Journ Student Jess

Student journalist looking for feedback on assignments and journalism in general

Posts Tagged ‘Saginaw

The day DOMA was struck down (an intern’s perspective)

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Courtesy Photo | Colorlines.com

If I had known how Wednesday, June 26, was going to end up, I might have packed a lunch or drank more coffee. I would have come up with a posting schedule for articles, lined up interviews and contacts, drank more coffee. I should have been more aware of the potential news happening in the nation’s capitol, as nine justices ruled on the Defense of Marriage Act and changed the lives of so many.

I’m not sure what news site I was reading at 11 p.m. that day but when I announced the breaking headlines to my editor, I knew I had my assignments for the day. So began a feverish race to call the local congressional offices, get a hold of the Tri-City Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride group leaders, updating a multimedia element regularly while being sent on a goose chase of an assignment.

I have been home for a few hours now and as I seem to have mellowed out a bit, the gravity of what today means is starting to hit me. I was only six years old when DOMA passed but understood by 18 what California’s Prop 8 did and how I felt about it. It was wrong. To deny the right of two people, who love each other and want to make a commitment for the rest of their lives, is wrong.

MacKenzie Burger | For MLive.com

I am getting pretty tired but feel the need to get my point across. Today, I spoke with people who disagreed with the Supreme Court justices and others who felt they did the right thing. Some people called me to talk about disapproval and said marriage is between one woman and one man. One person in particular told me plans of proposing to their partner of 13 years as soon as marriage is legal in Michigan. In my head, I respect all of those opinions and believe I did my best to write in an objective and thoughtful manner.

But in my heart, I am rejoicing. Prop 8 has been overturned and the shock waves of DOMA have only begun. There is a vote ahead, an important one and I plan to make sure mine counts for equality.

Here are the stories I worked on today regarding the Supreme Court’s ruling on DOMA:

Supreme Court Defense of Marriage Act ruling draws reactions from Bay City, Midland and Saginaw residents

Saginaw, Midland elected officials give their takes on Supreme Court’s Defense of Marriage Act ruling

Saginaw ACLU-affiliated attorneys say Supreme Court ruling ‘the right end result’

 

Here’s a cute picture of an owl to celebrate! Click here to read it’s story of being saved by a Saginaw police officer.

Courtesy Photo | MLive.com

Written by hayne2jr

June 27, 2013 at 2:37 am

Things to Remember When Interviewing Children (Youth, too)

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Ashlyn McGregor, a 9-year-old third grader, gets a kiss from her mother Christina after performing Miley Cyrus’ “The Climb” at the Shields Elementary talent show. Ashlyn, who is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, had always wanted to perform in the show.
Photo Credit | Clay Lomneth for MLive.com

One of my favorite groups of people to interview also happen to be one of the most difficult to communicate with. Not that kids don’t love to talk; sometimes you can’t get them to stop. Every once in awhile, an assignment comes up that presents a challenge for either the subject or interviewer. That happened to me when a freelance writer in the area passed along some information to my editor, and I was sent to Shields Elementary in Saginaw to see a 9-year-old student overcome her own challenges.

Her name was Ashlyn and she shocked me from the get-go. Although I knew beforehand she was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (or autism, for short) at a young age, I would not have believed it after meeting her. After singing along to Miley Cyrus’s “The Climb,” she received hugs from many of her classmates who were on stage to support her, closing out the end-of-year talent show. It was a rousing success, as the whole school cheered, her mother cried, and I forgot my worries the accompanying photographer taking video would possibly interrupt the performance.

She took me by surprise at first when I watched her hug her mom, who pointed me out and said I was the reporter who wanted to ask her a few questions. I knew enough about autism not to expect any type of physical contact, though I usually shake kid’s hands if they seem friendly (their responses get me every time.) Ashlyn walked right up to, threw her arms around me and thanked me for being there, while I quickly tried to pick my jaw up from the floor.

I didn’t want to keep her from celebrating with her classmates and family, so after a quick interview (and a fast handshake) I was out the door and climbing into my car as children hopped into school buses all around me. After walking out the doors of Shields Elementary and quickly gathering my thoughts, I sat and smiled for a minute, knowing I had just learned one of the fundamental things about interviewing kids- you will never cease to be surprised.

Just a week before, I spoke with 13-year-old Hannah about her love of spelling which has drawn her to national competitions. We talked about our mutual interest in science-fiction, her love of words and though she placed 43rd in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, she impressed me with the scope of her vocabulary and maturity. Though I only spoke with her over the phone while she is Washington, D.C. for the competition, we shared a few laughs and I learned more about interacting with teenagers.

In honor of Ashlyn and Hannah, here are a list of suggestions to keep in mind when interviewing children and even teenagers:

  1. Make sure the parents are involved: Especially if photographs are involved, guardians should be aware you are talking to their children and why. Be courteous, introduce yourself and make sure to let them know when they might see their kids published, they will appreciate it!
  2. Get down to their level: This is easy for me, being only 62 inches tall, but try your best to kneel, stoop, bend your knees or if they are pretty small, sit Indian-style on the ground with them. It helps maintain eye contact to get the little ones to focus on you and your questions, builds trust and even lends a bit of their perspective to the reporter.
  3. Stick with open-ended questions: Children tend to not elaborate, so try to use questions that build on their emotion. Many of the questions I asked of Ashlyn she answered yes or no, due to her autism, but talking about her experience performing and how she chose the song brought out her excitement and her talkative side. Save any serious questions for the parents, since children may just guess answers.
  4. Know when to take a break (in other words, be patient): Some kids have more energy than others and might not be able to sit still long enough for an interview. Try to be respectful of their schedules (like nap time or recess) and keep in mind children need more time to process information and have trouble with accuracy.
  5. Have fun: This should be a given. The great part about my job is meeting a lot of children, teenagers, even babies who I have written stories about. Interacting with kids is a wonderful experience, so be engaging and let yourself be engaged. Draw with chalk, go down the slide and laugh and smile. The story will be better for it, and you will too.

There it is, some more advice from a student journalist back in the newsroom. Check out these links if you are interested in reading about Ashlyn’s experience as an autistic student and watch her performance, or see Hannah spell local terms and talk about competing in a national spelling bee. Let me know what you think of this post, send along any tips you might add, and as always, thanks for reading.

Oh, here’s a picture of me with a fawn I wrote about for an assignment!
Photo Credit | Colleen Harrison

Written by hayne2jr

June 13, 2013 at 3:22 am

First Week Great, Second So-so

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I started off this week on an assignment at Shields Elementary in Saginaw. The school just started a new program called ‘base camps’ which focuses on what areas the students need improvement and creating a school-wide community. Although it can be hectic and stressful sometimes, working and talking with kids is a part of my job and I enjoy doing it, especially when the kids are so excited about learning!

Photo Credit: Jeff Schrier, MLive.com

Matthew Guerrero, 9, a fourth-grader at Shields Elementary School, 6900 Stroebel in James Township, pauses while writing his acrostic poem at his “author’s Purpose” daily literacy base camp. 

My photo editor took some great photos of teachers working with their students to help them excel, to check out the full article and photo gallery click here! I visited Shields on Monday but it took me a couple days to work out the organization of the article since there was so much information about the base camps to include. In all, I spoke with eight different sources, from a 5th grade student who was “a little nervous” about moving up a grade to an instructor, to visiting school officials who have heard of the success of boot camps and had to see it for themselves. I was glad to see this system is working out and the positive impact it has had on both teachers and students.

On Monday, I also got a present I had been waiting for for a long, long time. The newest intern found an iPhone in her MLive backpack and after showing it to our editor, he revealed that one was sent to the office for me as well! Although MLive used to provide work phones for interns, during my last internship that was not an option. So imagine my surprise to receive my very first, totally paid for by the company, iPhone 4S! I am still learning the in’s and out’s of this product, with help from my coworkers, but am glad to start building on my knowledge of Apple, since it is a game-changer today in the world of news.

Unfortunately, my week hit a snag when I received a call from my younger sister on Wednesday. She told me her dog, a pit bull mix named Ruger, had to be put down and was understandably upset; she had rescued him from a future of dog-fighting in Detroit and loved him like her kid. It was a rough night, made even more terrible when on my way out to say goodbye to Ruger, I hit a deer on M-30.

The impact has left me pretty shaken and nauseous, with some front-end damage to my poor little Cobalt, which I was about to pay off totally this week. It was dark out and I didn’t see the deer coming but luckily my seat belt locked up instantly and saved me from serious injury. I was able to drive the car to my sister’s, say my goodbyes and drive home, red-eyed, exhausted and feeling pretty down.

Photo Credit: Jessica Haynes

The Chevy logo is now a foot inside of my Cobalt after hitting a deer on M-30. it is currently in the dealership awaiting repairs, it’s second visit in less than a year due to animals crossing the road.

There was a staff meeting planned for the next morning for both the Saginaw and Bay City hubs and although I did not get any sleep and was not emotionally up to it, I managed to pull together and get to the office, with help from fellow reporter Justin Engel. Typically, staff meetings are only about an hour long; my boss gives out kudos for good work, informs us of any changes we need to know of and connects us with state and company-wide policies. It had been so long since the last meeting so we had a lot to go over and had some great conversations about content and quality journalism, so while I am glad I attended, I wish I had been feeling better and able to contribute more.

Afterwards, I explained to my editors what happened and they reacted exactly how I thought they would: with understanding, kindness and empathy. I was able to take the rest of the day off to make an insurance claim, visit the doctor and take my car to the dealership for repairs.

I thought I would be fine but apparently, my digestive system was not up to par this morning when I showed up at the office. I tried so badly to feel better but couldn’t risk staying in the office and embarrassing myself in front of coworkers and visitors. Luckily, my dad was able to pick me up from work and lend me a car to use until I am once again mobile.

Even more luckily, I called my editor and he told me not to work the rest of the day and to relax. Truthfully, it made me cry, to hear him say that and know my bosses are really looking out for me and have my best interests at heart. I have always pressured myself to do my best and overcome any pain I am feeling, from tension migraines or sore feet from working two jobs. 

Today has made me even more determined to work hard for this company and do what I can to contribute to its success. Besides being grateful for an opportunity student journalists don’t usually get, I am thankful for co-workers and editors who want what is best for me and know when I am pushing myself too much.

Sometimes, it’s not about the people who push or motivate you, it’s the people who want you to take a step back and look at yourself or what you are doing who will do the most for you. Self-reflection is key to keeping a straight course in this career of fighting for reader views and front-page status. I’m lucky to be surrounded by those who keep me on track.

I’ve been thrilled with the number of people commenting on my posts, especially those asking for advice or giving me encouragement. If you have any more questions, suggestions for future posts or something you would like to know, just leave a comment and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible. You guys are great, so as thanks for reading, here is a picture of my dog Murphy, that I thought was really cute. Have a great weekend, everyone!

 

Photo Credit: Jessica Haynes

Snapped this photo last night as my dog rolled around and his ear stood straight up for about five minutes.

 

 

 

 

Written by hayne2jr

May 17, 2013 at 9:52 pm

What I’ve learned about elections, so far at least

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It was a long second day at the Saginaw News. I was supposed to work a night shift but showed up at the office bright and early. My editor figured since I was there, I might as well be writing so I got in on the latest action in Saginaw.

Turns out the Buena Vista Schools district shut down operations as of last night, letting go of all their employees and terminating all benefits. MLive’s education reporter (and fellow Chippewa) Lindsay Knake spent hours finding new angles and sources for the ongoing controversy before covering the school board’s community meeting later that night. It was also an election night for Hemlock, Swan Valley and my hometown of Midland so I was called in as reinforcements.

Thanks to Twitter, I learned Huffington Post had picked up the story about the Buena Vista schools closing and informed my editor. We quickly found other links to make an aggregation post, combining articles and sources from various publications across the nation. I was pretty pleased with the end result, which changed frequently throughout the process due to updates and more coverage. To read the full article, click here. 

Later that night, I talked with city and county clerks in Midland and began watching the election results page for any early precinct calculations. Yesterday I posted an article about a new technology bond initiative, introduced by the Midland Public Schools, that aimed to put an iPad in the hand of every student in the district. That proposal, along with a $54 million sinking fund renewal, was not passed by voters, with more information about the results here.

At the end of the day, I started to reflect on working Election Day in 2012. It was a very important and very hectic night working in Bay County; many precincts had trouble tallying votes and key sources were not picking up phones to comment. I remember leaving the county building around 4 a.m. with another reporter, walking back to the office to pound out a couple stories and being told to go home and get some rest by my editor. But only until 8 a.m., when the stories needed to be done to publish on MLive’s river of content.

Thankfully, I am working from home tonight and am able to make a quick getaway in order to sleep. Of all the things I have learned about working election nights, it is this: do not underestimate a good nap and an even better cup of coffee. Have a great night, readers!

 

Written by hayne2jr

May 8, 2013 at 3:51 am

Checking on Congress: A video diary by Jessica Haynes

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I recently found out the house my parents brought me home to was torn down. So I set out in Saginaw to find out what happened and to talk a walk around my old neighborhood. The following is a video diary I created using video and still photography from the bright Sunday afternoon I returned to Congress Street. Below the picture is a full-length article with additional information about the disappearing house phenomenon happening in Saginaw.

Here is a link to the video diary.

Image

FULL ARTICLE: Checking on Congress by Jessica Haynes

It’s been 18 years since I visited my old neighborhood in Saginaw and when I heard the house I grew up in was gone, I knew I had to return and check on the state of Congress.

My parents brought me home the summer of 1990 to a little house with black shutters, at 1115 Congress Street. The house barely covers 900 square feet; I still remember sharing a bedroom with my sisters at the “little house” as we called it.

A bit of research revealed the house, estimated at $32,000 by the real estate company Trulia, was sold for $1 in 2005. After it was purchased by the Saginaw County Land Bank for $3,112, the property was selected for demolition.

While I was taking pictures of the empty place where my house once stood, Saginaw resident Donquavis Gibson approached to ask if I was turning the area into a parking lot. I told him that I was just trying to find out to the house that once stood there.

Gibson, 21, informed me the house I lived in was tore down just a few months ago and added other properties on Congress had been turned into parking lots by Covenant Healthcare. I asked him how he felt about the demolitions.

“It’s cool, money make money. I ain’t tripping,” Gibson replied.

He said many of the residents in the area were homeowners and that the hospital was trying to move them out of the neighborhood. Two houses on my old block are now boarded up, decorated with bright yellow arson signs to deter any potential troublemakers.

Saginaw resident Victor Colon Junior, 63, lives on Benjamin Street and said he wants to see something beneficial planned for the empty lots.

“If nobody is going to maintain them, might as well put the land to good use,” Colon said.

Just three blocks away, an ordinary house stands out from the others lining Bond Street. The body of 23-year-old Saginaw resident Angelica Olivarez was found inside the residence little over a week ago.

Her death brought hundreds together to not only mourn her loss but console each other as a community. Saginaw has been rated one of the most dangerous cities by the FBI as recently as 2011.

A sign on the corner of Congress and Benjamin reads that the Saginaw Neighborhood Stabilization program is at work in this area.

Housing Coordinator Miss Johnston said the organization acquires foreclosed or abandoned properties in order to rehabilitate or rebuild for future homeowners.

“People are interested in our program. This is a good market to buy and we have been very successful with the houses we have rehabbed and sold,” Johnston said.

The program is limited in what else it can do for my old neighborhood; it is nearing the end of its three-year run.

“As soon as we have acquired buyers for our last properties we are working on, the program will be over,” Johnston said.

Although I can visit the two other houses that have sheltered me, the little house on Congress Street is gone. Row of pine trees are left, and whether or not the property is used by hospital employees or left alone to silently nurture what is growing it its soil, the land is still there.

Written by hayne2jr

April 23, 2013 at 10:21 pm