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Archive for February, 2009

That’s the title for the script they use to test people who want to read books on tape for the blind. They were talking about it on the Kidd Kraddick in the Morning radio show. That’s what I listen to after NPR’s Market Report sends me spiraling into depression.

It’s just ANOTHER mention of Romania we’ve come across since deciding to set sail (like the blog title tie in?).

I think it’s a sign from the heavens. Lindsey just thinks it’s a coincidence.

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NPR’s Fresh Air just played an interview with New York Times foreign correspondent Dexter Filkins. He covered the war in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2002 and reported on the Iraq war from 2003 to 2006. And recently he revisited Afghanistan and wrote a book The Forever War that chronicles his experiences.

And boy, did he have some experiences. A little bit of bribing. A little face time with Taliban leaders that could chop your head off without flinching. A little getting lost and a lot of finding some amazing stories– just the sort of stuff that makes me want to be a foreign correspondent. And he makes it sound like it’s all in a day’s work.

He happened to share some advice that I think applies to this trip to Romania. When talking about being abroad (in some very sketchy places), he said you have to trust your gut.

Will do, Dexter. Will do.

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One of the things my advertising research professor repeatedly emphasized throughout the class was that brand planners (those people that figure out what consumers want and how they rationalize their buying habits) have to be chameleons. By this, she meant that brand planners must be able to get along with people from all walks of life, no matter how weird or disturbing they might find the consumers’ lives to be.

Also, brand planners have to be able to insert themselves into social situations with consumers if they want to retrieve any valuable information. I think journalists need that same ability. We’ve got to be chameleons, too. We have to be able to blend into the story’s environment.

The key is adaptability.

We’re not in Romania yet, but we’re already running across some logistical obstacles. While the situation is stressful, we realize that we’ve been dealt a certain hand and we’re going to adapt. This stuff happens, and we can’t control it. But we can control how we respond, so we’re creating a backup plan for a new set of circumstances.

When I was soliciting advice from photojournalists, one of them told me about a trip of his overseas. He was going to be in this country for a week and he had absolutely nothing with two days left. He had an enormous amount of pressure on him because his editors would have been slightly upset if he arrived with no good story/photos after spending a week abroad. Since what he was doing wasn’t working, he switched gears and found a new story/angle to run with. It worked out for him, and we’re hoping what we’re doing will work out for us.

These obstacles will most certainly change our experience, but they won’t stop us. Because we’re like those little lizards that change color. We can be chameleons, too.

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Friday night I went home to play with my new camera gear that arrived and is a late Christmas present from my grandparents. It’s mostly lighting stuff (think very basic David Hobby stuff), but I did get a lensbaby, too. Lensbabies are simple lenses, where you manually focus on a point in the frame, and the rest is blurred. Check out the image below (no editing). You should also check out their site to see exactly how they work. My explanation is very simplified.

puppy lensbaby

I’ve made the executive decision to leave the lensbaby at home when I go to Romania.  This was after the tweet I got from Robert Hart advising me to leave it here. Also, after playing around with it for a while, I’m pretty sure it would be more of a distraction than anything else on the trip.

While I was home, my dad surprised me with a Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5. (My parents must love me a whole lot–thanks!) I am so excited about this lens! I can actually capture an entire room from the doorway now (yay!). Check out the photo below. My puppy was a little tired of being my subject.

Puppy in kitchen

By the way, Meadows just acquired some flip cameras (compact video cameras). It looks like I’m going to be able to borrow one, so Sommer’s getting her wish after all. (Thanks, Jake and Jason!) Now, we’ll have audio, stills and video documentation of our trip. Are you exhausted thinking about all the editing that needs to be done? I sure am.

So I’m in the process of searching for a camera backpack that has a laptop sleeve. I went and looked at some yesterday, but didn’t find any perfect ones. Anyone have any good suggestions?

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Well, we’ll have to wait to find out. Sommer and I met today to update each other about what’s going on, as well as give each other more homework. On Sommer’s list of things to do is finishing the query letter that explains our project to publications and asks if the publication would be interested in buying our work.

Sommer originally  said that if she didn’t finish it by tonight that I would get to shoot her, but since I need her on this trip, that really doesn’t benefit either one of us. She then said, “Okay, I’m going to put this out there. If I don’t finish the letter by tonight, you’ll get my cut of the money.”

I’m liking the sound of that! Sommer, you have approximately 7 hours, 35 minutes and 5 seconds…4…3…

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I actually have no idea if you’re Romanian. But do you know who is?

The salesperson at J.Crew who helped my brother buy a jacket. And my Aunt’s piano teacher. And my cousin’s good friends. And the colleague of my former editor at University College London. And Lindsey’s friend she met in Denmark.

It’s strange but every time I mention Romania someone seems to know someone who has been, or is going, or lived there or worked there. So again, if you’ve got a Romanian contact or random connection, tell us. It’s interesting (and we like comments).

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I’m going to build on my earlier post that made the oh so bold and unprecedented claim that the traditional world of journalism is crumbling.

I definitely still stand by that, but today I spent the morning and afternoon wandering the (pretty empty) halls of the Belo building downtown, listening to lectures, partaking in panel discussions and eating LOADS of food as part of the Belo Scholarship Day.

You would think that spending a day with a company that is constantly downsizing and reconfiguring would be a bit of downer. Strangely enough, I left inspired and encouraged. And I left feeling like Lindsey and I (and nearly all aspiring journalists) are sitting with a pretty decent view of how it’s all going to go down. We’re at least better off than those who are in the midst of the rubble trying to dig themselves out, right?

I think that the best thing about the industry realizing it needs to “reinvent” itself (reinvent was definitely the most used word of the day) is that we’re sort of in charge of doing that. Media companies like Belo Corp and A.H. Belo Corp are looking for innovative minds to hire. They’re looking for young people with passion and initiative.

During the panel discussion somebody posed the ubiquitous question that in essence asks “how the hell do i get a job?” And their answer was pretty much do everything you can to show you stand out. Show you want this job more than anyone else and show them you’re worth more than anyone else.

The Dallas Morning News managing editor George Rodrigue told a story about some girl in Seattle he knew who got an internship with a paper because she had gone to China with a flip camera on her own dime to do a sort of first-hand report on teenage interaction with the media. His point was that all the applicants for that internship had solid clips, strong references and some experience with their university paper or Web site. But only she had gone to China with a flip camera.

I guess what I’m really getting at is…Lindsey, want to buy a flip camera?

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