November 24, 2005

Timely thankfulness

There's snow on the rooftops outside my window. My toes are chilled. Normally I would be shrieking insults at the elements, but I'm strangely at peace this Thanksgiving.

Last night I visited a lady from my church who was diagnosed with cancer this week. It cannot be removed in one of the two spots it was detected.

A small woman in her adjustable bed, she looks fragile upon first inspection. But just the opposite is true. She isn't daunted, afraid or depressed by the news--even when she was served her turkey broth--just one more bowl in her liquid diet for this Thanksgiving, and possibly the next few weeks.

When we rounded her bedside for prayer and closed our eyes, I began to hear the prayer with a renewed hope. I opened my eyes briefly, and drank in the scene: three little women joined together for one moment. With a tightened grasp, I held her small hand, so beautifully wrinkled, and thanked God for each moment we have with those we love. This time, it was with genuine understanding of time's importance.

I've made it no secret that I've lost some people I love this year, and that I miss them very much, but I'm not despairing about it any more. They would not want me to be. I get sad every once and a while, but this year, I'm thanking God for the time I'd spent with each one of them.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends.

May your belt buckles be loosened, your stomachs satisfied, and your hearts filled by your day with family and friends.

And if you get some time, try ingesting a little bit more--my first freelance story with the Trib!

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 9:14 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 21, 2005

Religious Minor shout-out

Introduction to Catholic Visits assessment (A. Cochran):

On one white doorframe in my house, small black marks decorate a wooden panel. From a distance, it looks as if a carpenter made a mistake, but upon further investigation, the marks are accompanied by sisterís name and my own along with a date. Not only indicating our height, these small markers remind us of our development and incite memories of standing on tiptoe to look taller, as we pass through the door today. I think of this semester's Catholic visits in similar terms; mistakes, development, investigation and memories have each marked this ongoing experience of the "other" and myself.

This semester I visited four separate Catholic worship locales: St. Benedict the Moor, St. Mary's Byzantine, St. Emma's Monastery and St. Joseph's Chapel. In addition, I interviewed several Catholics and now I am interviewing for and writing an article on Catholic identity at SHU. Needless to say, I'm getting an interesting understanding of what it is like to be Catholic, and particularly, a Catholic at SHU. It's been an incredible study. I can't wait to work this into my Nicenet.org conversations with Egyptian Muslim students over Christmas break.

It's fascinating. Religious studies is a great minor to pick up at SHU (and no one has paid me to say that :-)). The staff is great and the classes take you places (spiritually, intellectually and physically [the visits]) that I'd probably not go if I hadn't taken it up.

You are asked to think outside yourself; and though it can create a horrible dissonance with your own beliefs, it is great to try on different coats for a while. Some are too small and others are a little baggy, but it's a great accompaniment to your education to try or at least critique another faith or faiths with an open mind. I've found with further study, I'm stronger in my own beliefs because of it, and now I know what I believe and why I believe it.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 9:27 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 19, 2005

Holiday lethargy

"What do you want for Christmas?"

Thoughts of sugar plums and i-Pods and maybe a feather comforter for my bed dance in my head...Then I cringe with self-loathing at my greed.

Sure, I want things for Christmas, but why should I start the season by asking for gifts, when I can so easily give them?

But, much to my dismay, the sales begin so soon and family members -must- buy these things for me. Then have to wrap them, and then finally, sit them under the tree for our subsequent use and disregard after February 1. How uniquely we show our love.

And so you're asking, if you are some sort of alien who has never watched television or picked up a magazine or drove down the highway and seen a billboard, what are these gifts that so endear our hearts and empty our pockets?

-Smelly stuff
January and February are so odorous that no one needs flowers--just stick your head in a crowded room and you have enough to last you four summers...and then some. I think winter epidemics begin from sneezing from these perfumed something-or-others.

-Pajamas
Silk or flannel? It's always flannel if you aren't getting married in my family, and they always have cute characters on them, like Thumper from Bambi. However, the arms shrink. Does it really matter, though? If they don't fit or the arms shrink, only your bedmate (if you have one) will see you. They are -the- safe gift.

-Gadgetry
Take any word, any word at all and insert and "i" in front of it, and you have your 2005 Christmas gift (i.e. i-Pod, i-Tunes gift card, i-Mac). They're taking over the world. I declare!

-Media
Magazine subscriptions, newspaper subscriptions, DVD's, CD's, and any other fun thing that keeps giving long after the last piece of Christmas ham is eaten.

But wait a minute....Thanksgiving isn't even here!

Half of my neighbors have their Christmas stuff up. Stuff--as in those projector thingys outside their houses, icicle lights on every edge of their home's exterior surfaces, and the indomitable inflatable snowmen (or women) in their front yard.

My town is already bedecked for yuletide "Sparkle Season" and the resident Jesus in my town's nativity is already out for display.

What is going on? And why do I feel such a compulsion to take a sharp fork out and poke everyone's inflatable snowmen? :-D

It's because we're celebrating too fast and too early. Whatever happened to anticipation and savoring? What ever happened to "thanking" before the "getting"?

And that's exactly what Christmas is to so many people--the pursuit of things we have neither the money to pay for or the time to do. Don't we do enough of that during the year? Do we have to end with the same theme?

Well, in this flight of 190 mph holiday fancy, maybe I should skip Christmas and head onto my resolution: I will not ask for things I know I cannot reciprocate. I will reciprocate--for real this year.

We all want to do something like feed people at a homeless shelter or act in a drama at church or even put a little more in the offering plate at church for a charitable cause, but never actually do it. Why? Because we look forward to gifts under the tree, instead of in own hearts. It's about time I do something about it--with this season.

And if your snowman gets poked by a five-pronged object, it wasn't me.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 12:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 6, 2005

A journalist's lessons:
Newswriting presentation November 7, 2005

This entry is an outline for a talk I will give to Dennis Jerz's Newswriting (EL227) class on November 7, 2005.

I'd like to talk today about my employment experiences working as a journalist for different news organizations, particularly, the cool things I've gotten to do, how I've grown, how I've been jaded, where I, and most journalists need to develop, and some of the ways to develop in this reputed bad press press business.

About me...
My journalistic past, present and future:

  • Where I've been: high school intern (11th grade) at my hometown newspaper, The Mount Pleasant Journal.
  • Off to the Hill (Seton Hill, that is): I joined the Setonian as a freshman contributor, became a staff writer, then was promoted to news/online editor in the 2004-2005 year.
  • Summer 2005 (May-August): I applied and was accepted as an investigative reporting intern at the Greensburg Tribune-Review. My work is proudly on display.
  • Currently, I am the news editor of the Setonian.
  • Where am I going?: Um, trying to figure that out. I'm freelancing for the Trib...we'll see where that goes.

    There's a job fair on November 10, 2005. I'm attending. :-D I like NYC and where the Setonian has pointed me: The New York Times.

So today's about me--where I've been as a journalist. My experiences as a journalist on the job for various organizations. Here goes...

High points of Setonian reporting:

Internship tops:

As an investigative reporter, I didn't regularly cover the everyday newsroom stories (i.e. obituaries, fires, car crashes, etc.). I was, for the majority of the summer in an air-conditioned office with the senior writers on the staff.

It was a great position. My former editor pushed up the hierarchy for me to get some of the best stories, and I did get a great deal of them.

Learning landmarks:

  • First article: 'Truth in Music' stalls in committee
    -learning legal
    -Pennsylvania civics lesson: When is the PA session in? Why do legislators get paid so much for being in session only a few months per year? :-)

  • Court reporting: Three stories involving court coverage:
    Trial begins for parents accused in infant's death
    Coroner defends hypothermia finding in infant's death
    Children and vehicles: A tragedy in the making

    Court reporting is difficult for the novice. Defendants, lawyers, names, titles, issues, laws in question, evidence... It is mind-boggling; however, with practice, it can be formulaic.

    Recommendations:
    -Don't go it alone. Chances are, you won't get a chance to go alone as an intern. The Trib sent out my editor with me on my first assignment, and I paired up with David Hunt on the second article.
    -Take a recorder.
    -Don't write down everything--it's okay if you miss an amazing quote. The lawyers have enough rhetorical ammo; you'll get another one.

  • Ticking off the PA governor: Rail line reopens in Indiana County

    Asking the tough questions is your job as a reporter, but you have to keep those tough questions fair.

    Often, people can't separate you from your work, so you must assess your affiliations in order to keep yourself neutral. I've struggled with this over the past few years. In order to keep myself clear (to a certain degree) from conflict of interest issues, I don't join campus politically-affiliated or associated organizations. That's not only my decision, but also the guideline given by the Trib.

    Though you may be able to keep your affiliations separate in your mind (or think you can), your fairness in covering certain topics such as a political party, an issue such as abortion, or a sports team or university office, can be affected.

    Though you may think you don't have a bias, it still can exist. It's especially seen in the topics you approach and the questions you ask during interviews.

Feedback:

  • Sometimes it's great. (letters of praise, letters to the editor)
  • Sometimes it really hurts. (letters of disdain and calls for corrections)

Formulaic vs. Creativity:

Formulaic stories have a definite structure. They are usually constructed in strict inverted pyramid style or mimic the previous days' stories, for example, obituaries.

Creative journalism? To some people it sounds like an oxymoron, but to me it isn't. It's even more challenging than creative writing because you have to take someone's real story of extremes: pain or despair or elation, and make it comprehensible for a public who has not been through the same situation. Non-fiction is often more bizarre than that Kurt Vonnegut or Shakespeare drama on your bookcase. You are responsible as the conduit to make everyone who reads your work say, "I understand".

These stories have a definite formulaic or creative structure or a mix. Though I like to think I'm creative in everything I do, there are some stories that adhere to a certain structure, as set forth by the organization, tradition and the type of story it is.

So, what do you think these stories demonstrate: formula, creativity, a mix of both elements or something else?

Life's a beach

Well-drilling owner always put family first

Sony worker interprets when Japanese bicyclist hurt

Jerry Springer's (ahem) Amanda Cochran's final thought:
I've heard it said you either have ink flowing through your veins or not. I do, and there's no refuting it. You may not be interested in journalism, and that's fine, because if I get a paper cut, it's a lot harder for Shout to get it out for me.

But seriously, journalistic basics are foundational for a critical thinking about everything. By studying journalism, you carry with you tools for assessing arguments, and a dogged determination to find the truth in yourself and in others.

I love this work, but it is work. Living up to the standards of this difficult, competitive field is taxing. I have a long, long way to go.

Realize that not everyone's a good journalist, and that's okay, but everyone can benefit from the mindset of one.

Many thanks to Dennis Jerz and his class for the invitation to speak.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 4:37 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 1, 2005

Something about this somewhere

From Forgotten NY: You'd Never Believe You're in NYC:

Sheep and goats in Queens? Waterfalls in The Bronx? Homes on stilts? They can all be found in the five boroughs. This page will point you in the right direction to find scenes you'd think you'd never see in New York City.

This is like Ripley's for my favorite city! I can't wait to go back to New York and find some of these beautiful wrecks and picturesque settings.

Though these pics do highlight the not-so-nice areas of New York, they also offer a glimpse into the heyday of Americana. Case-in-point: Freedomland.

I think I like these broken down buildings and spray painted facades because I see their possibilities. Entrepreurial or simply a hopeless architectural romantic? I'll let you decide.

There's something about somewhere--and New York is that somewhere--every time.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 10:23 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack