Do what makes you happy.

That’s all.

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Growing up and bucking up

The last time I wrote, I’d sort of settled on the idea that I wanted to keep screwing around in my beloved, hip St. Petersburg and apply to grad school only to prolong my ability to screw around.

I said I didn’t want to apply to the small-town jobs I knew I’d be a shoe-in for because I didn’t want to spend my days covering agriculture and the kinds of city council meetings you see on Parks and Rec, and I didn’t want to spend my weekends at country bars. Or more likely — alone in my sad, small-town apartment.

Almost immediately after writing that post, I applied for a job. It’s not a particularly small town — it sits in one of the state’s largest counties — but it’s a good 45-minute drive to a decent concert venue or brewery, and another half hour or so from my friends and family. Still, I would have been stupid not to apply.

As presumptuous as it may sound, I sort of knew I’d get it. Especially after I was called in for an interview so quickly. It took a few weeks to get an offer, but I’d already started freaking out over my living situation and having visions of a miserable and lonely “small-town” life.

I was also set back a bit when I found out my dad’s cancer is not responding so well to this new drug trial and that he has to have brain surgery (which he’s having tomorrow). For a minute, I let myself think that maybe I shouldn’t be stressing myself out with this job and I should just stay close to home and spend as much time with my family as possible. The realist in me however, began seeing my dad’s condition as a reason to take the job and work toward being independently financially stable, morbid as that is. But that sort of thing should be motivation to grow up, not slack off.

After having some time to think and thoroughly stalking most of future young coworkers on social media — and seeing that they aren’t, in fact, horribly depressed and lonely — I’m doing alright. I’m even excited.

This job will be a stepping stone to other opportunities that will hopefully, eventually, land me back in the place I want to be. By putting my time into this job now, I’m setting myself up to get my dream job in my dream city in a few years. That sounds a lot better than screwing around and struggling for employment through my 20s.

Hey, I was offered a full-time reporting job just two months out of college, at a newspaper that’s only about an hour away from my friends and family. Holy shit! This is the best possible scenario! I get to start my career at 21. Who knows where I’ll be by the time most people my age figure their stuff out.

Job search < grad school < slow death

On my 55-minute commute home from my unpaid internship in Sarasota today (which I’m paying tuition for, despite graduating last month), I thought about how I should start blogging again.  Since I came home to a power outage, I suppose now is as good a time as ever to discuss my recent existential crisis as a recent college graduate with a mass comm degree from an unimpressive state school. A few minutes before starting this post I tweeted this overdramatic, if not morbid, question.

It’s a ridiculous thing to say, I know. But I’m only half joking.

Growing up and going to school in the Tampa Bay market means I’ve been completely spoiled with high quality, award-winning journalism. For most young journalists, these are the papers one aspires to write for. For me, it’s all I know.

Whereas many new grads move back to their hometowns to work at their small local newspapers before moving to a big, hip city to work at a big, hip newspaper, I’ll likely have to move away to get my first job. And not to some trendy up-and-coming town like my lovely St. Petersburg, but somewhere with pasture, farms and migrant workers. Somewhere with a one-street downtown and a city hall as big as my second-floor apartment. Somewhere people go line dancing on a Saturday night at the local watering hole and wake up for a Baptist church service in the morning. A great place to gain experience and world perspective, maybe. But not a great place to actually enjoy my life. Perhaps I’m exaggerating a tad. Cities like Brooksville have plenty to offer. But they can’t offer what I want.

I could suck it up and move to the county for a year or so. I could put in my time in a place I hate to hopefully move up to a place I love. Sure, I could do that. But I don’t think I’m going to. I graduated college in three years. I turned 21 two weeks ago. I’m educated, I’m talented, but most importantly, I’m young.

I don’t want to waste 21.

I want to be minutes away from my best friends and a half-hour from my family, who I still rely on all the time. I want the option to hear great live music any night of the week, or dip my toes in the gulf on any given day. That’s what I have here, and I’m not ready to give it up.

Not while I’m 21.

Maybe down the road, when I’m 23 or 24, and I’m sick of not having the job I went to school and worked so hard for. Maybe then I’ll decide to tough it out and move to Brooksville.

But not right now.

I’m not completely without options. Grad school for digital journalism and design is one of them, and at the moment it’s the most appealing … Though, the idea of starting classes in August makes my face hurt. But while I’m in school, I could get a graduate assistantship and build a decent rapport with local editors as a freelancer.

I could also get a job in another area of communications, such as PR or marketing, but that would probably require more internships first. And that’s not what I busted my ass in school to do.

But that idea begs another question: will a grad degree in digital journalism get me any further than I am now? Should I bother? Should I go back to school for something more practical, like marketing or (I cringe just thinking about it) … teaching?

If I want a job, the answer is yes. But if I want to write for a living — and I do — it’s no. So for now, I’m sticking with digital journalism.

I suppose I’ll still apply to those jobs in the Middle of Nowhere, Florida. Who knows? Maybe an offer letter will end up being more appealing to me than punk shows, art, craft beer and salt air.

Part of the reason I set out writing this post was to work through all these thoughts. Writing is the only way efficient way I can rationalize with my conscious – much more efficient than arguing with myself in the shower.

The power is back on now. I’m still sweaty, but I feel better. I’m going to go grab that parking ticket from my glove department and pay it so USFSP will release my transcripts and I can apply for grad school. Think this will suffice as my application essay?

Pardon my conceit.

Today I realized fighting for a part-time service job that will do nothing to enhance my life except pay me minimum wage really isn’t worth my time when I have so much else going for me. I’d rather be freelancing for close to nothing than wasting my life standing behind a counter for a boss who thinks I’m useless.

Also realized that, eventually, I’m going to need to be own boss … Though I imagine taking orders from an award winning editor may be a little easier for me than from some petty coffee shop king. 

Mental note to keep writing so I’m always the one buying the coffee, not serving it. Pardon my conceit.

Public records and press freedom? Don’t ask a college student about either.

Last night there was an incident at my school where a student let her drunk boyfriend into a residence hall after he pulled a knife on two male students outside. City and campus police searched the building and arrested the suspect on two counts of aggravated assault. My staff rushed to get a story online this morning and gave their best effort at getting every bit of necessary information.

The police disclosed the female student’s name, her boyfriend’s name and two of the witness’s names. We used all of them in the story, as they are now public record.

Within 11 minutes of the article being posted, I had a message in my inbox from the female student asking me to either take down the story or remove both her and her boyfriend’s names. Figuring she was going through enough today, I partially obliged and removed her name as a courtesy. It was a temporary move, however, as  I planned to later consult my adviser on the matter. As for her boyfriend, removing the name of the man who was arrested on campus for posing a safety threat to students was never an option.

A few minutes later, I received a Facebook message from one of the witnesses asking me to remove his name as well because he was receiving threats and we did not ask for his permission. I politely noted that we did not need his permission, but I agreed to remove his name. Though I doubt anyone was actually threatening him, citing him as merely a male witness rather than using his name would not detract from the story too much.

So, within an hour, I had ripped every name from this article except those of the man arrested, the police officer we spoke to and a few students who posted comments on Facebook while the event was happening (no complaints from them so far).

By the afternoon, we’d spoken with our adviser, who is an adjunct journalism professor and former managing editor of the then St. Petersburg Times, and decided we would put the female student’s name back in the story. A major local newspaper had already released it by this time, anyway. We decided to wait 24 hours.

This evening, we received two messages on our Facebook account asking us if it was necessary to use the female student’s name (though it was removed from the story, it still showed up in a preview on Facebook). When the student asked me to remove it this morning, I didn’t have a great answer. But now I do:

As a student-run publication, it is our responsibility to hold faculty, staff, community members and students accountable for their actions. This student brought a non-student into her dorm room. Not just any non-student, but a drunk one yielding a knife. Sure, this may not be an incriminating offense, but it’s irresponsible. It may have been inadvertent, but she endangered others with her actions. By printing her name, we’re holding her accountable. Maybe the next student who finds his or herself in a similar predicament will make a different decision — one that not only won’t get their name on the front page of their student newspaper, but won’t put anyone in danger.

I admit, I feel for the girl. I’m sure she has a million reasons as to why she made these decisions and I’m sure at least a few of them are valid. Still, we have a job to do as a student-run publication. And by publishing this student’s name, we’re doing it.

This issue comes after two other frustrating situations that demonstrate how little people know about the rights of the press. Last week, we were attacked for running an opinion column supporting creationism. According to at least one student, it was my job as editor-in-chief to tell the writer of this piece — who so bravely and boldly expressed a personal opinion knowing its unpopularity among college students — that her beliefs contained factual errors. He criticized of me of not abiding by AP Style. I’ll note, this student is not a journalism major. I politely explained to him that opinion pieces do not reflect the beliefs of an entire newspaper, just the writer and whoever else happens to agree. Even if this writer wanted me to publish an opinion piece on why the sky was green or 2 + 2 = 5, I would.

The discussion brought about by this scenario was great. That means we’re doing something right. But its scary to think people can flip to the opinion page, which is clearly labeled, and think they’re reading something that is supposed to be a news story.

The week before this incident occurred, the supreme court justice of our student government barged into my office to let me know we need to run it by him before we publish anything regarding the court. In this particular case, he was referring to a quote. I handled the situation as professionally as possible, essentially telling him that is simply not our responsibility. This student is an aspiring judge, yet doesn’t seem to understand First Amendment rights. Again, scary.

While the last few weeks have made the prospect of graduating all the more exciting (66 days!), I know I’ll have to face people like this for the rest of my life, especially in this profession. There’s always going to be someone who thinks I’m wrong no matter how right I am. I can handle it. I don’t pity myself, I only feel sorry for those who refuse to educate themselves. If anything, I guess that should serve as my incentive to keep writing.

My newest pet peeve …

Seriously, though. I see so many people trying to sound smart and proper by saying things like, “Feel free to contact myself at any time.” It bugs the heck out of me. Note, I did not say it bugs the heck out of myself, but me. I CAN’T CONTACT YOURSELF. ONLY YOU CAN DO THAT. I can send an email to myself, but you can’t. You have to send it to me. Grammar, ya’ll. It ain’t that hard.