, but PETA thinks the squirrels are being treated unfairly by the university for what was only a mistaken attack. The university has announced that these squirrels, that serve as role models for the rest of the rodent community, will be receiving a salary freeze and will not receive their annual acorn bonus for the year. In addition, the must donate one weeks salary to the MU Center for Rodent Attack Trust of Students (RATS).

PETA says these punishments are two harsh for a group of rodents who collectively weigh less than 5 pounds. They argue that the university should pick on someone its own size.

One convergence student said the most upsetting part of the whole ordeal was that they were so injured they wouldn’t be able to do a team story on the altercation to redeem their automatic “A” from Lynda Kraxberger.

People should care because:
The funding for Squirrel Squadron project comes from Don Reynolds, the man for who RJI is named for. He created Squirrel Squadron because he says “it was a way to exploit Missouri’s one remaining untapped resource for the greater good of journalism.”

The story impacts (who?):
4804-ers, convergence faculty and others who frequent the futures lab

Which multimedia tools do you envision will best convey this material?
Twitter, unethically doctored images

Describe at least one potential sidebar element.
A timeline of the development of Squirrel Squadron, an iphone app plotting where the squirrels are at night

Who is the audience for your story?

How we came up with this idea:
Immersion reporting for the past 14 weeks.

Leaving on a jet plane

I leave for Spain in six weeks. Yikes! On Jan. 1, I will get on a plane and leave for a country where I will know two other people.I will land in Madrid and then navigate the metro and railroad systems to find my way to Pamplona. Where I will then stay a few nights in a hostel while finding an apartment to lease for five months. I anticipate I will run into at least a dozen problems with my

And I’m OK with that.

Typically, I like to have a plan. But I’ve adopted a Spanish attitude about this whole, semester abroad. I spent the first two weeks of filling out applications being frustrated at the system. The Universidad de Navarra assigns course numbers to some courses, but not to all. And the course numbers don’t necessarily designate the level of the course. So figuring out appropriate courses to take can be quite difficult. But I’ve decided to forego my frustration and be calm. I know it will work out, and being an uptight American won’t help me while I am there.

A quest for housing in Columbia

Like most things among Type-A J-school students, finding housing in Columbia is a huge competition. Especially when you have a list of specifications as long as ours. We want a nice house, within walking distance of campus for four girls. Of course, we want to location to be safe and quiet, but convenient to the J-School and our sorority houses. We want the house to be adequately nice, preferably new or recently renovated, and to have enough bathroom space to accommodate all of us getting ready.  We want a house with nice windows, convenient parking and adequate closet space.

I’m fairly certain this Barbie Dream House we’ve been imagining doesn’t exist.

And if it does exist, there is no way we are going to live there. Good houses are like family recipes. They are passed down from generation to generation, and safeguarded from the rest of the world. When seniors graduate, they pass these treasures houses down. Certain houses will be in the hands of one group of friends for years. It’s an unbreakable dynasty.

It’s possible that I am being slightly dramatic. But I’m a picky girl when it comes to housing. It will take a lot to top where I currently live. (And unfortunately, I will have to move out next school year).

I live in what I believe to be the best location on campus. My sorority house is on a busy corner and I live in th ecorner room. I decide whether or not to wear a jacket everyday by looking at the window and taking a 5-second survey on what I see other people wearing. I don’t own a printer, because I live within 60 seconds of a Mizzou printer. And as I write this, I am looking out my window watching a guy get pulled over for riding a scooter on closed campus.  (Ha!)

I guess my Barbie Dream House does exist, but it’s also safe to say it’s not someplace that will be able to be easily replicated on East/West campus.

Who wants to be a journalist? Not these guys.

I have a close-knit group of friends that I made at the beginning of freshman year living in Mark Twain. We all came to Mizzou for the J-School, and have all continued in our respective sequences. You could say we are all advocates for Missouri Journalism.

With that in mind, here’s some excerpts of a recent conversation we had on Facebook.

Friend 1: Just a thought I wanted to share: I realized AGAIN that I have no idea what I really wanna do in life. And the more I think about it, the more I realize that it has nothing to do with Journalism … OY VEY! Now what should I do?

Friend 2: join the club.

1: I am thinking in majoring in conversation and schmoozing. What school has that major?

2: Communication. And, honestly, Advertising.

1: So should I just stick it out with this whole J-School thing?

3: I wouldn’t worry. A journalism degree is a good, well-rounded degree that can set you up for a variety of jobs. Knowing how to write and communicate well will never put you at a disadvantage. I’d stick with your degree program, since you are already so far and have done so much work. A degree from this school in this major will not hurt you. You’ll be able to do just fine.

4: Sorry, some of us were doing journalism today and didn’t have a chance to see this til now…my response-welcome to the club, biotch

3: So wait…am I the only one who actually does want to do journalism for the rest of my life?

5: I plan on doing lots of hard-hitting journalism. Like my child’s school’s PTA newsletter, the church bulletin and uploading videos of my kids and dog to my mommy blog.

3: Thanks for the support, friends.

I’m not surprised that my friends and I are experiencing a bout of second thoughts about their career paths, but at the same time it makes me wonder why so many j-schoolers decide so early on that they don’t want to be journalists.

In my group of eight friends, two of them are strat comm majors and they never had any intention to be  All the rest of us are currently working for one or more of the various real-world media outlets through the J-School. But only a few of us are committed to long careers dedicated to journalism. (Me? Right now I’m still fence straddling).

The J-School tells prospective students that within three years of graduation, 90 percent of J-School alums end up in journalism, PR or advertising related jobs. I don’t doubt the accuracy of this statement. But I think it could be misleading. Through anecdotal experience, I would be willing to bet that far more than half of that 90 percent are in PR or communications type jobs. I’d be curious to know how many graduates consider themselves to be journalists.

And I have no doubt that my career path will eventually lead me to a more PR-related job. The pay is typically higher, the hours are more ideal and the workload might cause me to have fewer gray hairs. Heck, my career might even start out int he PR world.

But Friend 3 is right. A journalism degree is a well-rounded degree and communication skills are essential anywhere in the world. But I can’t help but wonder where I’m bound.

I love going to journalism school. I love being a student of journalism. But do I love being a journalist and actually doing journalism?

That’s still to be determined.






It’s a small world

Sometimes I get those journalism rushes. Like the ones you get after a great interview or finding all the data you need in an online database (Thanks, Mark Horvit!). It’s during those moments that I remember why I love journalism.

I had one of those moments this week when I was riding the OATS bus around Columbia. We dropped several passengers off at the MU Adult Day Connection, and the bus driver suggested I go inside and talk to the director of the program, because we had lots of time until the next stop. The director was very gracious and accommodating with our questions. I knew she probably wasn’t going to be a voice in our story, but she was interesting to talk to so we could get further background knowledge of the issue. Still, I wrote down her name and position as we were leaving, so that I could contact her if we had any further questions.

When I get back from the ridealong, I check my email and saw that I have an email from the woman I had interviewed at the Adult Day Connection. Slightly confused, I checked the email and realized it had nothing to do with the conversation from earlier. She and I had been emailing back and forth for several days about a Girl Scout event that my sorority was hosting that she wanted her troop to attend. I had just failed to put the two together until I saw her name on the email. It was a complete coincidence, but it also made me realize what responsibility I have as a journalist.

The woman a the Adult Day Connection wasn’t just a source with a title and job. She has kids and a family. She is a Girl Scout leader. She is a member of the Columbia community as well as someone with a title and a business card. It’s easy to forget that she, like everyone, plays many roles in the community.

I get so caught up in 4804 land that I forget that I am not only reporting one people, but also for people.

It’s just a good feeling.