Friday, May 21, 2010

B.A. in Life: My 3rd College Degree

As I reflect back on my semester in DC and the reality sinks in that I’m about to enter my last year in college, I come to the following conclusion…

College really is one of the greatest times in your life.

Even when it’s the worst time, it’s still the greatest. Short of killing someone, all of the mistakes you make can be chalked up to lessons learned. From the sleepless nights spent cramming information into your brain that you’ll never retain, to the sleepless nights spent drinking alcohol you’ll wish your body won’t retain in the morning, you’ll never feel more alive than the four (or for some five) years you have in college.

Though we all choose a major, or two majors in my case, I’ve begun to realize that what you study doesn’t necessarily dictate what your career will be.  Everyone who jumps through enough hoops, some more successfully than others, will march to Pomp and Circumstance and leave with a shiny piece of paper declaring them fit for an entry-level position in the work field of their choice. But perhaps the most important thing you’ll learn in college is what the diploma doesn’t say.

While no one declares a major in ‘Life’, life inevitably declares itself the most important lesson in your college course plan. 

Like any other college degree, the B.A. in Life has several stages of knowledge to impart upon you. At the most fundamental level is the basic life skill set. These essential tools for survival are the academic equivalent of the general education requirements. And like mandatory general education requirements, the earlier you get these lessons under your belt and out of the way, the better off you are. These lessons include but are not limited to: how to make macaroni and cheese with beer, and when do those leftovers really go bad; how to get coffee stains out of a shirt, and how to wash your clothes so they don’t all come out a mild shade of blue; what to do when you get the virus that’s been going around your frat house, and what medicines mixed with alcohol might actually kill you; how to sneak into class when you’re late, and how to set enough alarms on your phone so you occasionally show up on time; how to ask for an extension on an assignment, and how to get the assignment done on time in the first place so you don’t have to ask for an extension; and how to pack up your life and move to another state (or country), and then pack it back up several months later and do it all over again.

These basic life skills turn us into self-sufficient human beings capable of surviving at the simplest level of existence on our own. Most of these lessons are things our parents have been trying to teach us since Kindergarten, but like learning how to drive with a permit, you don’t actually pay attention to what you have to do until your parent is no longer in the car telling you what to do. As a result, we learn through mistakes.

In one of my first solo-driving experiences after getting my license, I found myself driving down the wrong side of the road, head-on into traffic, parting the red sea of cars crossing the intersection. Through some act of God or supernatural force I didn’t die and wasn’t arrested, and you can bet I’ve never made that mistake twice.  This is how most of the basic lessons are learned in the lower division classes for the B.A. in Life: trial and error.

This is the only major where not only are books not required for learning, they also don’t exist. As college students, we have all the tools for learning these lessons ourselves stored somewhere upstairs in the brain filed under “Useless information my parents told me that I might need to know one day”. It’s unfortunate that in order to activate some of these dormant lessons, we must associate a near-death experience with them to have a light-bulb moment of understanding. It’s like touching a hot stove when you were a kid, mom probably told you not to do it, but you just had to check it out for yourself to be sure. So yes, mom might have mentioned something about mixing beer with coconut rum and tequila, but the hangover that made you feel like you were going to die the next morning sure drove the point home.

Once you start to pass your general education requirements, you begin to distinguish yourself as an adult and scoff at the younger generations of children who come after you. But the learning has only just begun. Next you excel on to the B.A. equivalent of lower division classes in the major of Life, geared toward growing your social and mental skills.

These classes require you to find the right answers to questions like: what’s the best way to confront my roommate about her obnoxious snoring habits and wretched body odor; how often is too often to communicate with my family and when is it advantageous to tell a white lie about what I’ve been doing; how do I impress my boss without looking like a suck up; how do I write an essay for a professor who’s views are diametrically opposed to my own; what’s the appropriate amount of time to wait before texting the boy from the bar last night and how do I figure out his name if he’s just stored in my phone as ‘boy from bar’; is it wise to give that jerk in my discussion a piece of my mind or could he potentially be crazy and bring a weapon to the next group session; and how do I tell my best friend she needs to dump her boyfriend because I saw him hooking up with someone else last night.

The frustrating thing about these lower division classes is that there is never a right answer. Unlike the general education classes, there’s no multiple choice questions with clear answer selections such as do you wash your white clothes in A) hot water or B) cold water. These classes require you to think critically and write well-thought out essays. Like any college paper, a well-developed and supported thesis will earn a good grade, no matter what the thesis may be. In other words, you will never know the right answer because right answers to these life questions don’t exist. The trick is to see the situation from all perspectives, stick to your instincts, make a decision, don’t look back, and hope like hell that your professor (or boss, friend, boyfriend, girlfriend, parent, colleague, sibling, etc.) understands why you did what you did. Managing the relationships (personal, professional, and otherwise) in your life is one of the core concepts in the B.A. of Life, and arguably one of the harder skills you will learn to develop in college, in any of your majors.

Finally, the B.A. in Life really puts you to the test with its equivalent of upper division major classes that develop your emotional skills and maturity. This is done gradually over time, and tested continuously in stressful, challenging, and potentially dangerous situations. These upper divisions tests happen at those “fork in the road” moments; the ones where you realize you could be making a decision that impacts your future. Sometimes tears, verbal confrontations, and/or physical altercations occur during these tests. If you come out a stronger person, you pass. The key is to minimize regrets in these moments where crisis mode takes over your brain and causes your body to want to act on impulse. If you find yourself yearning for a simpler day when the toughest things you had to face were on the playground and in time-out, you are most likely facing an upper division challenge of your emotional endurance and maturity.

The best part of the B.A. in Life is that everyone who graduates with a degree in another major, also passes through the major in life. It is physically impossible to go through the four years that make up your college experience, and not come out a different person. College changes you, for the better and for the worse, but hopefully more of the former. And that’s the B.A. in Life. It’s your complimentary degree from the university of your choice. Graduating from this phase in your life is always bittersweet. Bitter because you’ll never get another chance to go-back and be in those moments again, sweet because they have all become a part of who you are.

If you let it, the B.A. in Life will teach you everything you need to know to jump in the ocean of life and stay afloat; and certainly as you continue living you’ll learn how to doggy paddle, swim, and maybe even back stroke. Soon enough I, like every other college graduate that’s come before me, will have to take off the water wings, dive in, and see where the current takes me. It’s a scary thing, but we’re more ready than we know.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Road Less Travelled...

Hoping it's going to make all the difference. With one week of classes left I am swamped with work. So here is a photo update, a more profound blog to come shortly. 

Had a wonderful chat with my congresswoman, the Honorable Shelley Berkley, in her office on the Hill. She is truly an incredible woman and politician. Hoping to potentially work on her campaign this summer back home in Las Vegas.

Met Senator Barbara Boxer, one of two of California's incredible female Democratic Senators. She was witty, sweet, and very intelligent. 

Also met the other CA Senator, Dianne Feinstein at a early morning California Constituent Breakfast on the Hill. Unfortunately she was late for a meeting so we couldn't snag an official pic with her.

Outside the Supreme Court on the day Justice Stevens announces he will retire. All the news crews were staked out just to the left of this picture doing sporadic live shots. 

Inside the Supreme Court right before hearing Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg speak, probably one of the coolest things I've done thus far in DC. The woman is living history and I must say I underestimated how "with it" she still is at her age... What an incredibly wise and experienced lady. 

She looks very old and fragile in photos but spoke candidly with us about her job, her life, her time in college and law school, what she enjoys doing in her down time, and what kind of replacement Justice she'd like to see Obama pick when Stevens steps down. This part killed me because I knew that CNN, MSNBC, NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX etc. were all staked out outside the building and here I was not only inside, but hearing Justice Ginsburg candidly talk about the news of Stevens just a few feet away from me. Part of me wanted to secretly record it on my camera and give it to someone to put on air, but I figured there are a few places you just don't mess around with sneak attack cameras and the Supreme Court is probably one of those places. 

Friday, April 9, 2010

Mission Accomplished

You know that sensation you get when you successfully complete something you set out to do despite the odds feeling stacked against you, the feat seeming near impossible, and a thousand doubts in your mind telling you that all your hard work could potentially end in failure?

Affirmation? Attainment? Achievement? (lots of 'A' words)

Whatever you'd call feels so damn good

Rewind to mid January when I showed up at NBC for the first time for my internship orientation. The producer gave us a tour, went through the rules and handbook, and did his whole shpeel about how to make the most out of our internships. And then he said something that may have registered as little more than a fun fact to the other interns, but sounded more like challenge to me. And there's nothing that I love more than a challenge. 

The producer told us that one of their previous interns had even done his own story and gotten it on the web, but to his knowledge, he'd been the only intern in the history of the DC Bureau to do so. 

Read as: Jacquie, your mission should you choose to accept it is to become the second ever intern in the history of NBC's DC bureau to get a story on the web. You have three months. No pressure. 

And then life happened (as it always seems to). Days turned into weeks turned into months and then one day we had a "check-in, see how your internships are going" lunch intern meeting with the bureau chief, ie: the boss man. I got there earlier than all the other interns and sat down for a good five minute one-on-one with the boss where he asked me what I wanted to do, how my internship was going, etc. I told him I wanted to be on air and he said, "What have you done here thus far that's going to help you achieve that?" Realizing that my answer to his question was "nothing", and hearing the boss man subsequently kick my ass into gear, took the challenge to a whole new level.

So I racked my brain for story ideas. What can I shoot myself? What would they want an intern to do a story about that no one has yet to cover? What kind of access am I capable of getting myself? And somehow the cherry cuisine story came to me. I pitched it, they loved it, and then I realized, "Okay now I actually have to do this thing." 

My producer checked me out a camera, equipment bag, and tripod that literally weighed almost as much as I did, and at the very least was way heavier than I'm capable of carrying. I later found out that most of the equipment bags have wheels on them but conveniently those were all checked out when I got my camera so I got the monster backpack to lug around. The day I checked out the camera I walked from work to the metro at a snail's pace looking like a hunchback. I woke up the next morning in so much shoulder pain I actually had to buy some Bengay for my shoulders just so I could hold the camera without crying. From that moment on I decided I was taking cabs everywhere else I needed to go with the equipment. 

So I had the equipment, now I needed a story. I called a few restaurants on the list of 70+ that I had found online as having cherry menus for the festival and set up some shoots/interviews with their PR people. I didn't lie about who I was, but I also didn't offer up the whole truth. I told them I was with NBC4 and would like to include their restaurant in my piece on cherry cuisine (truth). I did not however say that I was an intern, this was the first story that I had ever done for them, and I didn't even know how to use the camera (unnecessary details). When the PR people cc'ed me on the emails to their restaurant managers and chefs saying that NBC4 would be on location to shoot, and cited me as the "producer", I started to panic that these people were going to see right through my inexperience and back out of the shoots when I showed up.

Then I realized I probably had several thousand dollars worth of NBC's equipment in my possession so someone over there must believe me. I woke up the morning of my shoots, dressed the part, put on my NBC credentials badge, grabbed my gear, and told myself, "Think big to be big." That day, I was a producer for NBC4, and no one thought differently.

Fast-forward through exhausting days of shooting over Easter weekend when everyone else was out enjoying the beautiful weather, going into work three extra days this week on my own time to digitize my tape, verbate the interviews, write the script, edit the piece (on editing software I'd never used or even heard of before, I taught myself in a day), write the print story, and get the nice people at WRC to post it to the web. When I saw my name, my footage, my story, my hard work on the front page of NBC Washington's website (it ran there the whole first day it was posted), everything was worth it.

Mission accomplished. I showed the story to the MSNBC corespondent I intern for who was extremely impressed that I took it upon myself to do something like that. She forwarded the link to my story on to the bureau chief and a few other producers in the building. One of whom sent it to the producers at the New York City Bureau and another who replied back to all in the email saying I was going to run that building one day. The three restaurants I shot for my piece all saw it and sent me emails telling me they loved it, saying they were going to post it on their websites, telling me to please consider featuring them in future food pieces I do, and even asking my personal address to write me a hand-written thank you. I was on cloud nine all day long.

My story was a simple local food piece, well-done but not without technical errors (using the equipement for the first time by myself and editing on software I was unfamiliar with resulted in some amateur audio and shooting errors)...but it was out there, on for the whole world to see. And all the positive feedback I was getting from it at the bureau was affirmation. Affirmation I had chosen the right major, affirmation I was heading in the right direction, affirmation that at 20 years old I was on my way to a achieving my dreams, affirmation that all my hard work wasn't going un-noticed. And boy does that affirmation feel good. And then my corespondent said, "Start working on your next one." And that's how it goes. Pitch, shoot, write, edit, publish, repeat. And I can't wait to get paid for it.

Or watch my story here:

View more news videos at:

Saturday, March 27, 2010

White House

Our Semester in Washington Program group had an early morning appointment to tour the White House. So I woke up extra early to curl my hair, put on a nice outfit, and get ready. Then I realized it was pouring rain outside and I couldn't find my umbrella. Great. So I grabbed a Washington Post on the way out the building and used it as a makeshift head covering. Who says newspapers are worthless? By the time I got to the metro as pictured below, my hair was dry but the rest of my body was soaking wet...I guess that's why people use umbrellas and not newspapers. 

So after waiting an hour or so outside in the pouring rain, we finally get inside the White House. I had already taken a tour on a previous trip to DC and we also were in the East Wing for class earlier this semester, so I was itching to see something more than the same tour route of the bottom floor everyone gets taken on. I really really wanted to see the kitchen actually. 

As you walk through the different rooms (state room, library room, yellow room, etc) there's a secret serviceman in each room standing there answering question about the room and about the White House. Granted they're not always doing this kind of museum curator-esque work but when they are, it's easy to forget they're secret service. They just kind of look like security guards, standing there making sure no one touches anything. Mental note: fight the urge to refer to them as security guards. They are VERY offended by this. One of them tried to start a conversation with me so I played along and eventually it led to me asking how cool it was to just hang out in the White House all the time. He responded non-challantly saying it was just another day at work and not that great. So I said, "Well I'm sure there are worse places to be a security guard." He looked disgusted and exited the room. Oops. I tried to dig myself out of that hole but failed miserably, and then got a lecture from another secret service man on all the training they go through that makes them cooler than security guards. Lesson Learned.

Next we had an appointment to meet with someone who works in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. There are about 30 or so people that work in the East Wing, 40 or so that work in the West Wing (the President and his personal staff mostly), and then everyone else in the executive branch, ie: the other few hundred people who serve on all the Councils, the Press staff, the interns, etc. all work in the EEOB (pictured below). 

If you go around to the other side it's actually completely under construction on the exterior because apparently it caught fire in 2007. I guess three years later they're finally getting around to fixing it? Then I walked home...yes I live that close to the White House. Sometimes I forget that. 

FIVE WEEKS LEFT! Still waiting for this "beautiful spring weather" everyone keeps promising...I'm starting to regret taking home my winter coat and shoes over spring break. 

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Little Bit of Everything

Dear Readers,

It's been too long. I just returned from a relaxing spring break trip back to the West Coast and realized how long it's been since I've blogged. I don't have anything necessarily profound to say tonight, or rather I have too many profound things to say and not enough time and energy to address them appropriately. So in the interest of bringing everyone up to speed on my DC excursion and falling back into the swing of regular blogging, here is an assortment of random thoughts, pictures, and links...enjoy (or stop reading now and pretend like you have a life).

Before I left DC I visited Politico...

You only have to take the metro ONE stop to get there from my campus in DC to Virginia! On the West Coast it's definitely not that easy to travel state to state. Although I must say it's a slightly awkward place to have a state welcome sign on the wall of a dingy metro stop...

My fellow USC students and I also attended a reception on the hill the week before spring break that was held by the USC Office of Federal Relations to honor President Sample. For those of you non-Trojans, our esteemed President Dr. Sample is resigning this year so it was fun to meet him before he did so, especially in DC! And as always it's great to see the Trojan network in full many alumni and trustees out here in DC! 

When I got home to Las Vegas, I got the official picture in the mail of myself and Senator Reid that a photographer took at the constituent breakfast I attended at the Capitol a few weeks ago...

I heard over break that Spring had Sprung and was expecting full well to return to sunshine and cherry trees and happiness. I was disillusioned. Apparently sunshine and warm weather is not a prerequisite for cherry trees to bloom. It's been miserably cold and rainy, so really the only difference is now I have pretty trees to look at while I walk to work/class cursing the damn east coast weather, fighting with the umbrella in the wind to not take flight. I felt like Mary Poppins today walking back from work, I had the coat, the scarf, the big tote bag full of unnecessary and random items, and an umbrella that was seemingly lifting me off the ground.

In the past I've been kind of against twitter as I saw no point in it and then this semester I started using it out of necessity. It's kind of crucial to stay in the loop with politics 24/7. Iv'e found that removing myself from the news cycle for even one day makes you feel like you've been out of the loop for months when you return. So now I follow all the major news organizations, all the MSNBC reporters I work with (always good to know what your boss is tweeting), all the political prognosticators, niche political journalists, and political fact checkers. Today I even tweeted 4 times! 

This brings me to my next random topic: usage of the word "Wonky"
I can honestly say I'd never used the word in casual conversation before coming out to DC and now I find it to be a regular tool in my vocabulary. People out here involved in the political world in one way or other take great pride in calling themselves "wonky" when they want to self-identify with an elite uber political, intellectual crowd that the average person would find boring and have trouble understanding or keeping up with. In some ways I find it demeaning when someone is talking politics with you and stops to apoligize for being "too wonky", as if I'm not politically savvy enough to understand them. Of course I attribute this sentiment to my own wonkiness as I doubt most people would find that offensive let alone have any interest in participating in these kinds of conversations. As a side note, today I found an incredibly hilarious and satirical political blog called appropriately "The Wonkette" which I liken to the Onion but for the wonky crowd. 

This brings me to my last random thought of the day...Sarah Palin. How she manages to still be politically relevant I can't figure out. And as much as I loathe her as a woman, a wannabe political figure, and a human being, I must admit: she is a damn smart celebrity. Consult the Wonkette for a snarky look at Sarah Palin's latest ventures: Getting her own Television show on the Discovery Channel about Alaska, and campaigning for her old buddy Senator McCain. 

PS: Healthcare (there I said it) 

Friday, March 12, 2010

Glenn Beck Probably Would Hate Me If He Knew Me

A special thanks to my dear friend Rachel for sharing this hilarious video with me. Worth sending around to you friends...

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Real Deal (Almost)

One of the classes everyone takes in the Semester in Washington program is a Practicum in Legislative Advocacy or Electoral Politics. I along with six others chose to be in the legislative advocacy practicum that would spend the semester working on a piece of legislation called the Graduation for All Act. This is a bill that was passed through the House but not the Senate, so it is our job this semester to simulate that process of passing the Graduation for All Act through the Senate. 

The first step of passing a bill through the Senate is usually to get it through the appropriate committee or sub-committee. In the case of an education bill such as ours, it would be vetted through the Senate HELP Committee (Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee). My team, along with our professor, has been preparing for a mock hearing (our midterm) that took place this week. The hearing took place in a real Senate Committee room, although it was actually the Veterans Affairs Committee room, not the HELP Committee room. It became pretty real to us when our professor showed us which chair Obama used to always sit in when he was on the Veterans Affairs Committee in his days in the Senate.

My Testimony as the State Superintendent of the Nevada Department of Education

My team's other testimonies: Dr. Wolfe's and Mr. Soto's. 

It was as authentic an experience as one could get without actually providing testimony to the Senate itself. There were three panelists who all worked in real jobs on the Hill, posing as the Chairman of the HELP Committee, the Ranking Republican member, and another committee member. After myself and my two teammates presented our initial testimonies, the panelists asked us some pretty tough questions.

The Q&A Session (split up into two parts)

A special thanks to my amazing mother, the woman whom my character was based off of (plus or minus a few titles and accolades). Through this course and exercises like these I'm beginning to realize why education reform is so important to her. If nothing else, I'm definitely getting better prepared for when she decides to run for School Board and I get to manage her campaign as promised :)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

So Much Spin My Head's Spinning

It's late here and I should be asleep but I had to get out of bed and blog because my mind was restless thinking about some of the things a guest lecturer said in my class this evening. In the shower tonight after class (I do all my best thinking in the shower, I wish I could blog in there...someone please invent a waterproof laptop) I couldn't stop thinking about one thing this speaker said:
Perception is Reality.

Certainly not a truly novel concept, but I had never really thought about to what degree there is no absolute reality in life. I apologize in advance for the admittedly heavy nature of this blog, I'll try not to get too philosophical here on you. But this is what I realized...

So most people know what advertising and marketing is, and most educated people understand the concept of propaganda. It's no secret that people are trying to sell us things every second of every day...just look to the right of this text and you'll see ads on my blog. Anyways, it's everywhere. Some subtle like product placement, some not so subtle like that Head On commercial.

But products aren't the only things being marketed, people market other people to us as well. From agents to publicists to PR reps to political campaign teams, if you want people to think or feel a certain way about you, there is someone you can hire to accomplish that.

We are even being sold intangible objects, such as ideas and issues. Smoking is bad. The only way to prevent pregnancy is abstinence. You need to be counted in the Census. Climate Change is a liberal myth. Exercise is good for you. Jesus will save your soul. We need comprehensive healthcare reform.

How do you sort out the truths from the untruths? What's right? Who's not actually who they say they are? Is that really good for me?

There is so much spin in our world it can make your head spin to think about it. Literally everything around you, what you eat, what you're wearing, what you're doing, where you are, who you're with, how you feel about the topics I blog on, are all decisions you made either consciously or unconsciously because of how you perceived something to be based on how someone else spun it. Perception is Reality.

Sure I have strong beliefs, but I understand that at the end of the day those things are just that...MY beliefs. They are not the truth. They are also not a lie. To me they are right, to others they are wrong. And this is where politics come into play. I swear there's a reason to all this rambling.

Everyone involved in politics from the politicians themselves to the campaign teams, the legislative staffers, lobbyists, trial lawyers, consultants, federal agencies and departments, advocacy groups, coalitions, non-profits, all the way down to the media and even the voters themselves, everyone is just trying to do the same thing: and that's spin their issue, their person, their idea. Make their perception your perception and hence your reality.

The more time I spend out here in DC, the more I start to feel like politics is a game for grown ups. There is no right and wrong like there was back in kindergarten. 2+2 doesn't have to equal 4 if you can convince enough people that it really equals 5. Democrats or Republicans, liberals or conservatives, tea partiers or blue dogs, pro-lifers or pro-choicers, FOX or MSNBC...neither one is ever right and the other wrong. BUT there is always a winner and always a loser. What perception is your reality? Think about it and prepare to get dizzy.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

That Million Dollar Question

What do you want to be when you grow up?

As a child, everyone has an answer to this seemingly simple question: a fireman, a doctor, a painter, a movie star, or in my case an Olympic figure skater. 

As a teenager, you realize your childhood response was anywhere from silly to unlikely to absurdly ridiculous. If I remember correctly, one of my younger sisters wanted to be a "ballerina veterinarian" when she was younger. Last time I checked, there wasn't much demand for these kinds of multi-talented professionals in the workforce, although who knows what kind of jobs might be created with the newest jobs bill. 

And then you get to college and the question becomes something your parents are paying you to find the answer to, and fast. I can't tell you how many times I've answered this question, or struggled to answer this question in the last 3 years, and more specifically the last two months I've spent here in Washington. I'm not sure if I find myself confronting this question at an unusually high frequency because complete strangers are legitimately interested in my life, or because this question has somehow become the one and only socially acceptable ice-breaker when interacting with a college student, but I do know that the more I'm forced to answer it, the more frustrated I become with myself and my inability to do so. 

Now I would consider myself far more apt to answer this question than a lot of my peers. I didn't come into college "undecided" on a major, and though I did switch out a musical theater minor sophomore year for a double major in political science, I have felt pretty sure since day one that broadcast journalism was the right college major choice for me. The internships, the extracurriculars, the classes, the trips, pretty much everything I have done in the last few years has solidified this, as well as developed and strengthened my interest in politics. At 20 years old, I've done more than most to find out what I like and what I don't. But when it comes to supplying that simple answer to the million dollar question that everyone is looking for, I just can't do it. In fact, from here on out, I refuse to do it. 

Isn't it enough to know what my interests are and be open-minded to the prospect of any career that marries those interests, the more creatively the better? I think we do ourselves a disservice by forcing ourselves to answer the million dollar question with a firm, unequivocal answer. The truth is, we are living in one of the most exciting periods in history where careers are transitioning and adapting every day to utilize new technologies and innovations, and meet the ever-changing demands of our increasingly diverse society. A huge percentage of Americans are working in jobs today that didn't even exist, or have a name when those individuals were in college and trying to answer the million dollar question. 

Journalism is one of these fields that's currently undergoing a huge transition phase. Everyone who complains about the demise of journalism and laments the extinction of the newspaper and bemoans the prevalence of the web and new media replacing the nightly news broadcast; these are the people who had simple and firm answers to the million dollar question. Change is happening, progress is the future, and to anyone who doesn't embrace it and jump along for the ride, I thank you, because I'll have your job one day.  

Furthermore, a lifetime is a really really long time. My mother has transitioned careers several times already in her life, and she jokes that she's still trying to figure out what she wants to be when she grows up. Many studies have shown that my generation will have more career changes in our lifetimes than any previous generation. It's now not only feasible, but likely that what we start out doing won't be the career we'll have for the rest of our lives, or for the rest of our twenties. 

And finally, life is unpredictable. Jenny Sanford probably had no idea she'd become the First Lady of South Carolina by ways of marrying a man who'd later become the Governor. And she probably had even less of an inclination that she'd write a book about her husband's affair that blew up in the media and captivated the country. I'm fairly certain she didn't ever answer 'Novelist' when asked the million dollar question. But things like that happen, life happens. The best opportunities in life are the ones you can't foresee, plan, or answer in a question, so why limit myself?

From now on when people ask me what I want to be, I plan to respond, "Successful and Happy"

Friday, February 19, 2010

Good Guys, Bad Guys

In one of my first posts this semester I talked about how corrupt the world of politics is and how journalism is the first line of defense that protects the American people by way of filtering out all the "grade A bullshit".  I've always harbored this sense of allegiance to reporting over politics, maintaining that I was on the more respectable side of the divide. Don't get me wrong, I've long believed certain media appendages (cough FOX news cough) stifle and complicate the political process more so than they aide it along; but I never truly saw it from the other side until today.

This morning we went to the DCCC aka D-Trip (The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee) and spoke with a young girl who works in incumbency protection. Essentially, she aides incumbent Democrats get re-elected in their local congressional House races. Like nearly everyone working in DC politics, she's had a slew of jobs in her short professional career ranging from lobbyist for a non-profit, to working in local electoral politics, to working on the failed primary campaign of one of Martha Coakley's Democratic opponents, to of course working in the DCCC. Throughout the whole Q&A session you could just tell how much she loves what she does and how passionate she is about working in politics, and she said something to us at the end that really resonated with me...

She said something along the lines of, "I want to be clear: everyone thinks politics is so dirty, but it's absolutely not. These public servants truly are incredible people who really do want to do good things for people, but they work in a tough climate with even tougher media coverage." She talked about how all you hear in the news is coverage of the stymied healthcare bill, but no one's mentioning how the House has passed over 200 bills already, many of which had strong bipartisan support. She emphasized how the media creates a huge disconnect between reality and rhetoric, which obviously makes her job of getting incumbents re-elected an uphill battle.

For the first time I really did start to consider the disproportionate emphasis the media gives to failed legislation in comparison to successful legislation...all the "less sexy" bills so to speak that were passed when the country was distracted by the healthcare debate...200+ important laws that have positively impacted us in ways we don't even realize.

Rewind a few weeks back to when we met with a couple members from the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, a small oversight and investigation team composed of legislative experts and lawyers who epitomize all that is good and righteous about politics. Unbeknownst to us, their investigations make our lives safer and healthier, and protect us from consumer fraud. They told us about a case they'd just finished that stopped this huge ring of aggressive sales tactics on the internet that had tricked tons of innocent and clueless consumers into losing literally billions of dollars through pop-up ads. Another speaker we had earlier this week was a Special Assistant to the President on the Domestic Policy Council. She talked about all the little projects her team works on that also get absolutely no media coverage, things like Obama's pet project on Responsible Fatherhood. When have you EVER heard about these things? You just don't.

Meeting all these people involved in politics and public policy out here in DC is truly a wake-up call. There are SOO many people out here who have dedicated their lives to public service, and really are working hard for us, and in many ways are quite successful. Sure there seems to be a myriad of overwhelming problems the government hasn't yet been able to fix, but why is this ALL we ever hear about? The system absolutely could be working more smoothly, I'm sure everyone in it wishes it was, but the truth is it's not as gridlocked as the media portrays it be. And I get it, I'm a broadcast journalism student so I know that government success is not as juicy of a story as government failure, constituent anger, and partisan cat fights; but it seems to me that the media does an extraordinarily poor job of accurately reflecting the truths of federal government. The only way to really know what goes on out here in DC is to see it first hand, all sides of it, and form your own opinions.

I still believe journalists have the ability to be the Good Guys and often times are, but for the first time I'm starting to see how they (we) can also be the Bad Guys, and keeping myself open to the possibility of switching teams.