Day 24: Tangled up connections

I’ve officially cleared my writer’s block, and am now stuck with a problem I’ve grown accustomed to – a tiny word limit. It was a long, difficult process, but I finally got my creative juices flowing and started telling Judy’s story in a way that didn’t make me want to throw my laptop out the window. It’s still far from perfect, but I feel better knowing I’ve at least made the word limit (and then some).

I only had one class today – Chinese at 11:30 a.m. In those three and a half hours I was awake before class, I received over 10 emails, most of which were from Judy. If you’ll recall, I have a lot of trouble with contacting sources for my articles. Either I can never reach anybody, or they call me in the middle of class when I can’t possibly take the call. Well Judy is the exact opposite! I asked her for two contacts, and she brings me six! Normally, I would be ecstatic, but this lady takes her job very seriously. She’s talked to each and every one of these people before “e-introducing” me to them via email. Now half a dozen people are waiting for me to call them and ask them all about their small businesses, which is just great since I don’t have anything else to do with my life other than making long distance phone calls.

I don’t want to make Judy look bad, because a lot of these people are her friends and colleagues. And yet I don’t really want to talk to all these people. They’re not even relevant to my article! I suppose I’ll end up making a few quick calls tomorrow, maybe wheedle my way out of what could be long and lengthy phone calls (which reminds me of another story . . . but I’ll come back to it) about irrelevant topics by asking simple “How do you know Judy? How would you describe her?” questions. I’m pretty sure I’ll need them one day. Heck, I might even need them for my feature coming up in November! But right now, I’m a little preoccupied with the profile. If this counts as networking, let me be the first to say it’s very messy business. My inbox is overflowing and I now have to do six mini profiles (I can’t just call people out of thin air without knowing a little about them first! I’ll end up asking stupid questions like, “So what’s your business called?” and it’ll be goodbye journalist credibility.)

So networking courtesy of Judy aside, I also got about 10 emails from Carleton (which I learned in Chinese class today is ka’er dun in Mandarin). The newspaper’s looking for more writers and I got an offer to write a features story. I know I pride myself on never turning down a story, and I was so excited that the features editor was holding not one, not two, but three different stories for me to choose from. Everything was so perfect, except for the timing. I have a feeling I’m going to be extremely busy this week working on that profile, and possibly having a stroke after Thursday’s journalism class (which I will explain later).

So that is how I turned down my first story. I suppose there’s a first time for everything, and believe me I thought long and hard about that. Even now there’s still a part of me that says, “You could have been writing for the features section right now!” But in the end, I think it’s better to take a pass and preserve my journalistic credibility. Not only would it be cruel to the editor but it would be horribly embarrassing if I missed my deadline. There will be other opportunities.

That reminds me! I got the most passive aggressive, nay, just plain aggressive email from one of the section editors today. The subject was entitled: The importance of deadlines. Have a look-see:

“Hi folks,
First of all, I want to be clear that I am not targeting any individuals here. I have had a problem this issue, and to a lesser extent in the past, with people not meeting deadlines. To those who have consistently met their deadlines, bear with me as this message is not directed at you. Deadlines are deadlines. The word “deadline” means the last time that something can be turned in. For stories assigned on Sunday, deadlines are Friday at 6 p.m.. For stories assigned on Monday, deadlines are the following Monday at noon- SHARP. If you do not think you can submit a story under these conditions because you have a difficult week ahead of you, DO NOT accept a story for that week. If a story is falling through or you need an extension, let me know the evening before your deadline. Stay in communication with me if you’re having trouble with a story. MAKE YOUR DEADLINES. If you miss two deadlines without giving me sufficient notice or a valid reason, you will no longer be asked to write for my section. I really don’t see any other way to reinforce this, and this is a serious matter. I’m just a phone call away if you have any questions [I left out the phone number for privacy reasons, but I think you get the gist.]
Thanks for your attention.”

Goodness, I would not like to be on the receiving end of that fiery lecture! Fortunately, the two times I’ve written for this section, I have submitted my article a good two or three days before the deadline – a personal best. But I fully understand where the editor is coming from. Being an editor is hard enough without volunteers looking at deadlines like they’re optional dates that are just included in the assignment outline as a decoration. I never got an email like that last year. Perhaps we can conclude that the problem is . . . the new batch of first years! What ever happened to journalistic standards, people? Give them a month and j-school will knock that laziness right out of them.

Now, as promised, I will recount some of the more interesting parts of the day:

  1. I called Judy today for a few follow-up questions. It was supposed to be quick and painless. I only had about three questions. Guess how long I was on the phone for. Forty minutes. Judy can be great. She’s patient and tells a lot of interesting stories. But she also loves talking just for the heck of it! She went off on tangents like you wouldn’t believe! And no matter how many times I tried to interject, she’d just plow on through with extra vigour! At one point, she was teaching me how to run a silent auction and what the proper procedure is for filling up your car’s gas tank. Goodness, I thought I’d never get off the phone. I stand corrected. Yesterday was nothing. Now I know all there is to know about Judy, including the recent surgery her sister just underwent and her grandfather’s nationality (Icelandic).
  2. On Thursday we’re having an in-class journalism assignment, which I am not looking forward to. Our prof is going to give out “press releases” and play the role of the main source. We have to interview him as a group. Then we’re going around the class and everyone gets to pick one other person they’d like to interview to add depth to their story. The prof is going to be that person to answer one question. Then we have to turn all that research into a 400- to 500-word article, all in the span of three hours. Incoming stroke, party of one.
  3. I got an email from the school radio station. The program director finally got back to me and he wants me to sit in on one of the shows to see how the whole radio business works. Only problem is . . . the show is at 7 a.m. this Thursday! It’s the only newsy show in the morning (the other ones are music) and that’s the part I’m interested in. So I guess it’s going to be an early morning on Thursday, which is perfect because I’ll have plenty of time to prepare for my stroke at 11:30 a.m. It’s going to be a coffee morning.

Well that’s all for tonight. It’s only 11:44 p.m. and I still managed to type up a decent-sized entry! Could this be personal growth? I think so!

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