The young and the pantsless

The office of the Columbia Missourian at the University of Missouri is a serious newsroom. It is full of serious reporters and serious editors who take their work seriously. Not that they shouldn’t — the Missourian is, after all, the training ground for a future generation of serious journalists.

The newsroom hums, as any good newsroom is apt to do. It buzzes, it rumbles, it thrives. No one is stationary. People weave between desks, make calls, take notes, talk in low voices to editors over black coffees. Everyone is sharp, focused, clear-eyed and limber-minded. Everyone is wearing pants.

Everyone except me.

It’s late in the afternoon, and I’ve ducked into the newsroom to borrow a roll of tape and some scissors: necessary supplies to repair a slight spiral notebook mishap. I look around, notice that I’m sorely out of place. My outfit consists, as it does every day, of a large-ish T-shirt, chacos with raspberry-colored straps, and Nike shorts (read: not pants).

I despise pants.

Pants are a symbol of power. To say someone “wears the pants” is to give him or her the upper hand. Pants lend weight and importance to the wearer. When women first donned trousers it was revolutionary; a right formerly reserved for the male race. Then, pants were a symbol of liberation. Now, they are oppressive.

I survived the Argentinian winter in leggings and tights. For the past month I’ve existed in Nike shorts, skirts, and dresses. Come fall it will be leggings and tights again, sometimes thin and sometimes opaque. The day I’m forced to button a button and zip a zipper is the day contentment dies.

Pants are not freeing. They squeeze and squish and prohibit a breeze or a tan or the occasional high kick. They limit your creativity. They turn you into a real, working journalist — the serious kind.

One day I’ll join the ranks of the pants-wearers. I will buy a pair made with as much polyester as possible (mustn’t restrict those high kicks), I’ll suck it up and I’ll act like an adult.

For now, though, my childish desires to frolic in pantsless liberation knows no bounds. I run, I dance, I lounge, I dream, all with my thighs exposed. Adulthood is on the horizon, but it hasn’t engulfed me yet.

The young and the pantsless

How this chicken kept her head

One reporter. Five stories. Three days.

Well okay, the deadline on the fifth (a piece for the Missourian on Central Missouri Honor Flight), was a bit flexible. But you get the gist.

Three days, and not a moment to lose. The to-do list was as follows:

And, when all is said and done..

  • Transcribe every interview ever. Die a little bit inside.
  • Write the two stories on Anderson
  • Write the review
  • Write the blurbs for book recommendations
  • Write about Honor Flight, and make it compelling, dammit.

Right. No sweat. I could already see myself keeling over in public from exhaustion or running in front of a moving vehicle to get to an interview on time or, worst of all, presenting my editor with unfinished stories, wheedling about there only being 24 hours in a day. The nerve.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned during my time at Vox and at the Missourian, it’s how to manage time. This past week, these stories, were there to test my abilities. The eyes of the staff was upon me, and I scheduled, micro-managed and used every available minute.

My planner was color-coded, my laptop by my side at all times. I was Claire Landsbaum, Super Reporter.

In the end I finished everything by the dreaded “Thursday at two” deadline. I even, come to think of it, got five or more hours of sleep every night.

Tl;dr: When faced with an assignment that seems impossible, play at the top of your game. You’re up to the task and your editors know it, even if you might not know it yourself.

chicken-1
Self portrait, week of April 15, 2013
How this chicken kept her head

An ode to the Missourian restroom

Last Friday, as you know, I had my first General Assignment shift–my first time working in a full-fledged newsroom anywhere. One may say I was “spiritually unprepared” for the experience. In between Doris Wiggins calls and trips to the police station I fled to the quiet sanctuary of the toilets. Not to sound perverse, but going there actually gave me some much-needed reflection time. I could hear myself think, map out Doris’ story in my head, think about what I needed to get done for the Vox spring preview (coming soon!). I felt genuinely appreciative towards my ceramic sanctuary and wanted to commemorate the moment… hence this post. And so, without further ado, “An ode to the Missourian restroom.”

Restroom, oh restroom.

Where I scramble to escape the ringing phones, clacking keyboards, garbled reporters’ voices. Where everything is cool, white, ceramic (except for the floor, which is a peeling ecru. What Mystery Juice puddled down there between stalls? Never mind, I’d rather not know…).

Where I sponge the excess oil from my face with a piece of thin-because-it’s-cheap toilet tissue and tilt my chin to scrutinize what little makeup remains: a sure sign of a full day’s work.

Where I lean over the drip-drip-dripping faucet, peer into the mirror and say bracingly to my reflection We-ell, you’d better get back out there. They’ll be missing you.

But, when I re-emerge after 17 minutes and 43 seconds, it’s as if I’ve never left.

An ode to the Missourian restroom

Meeting Doris Wiggins: GA shift number one

During my first GA shift I made a friend. Her name was Doris Wiggins. She was 94, lived in Columbia her whole life and died on Wednesday, Jan. 24 2012 at Lenoir Woods Health Care Center.

GA (General Assignment) shifts are all about meeting new people. Us reporters on GA occupy the newsroom from 8 a.m. until circa 5 p.m. and (if we’re lucky) work on a story assigned by our ACE –– Assistant City Editor. Occasionally we’re dispatched to cover breaking news: fires, armed robberies and the like. We interview officials and bystanders on the scene… new people.

During my shift, though, four reporters were assigned life stories, myself included. A life story isn’t an obituary; quite the opposite. Instead of announcing a death it celebrates a life well lived. Life stories highlight the personality of the deceased and include memorable anecdotes that give you a feel for him /her. My favorite Doris story? She rode from her farm in Deer Park to Jefferson Junior High on horseback.

Of course, like obituaries, calling people to interview for life stories can be sticky. Doris had died on Wednesday and here I was calling around on Friday. I was apprehensive, to say the least.

I got lucky. The first person I called, Doris’ friend Pam, was gracious and obliging. She began haltingly but warmed to the subject. Doris was kind, professional, efficient, organized. She was a petite lady and dressed beautifully, nary a hair out of place. “She could look as good at 5 in the afternoon as she did at 8 in the morning,” Pam said.

I began to see Doris in my mind’s eye: click-clacking in prim pumps and a smart skirt suit down the hall of MU’s College of Agriculture, where she worked as a secretary to the Associate Dean.

What really made me fond of Doris, though, was finding out she was a dancer. The family obituary had mentioned this and I asked both Pam and Doris’ cousin David (whom I called next) to elaborate. They replied identically: “Oh she loved, loved to dance!” Literally the exact same quote. Eerie.

I heard about her trips in the 1940s and 50s to the Saturday Nighter’s club. I heard about how she liked the fast steps while her husbands (she married three times) preferred slow. I heard about Pam visiting Doris at Lenoir and, even then, noticing her feet tapping whenever music played.

I didn’t know how fond I’d grown of Doris until I stumbled upon her high school yearbook picture. She had been Doris Denham then. Seeing her face on the (virtual) page, full and young and immortalized, honestly brought me to tears. I felt a connection to her, to the life she’d lived, and to the two people who had shared their Doris with me.

I finished Doris’ story around 4 p.m., sat with Emilie for editing, and left the newsroom at 5:15. The story came online at 8 p.m. and I read over it, satisfied, feeling I’d done my new friend justice.

Click here to read Doris’ life story

Doris Denham in Hickman High's yearbook, class of 1937
Doris Denham in Hickman High School’s yearbook, class of 1937

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meeting Doris Wiggins: GA shift number one