Finding Your Passion

I changed my major for the fifth or sixth time before the beginning of this term which began in early January. I finally settled on Journalism. This time, it felt like I’d chosen the correct thing.

About three weeks into the term, my new advisor Rob Priewe extended an invitation to me. I was invited to go to the ACP Midwinter National Journalism Conference being held in Long Beach, California. The invitation came as a delightful surprise considering I’d only just begun my journalism journey. I, of course, accepted. I was not about to let the incredible learning opportunity pass me up.

When the time came to leave on Thursday morning, March 1, I met my peers in The Commuter office on campus. Four of my peers and I, and our advisor collected our things and loaded up into two cars to go to Portland. We took PDX to SNA. By the time the Uber dropped us off at Hyatt Regency in Long Beach, we had the evening left to settle in and explore a little. We would wake up the next day to a full day of conference to absorb.

Upon checking in at the conference on Friday morning, I was given a booklet with a schedule of events inside. There were multiple lectures or workshops happening at once. A new session would begin every hour on the half hour mark, and the first session of the weekend was about to begin. I hastily made a decision to go listen to Amy Gaskin from Press Photographers Association of Greater Los Angeles.

Through a sea of students from all over the country, I tried to find my way to the correct lecture. Stopping once in the madness for a free cup of coffee. In those few moments, I got my bearings and worked out the layout of the upper floor and located my lecture room.

At the end of the first session, I have to admit, I felt disheartened about the conference. It felt like I’d sat through an hour of show and tell. Although I’d enjoyed the photos and stories, I had been hoping to find more guidance and advice than what had just been presented to me.

My peers and I skipped the next session to go to an appointment where we had several recent issues of The Commuter critiqued. There were a handful of design suggestions made. We took note and split up for the lunch break.

My hopes to learn and receive guidance as a journalist were restored after lunch when I attended my next lecture.

Jennifer Burger from California State University, Bakersfield, talked about interviewing techniques. Burger shared a lot of insightful tips that could help an interviewer get someone more comfortable with talking to them. When the person being interviewed is more comfortable with the person interviewing them, they are more likely to open up and share more useful information and quotes.

Those were just the kind of tips I’d been hoping to ascertain. I attended the following session with Priewe. I suppose he, too, wanted to know how to move “Beyond the Inverted Pyramid.” He had just taught us about the inverted pyramid in class several weeks earlier. We both listened attentively in the crowded room, to what Megan Garvey of KPPC Public Radio had to say about that.

Garvey shared tips on how to be an effective storyteller, and how to move away from focusing on structuring stories in the style of the inverted pyramid. Tell the story as if you are telling it to a friend or colleague. She mentioned thinking about making the reader feel something. Use your real life experiences to judge what will be the most effective way to tell the story but try to stay away from writing “everything in the kitchen sink” stories. To help do that, think about what the story is not about just as much as what it is.

By the end of the second day, I’d attended close to ten lectures and taken pages and pages of notes. I learned so much, I wouldn’t be able to fit it into a single newspaper story.

The thing I learned that stands out the most though, is not something I learned in any one lecture. It is something I derived while absorbing the speeches I sat through. It’s something all the speakers had in common. They taught me if you’re really passionate about something and you just keep at it, chances are you’ll find success in it, too.

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