JShu on the Journey

A Kansan takes on Missouri

Archive for August 2009

Unwelcome visitors.

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Now that I’m in Florida, and in an apartment, the inevitable has happened.

I have some unwelcome guests. Namely, roaches.

My first encounter was in the bathroom last week. I flipped on the light switch and saw something move…and eventually cornered it. Since then, I’ve closed my drains and I sprayed the bathroom.

My second encounter was today. The site: my kitchen. I’m sitting in my living room and I hear something shuffling across something (like paper or a plastic bag) in the kitchen. Uhoh, I think to myself. I rise from my love seat and go over to the kitchen, flip the light on, and I hear it scurry. The sound makes my skin crawl.

I poked around until I spotted it and killed it–it was in the crack between the fridge and the wall.

And, it gets better.

After the kill today, I pulled out the vacuum and decided to go to town on the carpet. I found some eggs where the carpet meets the wall, a few feet from the kitchen. That was the last straw today…thankfully I found them at least. I was able to vacuum, then take out the bag and the trash. And I went to Home Depot to buy a lidded trash can. True story–they are way cheaper there compared to Wal-Mart and Target. It’s a pretty non-descript can but it gets the job done. All the flashy, expensive silvery cans are like $80 and I don’t need them.

So, story of the day: I’m officially going to compulsively clean my kitchen every time I touch a dish or prepare food. These buggers are really gross.

Written by Jessica

August 30, 2009 at 9:06 pm

Posted in Florida Living

House on fire.

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House Fire

Wow. I’m still trying to process the past 48 hours.

To be clear, the house fire was not my house.

Here’s the background info: Florida has the highest amount of cloud-to-ground lightning in the U.S. We’ve had some pretty heavy rain over the course of the week. Friday was the worst I’ve seen since I’ve been here. I was sitting in the office, at my computer, when it just started pouring rain outside and the power kept going out.

Thankfully I had just wrapped up my stories for the day, so I didn’t have to worry about losing important files. Every time the power was knocked out, there was a chorus of “SHIT!” in the newsroom.

Anyway. Around 4:40ish, an editor walked out of his office, into the newsroom, and announced there was a structural fire. Who wants to go? Everyone was silent. Clearly the girls the next area over from me didn’t want to go. I hear my name being yelled (incorrectly, I might add) from the office of another editor and I know it’s going to be my first fire. I was given a heavy-duty umbrella and swore on my life I’d return it to my editor, an extremely reflective, bright yellow press vest and directions on how to get to the scene.

At first I was just like, oh. my. goodness. I’m really covering this. What the heck am I supposed to  do? Then it was “what if someone dies?” I prayed much of the way there that would not be the case.

I pulled up and actually couldn’t see anything at first–I was blocked out by emergency vehicles down the street. I called my editor to ask what to do. She advised that I try to get as close as possible, but try to stay safe (aka, not get struck by lightning). Eventually I was able to maneuver closer to the house, park, and I jumped into the pouring rain and I saw it. The smoke. The ferocious orange flames. I could feel the heat of it across the street. My heart sank.

I walked up to the photog, who told me that now was not the time to approach the guy my editor told me to.  After realizing I should not be under an umbrella (intense lightning) I decided to find some place to take cover. I had a notepad and a new cell phone in my pocket, not good things to mix with water. I looked over and saw a garage open, with a man only wearing shorts, and decided maybe I should meet this man and ask if I can join him and keep my things dry.

What’s amazing is that, after talking a few minutes with the man and his wife (who eventually made him put a shirt on I think), I found that they were good friends with the homeowners whose house was on fire. They were able to give me info on what had happened, what they had experienced, and were in touch with the owners.

Basically I stumbled into the story unwittingly. It’s amazing how that happens sometimes. They were so nice and helpful. I ended up watching the majority of the fire from their garage…well, the parts I wasn’t in the rain with my editors. Two of the editors above me plus an editor above them showed up.

The boss above all of us approached me and said, “welcome to the Daily Sun.” I found out that several other reporters were dispatched in far-flung places where fires had been called in, also, from the lightning.

At the end of the day, though, this fire was the biggest of them all (and pretty much the only fire with staying power). It basically gutted the house from the inside, while the outside was relatively untouched. I learned that the homeowners were out of town, this wasn’t their primary residence, and they were heading to FL as soon as they could.

So, cold, dripping wet, and hungry (which was fixed after a trip to Chick-fil-a), I returned to the newsroom to process and throw words onto the blank screen.

The copy editor quipped, “It looks like you got into the baptismal fount in more ways than one tonight” about my first fire and me being soaked.

At that point I had to wait to hear from the fire chief. Eventually he called and I wrote the story out, had a minor freakout about the lead (the ‘intro’ in journo speak) and emailed it to my editor. Then I went home at 9:30 after nearly completing a 12-hour day.

This morning, my story was on the front page. Two photos. Big, big story.

It makes me think of a wise j-prof I heard talk about tragedy at an Illinois College Press Association panel discussion. Some of the best days for journalists are horrible days for other people. He was referring to the NIU shootings, but it really resonates, and especially now that I’ve had to cover a bad story. This story continues to today, but I think I need to start a new blog post. This is already very long.

I should go to bed, too. It’s been a very long week.

Oh, and the editor who was so protective of her umbrella actually gave it to me at the end of the night. To commemorate my first big story. And rain. And fires.

Written by Jessica

August 22, 2009 at 10:41 pm

Posted in On the Job

Cleared to write

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After my first two days, I’m now officially allowed to take on stories. Score!

Today I was given two briefs and told to write 4″ for each. I now have a handle on their computer draft system and it’s really neat. It’s probably uber expensive but if the GlimmerGlass had it it would really help. I love seeing their system and how it works–from my end to the photographers and paginators to the copy desk.

There really is nothing like working in a newsroom. From the clacking of keyboards, police scanners blaring, people yelling obscenities…it’s a great environment. I heart journalism.

Written by Jessica

August 13, 2009 at 5:36 pm

Posted in On the Job

Notes on a first day.

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Howdy. I ended up posting my photos of my time here thus far on Facebook. Here’s a link if you want to see them (although odds are if you are reading this you definitely know this already).

Today was a good first day, I must say, despite a few awkward moments here and there.

I started out by going to indoctrination orientation, where I saw a movie about the core values of my employer and signed a lot of forms. I went through it with a few other ladies.

Do you ever meet some people who are oversharers? Like, you know their entire life story the first time you meet them whether you ask or not? There was such a person in my group today. During the medical forms there were comments about bladder control as related to being a mom (serious TMI), loss of vision that came exactly at age 40, being a single mom and receiving child support, being from Illinois, also did you know that Wal-Mart charges you cash a check?…etc. Oh well. She was a nice lady. It’s just…sometimes you don’t need to say so much, ya know?

After I signed my life away to health forms, sexual harrassment and OSHA policy understandings, dental and health insurance, I was free to return to my office. That’s where the fun started, really.

My editor and I discussed an area I’ll be covering (institutional knowledge catch-up basically) and I signed even more forms on internet usage policy. I also got a swipe card for the office at night (yay!), took my picture for my press pass (yay!), and got set up on my computer/was shown my desk. I got my business cards (yay!) and a brief tour of places I hadn’t been yet.

Whew. This was all before lunch! Went out with my boss to a Greek-Italian place that was pretty good, then we went to a local meeting. A retiree called me “sweetie” and my boss told me to watch out–he’s been known for trying to kiss the female reporters. He’s a smoooooth operator?

Also funny/slightly sad: I knew exactly what this really high-pitched sound was mid-meeting: someone’s hearing aide was going off. My grandpa’s is really bad about that.

Anywho. That was all the important stuff. Oh, it rained majorly today. It rains about every day, but this was an all out downpour. I had to leave the meeting in it…and realized maybe I should pack a towel in my car. And invest in a heavy-duty umbrella.

Also, good-to-know things: my employee hookup includes discounts at the wellness center, a few local restaurants, home decor stores, and liquor stores. Nice.

Written by Jessica

August 12, 2009 at 9:51 pm

Posted in On the Job

Flo.Rida. (The state, not the recording artist)

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So, it has been a crazy couple of days!

I:

  • drove > 1,200 miles to Florida.
  • added three new states to my list of states I’ve been to (Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia)
  • have signed the lease to my first apartment.
  • said goodbye to being a Kansas resident. I now have a FL license plates.
  • turned 22! And celebrated by lugging stuff into my apartment and hanging out with my parents.

Some observations:

  • It’s a little ridiculous that every construction project from Illinois to Kentucky has signs talking about it being funded by the stimulus act. How much money was spent on those signs? Or is that part of the stimulus plan for signmakers?
  • Trevecca Nazarene University prevented me getting lost in Nashville. I continued to get lost a few more times. Thankfully it’s a smaller city and traffic isn’t too bad. Overall, I liked it.
  • Georgia takes too long to get through. I left Nashville late in the day and got to Florida late at night. Also: I-75 is hell. It’s like the American autobahn.
  • It’s hard finding anything in the nearby area, because of the foliage everywhere. It took a long time to find the Tax Collectors office to register my car.

The photos are coming soon. And more exciting stories. Promise.

Written by Jessica

August 7, 2009 at 9:50 pm

Posted in Florida Living

I made it here in one piece

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Sorry for the silence! I’ve been packing like crazy and trekking to Florida over the past couple of days. I do have pictures though, of the drive and of my new apartment. Be on the watch for them.

My apartment is great and I’m so excited to be settled in here and to meet new people and start my job.

Written by Jessica

August 5, 2009 at 1:31 pm

Posted in Florida Living

Packing.

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Packing is taking over three rooms of my house.

This is out of control.

Written by Jessica

August 1, 2009 at 12:47 pm

Posted in Uncategorized