Category: Journalism

A Short Essay on Short Essays

A Short Essay on Short Essays

I don’t know why I insist on writing these posts after going to the gym lately, because really it’s just detrimental for my ability to imagine and write coherent posts.

Though perhaps not as much as the insufferable heat wave yesterday.

I’ll count my blessings where I can.

Speaking of that heat killing all of my motivation, it seems I’ve been fluctuating between work-focused and not at all work-focused quite a bit the past few days. After doing next to nothing yesterday, today I actually got my stuff together enough to be productive. Notably with a job application I’ve been working on that is, admittedly, a far-flung idea for me to feel completely justified talking about in-depth.

Doing that job application has gotten me thinking a little bit about one part of this app, and many others for that matter, that feels somewhat strange to me at the moment.

The personal essay.

I don’t typically put a lot of thought into the idea of writing essays. Growing up I put myself through the wringer of the Advanced Placement course pathway in high school, which included AP Language and AP Literature. We had to write a lot of essays in those classes to prepare us for the AP exams, so I was used to the idea.

Essays also continued to be synonymous with college courses. Every undergraduate-level class has some kind of writing requirement and all of my Communications courses are all about writing.

As a result, you would think essay requirements showing up in job applications would just come in stride.

Which, to be fair, they do for the most part. Whenever I’ve applied for the Daily Titan an essay has always been required, for example.

But for some reason the essay that was asked of me in this current job application stuck out as… The worst, most stand-out part of it.

It took me a little while to figure out exactly why. But I think the conclusion I’ve come to says something about me and the way I tend to approach work.

For me essays make a lot more sense in a job application when they ask for some kind of very specific information. Using the Daily Titan application as an example, the essay portion of that involves answering a couple of questions pertaining to the potential job.

What does the paper do well? What does it not do well? What can you bring to the job you’re applying for that would make it better?

Things like that.

Sure it’s arguably formulaic to go down this route, but the sense of direction those questions bring do make for a straight-forward task. Answering the questions, while utilizing them as conduits for inserting stories of one’s experience as a means of showcasing that individual’s abilities.

The application I’ve been working on doesn’t really have any sort of driving questions like this to give potential employees a sense of direction.

As far as premise goes, this application simply asks for an autobiographical essay to tell the hiring staff something that cannot be garnered from the surrounding questions in the application. Given the fact that it already asks for degree-earning information, references and work samples outside of the essay, that leaves a vague opening for what can be written.

That somewhat vague nature exacerbates a potential pitfall in writing the essay. Or at least it does in my head where I’m more than likely over thinking things, but that’s another story.

If you have an essay for a fairly serious job application essentially asking you to write about anything you want outside of your direct work experience, where is the line in terms of being too casual or not casual enough?

Obviously the whole thing can’t just be the tale of how you won X reward or accomplished Y task, but it’s also probably not great form to do something jokey or entirely non-serious since the serious aspects might be in one’s resume off the bat. Looking like you take the job not at all seriously while applying to it seems like a quick way to lose a potential job.

Now all of this is more of a theoretical thought experiment, as the pragmatic side of me has already sorted out the balance of serious-versus-personal qualities to write about. But seeing my personal preference lean so heavily in the direction of a structured, serious or even academic paper versus one that lets me express myself in an open, even goofy way is interesting. Introspective even.

Perhaps all those years of AP classes really did screw me up for the rest of my life, just like I joke about.

This seems like the perfect opportunity to ask an actually interesting question at the end of one of these blog posts. Where do you feel you stand on the spectrum I described here?

Do you prefer if a job (or anything for that matter) asks structured, serious questions of you? Or more open, vague questions?

Let me know somewhere on the internet, I’d love to hear it!

Just another Quiet Day in the Neighborhood

Yesterday I was late on delivery with my blog post because I was busy all afternoon with my friends. Today, while I’m not on the cusp of midnight like before, I’m also a little later than I want to be.

But not because I was completely distracted. More because I found it a little hard to get my energy going.

That’s not to say I haven’t done anything at all today. I actually did get some serious work done interviewing an aerospace design engineer for Gladeo and transcribing that interview. For once it wasn’t a two-hour ordeal of a discussion to write out. Only a half hour.

It was actually very reasonable and easy to go through in comparison.

Even if, like I said, I wasn’t very motivated to get through it too quickly. So it still took me some time to transcribe out.

But I did get through the whole thing by the end of the day. I just have to go through what I got and decide how to lay out my Spotlight. It’s probably only going to be a Spotlight too, as a design engineer is sort of ambiguous to fit under one branch of engineering specifically.

You could be a designer for mechanical engineering, or environmental engineering, so on and so forth.

I don’t know exactly what category this interview might fit under, but that’s also not really for me to decide. I’m just the reporter, yo.

Doing that interview was about the only significant thing I did today, outside of helping clean the house where I could and playing some Enter the Gungeon on my Switch.

Another excellent Switch roguelike game, I might add.

Hopefully I’ll have more to discuss tomorrow, but for now I think I can essentially just leave this where it is.

The only other major thought I can think to expand upon right now is more of a simple housekeeping point. I think it’s about time I go through all of my social media and update it.

See I have a somewhat bad habit of just letting my Internet life exist in the void. Obviously my Twitter and Facebook are just megaphones for my blog posts here 90 percent of the time. Out of design mostly, as I prefer to let my thoughts fill a larger space than social media tends to allow.

As a result of that I don’t often go through and change my personal information. My Twitter Page still says I’m a news editor for the Daily Titan, for example, when I haven’t technically been in that position for close to a year.

Whoops.

Same problem on my Facebook page, where a lot of my interests listed are still things that haven’t been touched since like… Senior year. Of high school.

But probably the most egregious offense comes in my much more newly assembled LinkedIn page. That’s really the one that’s tripping me up right now because it’s the place people connect with me for more work-related endeavors — and it currently suffers the same problem as my Twitter page.

So over the next few days I think I’m going to go through and make them all perfect.

Then I’m going to do my best to update them more regularly. Because even if I don’t care about them THAT much, it’s important to remember that those are my forward-facing impressions to the world of 2018 more often than not.

Work. Social media. Fun, fun stuff, isn’t it?

This Gladeo Spotlight is Magic

This Gladeo Spotlight is Magic

Some of you are probably thinking this headline here is just a symptom of me being full of myself.

But it’s not.

It’s actually a sort of pun on the fact that the person I interviewed is named Magic.

Is it worse to abuse the obvious pun than it is to be full of myself? I suppose that’s the kind of semantic detail you as the audience should decide. I won’t dwell on it too long because I have a point to get to.

That point being my Gladeo piece on audio engineers is live right now! I just found out about it this morning during our bi-weekly meeting and got right on putting this together. As soon as I finished helping paint the girl’s room. But you can just look at yesterday’s post if you want more details on that.

My conversation with Magic was probably one of the coolest interviews I’ve had the opportunity to conduct. He’s a great guy with a storied history and plenty of things to say about finding work you enjoy doing that really spoke to me at a personal level even more than just my professional judgement of what makes good quotes. I spent plenty of time going into that when I first did the interview a few weeks back.

Unlike a daily news cycle, these kinds of longer-form database profiles and such don’t have a super quick turnaround, so I’ve been waiting to see everything get through the editing process for a while. In the meantime I’ve been working on some other pieces, but this is the one I’ve been really excited about.

I updated my Gladeo work listing in that tab over on the right, but if you want you can jump through this link here to check out the overall profile on being an Audio Engineer I put together. Through there is another point of access to the Spotlight I wrote about Magic specifically.

When I first started to work on this piece I mentioned an interest in posting the full interview transcript. After all, he said so much wonderful stuff that it was difficult to have o distill it down for proper publication. So I figured hey, I’ve got a personal blog. Why not put the full text here?

If you’re interested in reading the full (somewhat) unabridged hour-long talk I had with Magic, go ahead and click the read more button / scroll down. But if you’re not, I’d still appreciate it if you could check out the published piece over on the Gladeo website.

Thanks a billion everyone, looking forward to getting more out there soon!

Continue reading “This Gladeo Spotlight is Magic”

Figuring out the Facebooks

Figuring out the Facebooks

It’s not very often that I can get meta about the inner workings of this blog I’ve got regarding subjects beyond the simple milestones like post numbers or followers. But today I wanted to do just that because of a somewhat more interesting development affecting the blog completely beyond my control.

Screen Shot 2018-07-31 at 1.16.18 PM

According to information put out by WordPress, the service, Facebook is restricting the ability of third-party tools to automatically publish material on people’s profile pages.

If I were to read between the obvious lines, this change is more than likely a push to fix some of the concerns regarding the social media site’s use by Russian hackers to messing with the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election. Because whether or not you believe President Trump on the argument that Russia was not meddling at all, or they weren’t meddling on his behalf, or whatever the current story is, clearly some shady stuff was going down.

In fact, some shady stuff is still apparently going down. So it isn’t a concern we’re likely to see go away anytime soon.

Facebook has been trying to, at the very least, put its best face forward (pun only somewhat intended) about aiming to regain the trust of the service’s users. Anyone who spends nearly as much time on YouTube as I do, for example, will probably recognize this ad that suddenly started showing up before just about every video in existence a few weeks back:

The cynic in me rolls his eyes pretty hard seeing this ad, as it’s more than likely Facebook cares more about keeping itself alive as a juggernaut business than it does making sure every Joe Schmo out there can still talk with their friends and family like ‘the good old days.’

But there’s also something to be said about the fact that they’re trying to do something rather than just letting everything burn to the ground while pretending that nothing happened.

Even if that something just amounts to customer-facing BS.

I think that’s about as political as I’m willing to get on the subject right now, however. I haven’t done any of my own significant research or reporting and as a result can’t give you all a definitive ‘Facebook is doing it wrong/right’ verdict.

All I can really say is that based on stuff like the reporting out of Vox I linked to up above and the fact that Facebook is changing its third-party integration (the thing this post was supposed to be about, what a circle!), at least there seems to be an effort to improve. Something I’m hopeful isn’t just BS, as I previously mentioned.

Unfortunately that effort to improve does make my personal life a little more difficult.

See the non-political part of this post is here to address the fact that changing integration also changes the way I need to handle my social media with regards to WordPress stuff.

As must be obvious to most people out there, my social media accounts right now are primarily means of creating a wider viewership for my blog posts. Sure I still go through and post independent things on Facebook and Twitter on occasion, but for the most part I actually much prefer the freedom of being able to write as much as I desire here and spreading that to the world instead of dealing with some restriction like 280 characters.

Now that my WordPress posts will no longer automatically publish to Facebook, I’ve arrived at something of a crossroads.

Is it worth going about the extra step of posting my blog activity to Facebook directly?

Or should I just abandon that social media branch entirely?

The obvious choice for my lazy self is the latter. However, even if I don’t think too much of it in my head, there are some benefits to getting my words out on Facebook specifically.

Those benefits more or less boil down to the posts being seen by people who do, at least occasionally, pay attention that wouldn’t be able to continue doing so via Twitter. Family is the big chunk of that demographic, as I’ll see people like my grandparents liking posts out of the blue on occasion. But there’s also some high school friends I’ve got that occasionally like or comment on my posts. Which is pretty cool, to be completely honest. I like knowing that I’ve caught someone’s fancy with something I might not have expected to.

So with that said, I suppose I should thank you all for making it this far into what is ultimately a non-discussion. I pretty much knew from the get-go that my decision would ultimately be to figure out the best way to separately post these up on Facebook.

I just figured it would be a more interesting post if I went into some of the mindset I had leading up to the decision. After breaking away from writing to hit the gym for an hour, I figure I’ve hit a place in the writing and in my energy level to end it here.

Though that said, I suppose this is going to be my first post separately uploaded to Facebook. Because of that please stand by if it takes some time for me to figure out exactly how I want that to work.

Receiving the Carl Greenberg Scholarship

At first, I figured today was going to be a day where I would talk all about the trailer that was dropped about the upcoming Pokémon Let’s Go, Pikachu & Eevee games.

But something much more important came up after I started writing that which feels like a better conversation topic for the day. So sorry Pokémon, you’ve been sidelined.

Today I received word from the Scholarship Chair of the Society of Professional Journalist’s Los Angeles branch that I have been awarded the Carl Greenberg Scholarship for Political and Investigative Reporting.

Frankly, that’s pretty kick-ass and I’m excited about it!

According to the SPJLA website, the scholarship is “awarded to a college student pursuing investigative or political reporting,” named after a LA Times political reporter “famed for being singled out by Richard Nixon as the only reporter who covered him ‘fairly.'”

So not only am I excited about the fact that I won something I applied for kind of out of the blue — mostly as something to do early on in the summer when I was sitting around — but I’m also humbled at the fact that I’ve been recognized to sit in a pantheon which sounds so prestigious. Helps give some perspective to the work I’ve had the pleasure of doing, and all those other clichés that must be expected from an awards acceptance speech of sorts.

Though to be completely honest, the $1,000 that comes with it certainly helps pique my interest.

What can I say, prestige is nice and all, but so is food and gas when you’re a broke college student.

As are plenty of new video games coming soon, but don’t tell the nominating committee that.

In celebration of my award, I figured I would throw out this short post as both a way of logging the fact that I earned this recognition and as a way of slyly promoting myself.

You’ve all seen those articles out of major newspapers that showcase stories which received accolades. Hell, I even wrote an article in that vein for the Daily Titan at the end of the Spring 2018 semester.

So consider the bottom of this blog post one of those for me. I submitted three articles alongside my scholarship application, and I’m going to link out to each of them here.

Before I do, I just wanted to thank the SPJLA Scholarship Chair Richard Saxton, who helped let me know what I needed to do to apply, and all the other members of the Scholarship Committee for this awesome opportunity. Here’s to many more hopefully coming in the near future!


This article has arguably been one of my proudest achievements as a journalist thus far. That could be said for most of the stories in this small list alone, sure, but there’s so much history to my coverage of Milo Yiannopoulos’ visit to CSUF that I consider it a saga.

Kicking the whole thing off was an article that was weeks in the making. It began as simple rumors that supposedly there were plans in the work to bring the conservative provocateur to campus based on a petition online to keep controversial figures off campus. Based on that rumor I talked to a myriad of sources and eventually put out this fairly large piece covering the entire process of how one can bring a speaker to campus in light of the confirmation that Yiannopoulos’ visit was in the works.

And that isn’t even going into all of the coverage of the Canin scandal from the semester prior that helped build my relations with the College Republicans Club enough to help them trust my reporting.

Even during that initial coverage I knew the plan was to bring the man to campus on Halloween. At the point this initial piece was published, however, I kept that to myself in case the reporting of that information changed the plans at hand in any significant way.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Our semester was thus far filled with coverage of Yiannopoulos’ visit from any conceivable angle from myself and other members of the news desk staff. Eventually that culminated in a massive three-story package of a paper that went on to receive a special edition reprint, got me a talking head spot on NPR’s ‘Take Two’ and earned a number of accolades at the most recent LA Press Club Awards.

Plus Milo himself said on Facebook that he liked how balanced I was with the story on his speech. Never would have expected that, but it’s something I’ll take on as a badge of pride considering I didn’t get that praise while also upsetting the other side of the aisle.

I could talk about this article all day, but then we’d be here all day. Nobody really wants that.

So check it out if you haven’t, and see all of the reporting that emerged as a result while you’re at it.

My coverage of Project Rebound goes back a ways. Multiple semesters, in fact, unlike the one-semester shots of the other articles on this list.

I was the person who covered the story when the program, which helps offer previously incarcerated individuals an opportunity to earn their degrees and avoid recidivism, first came to campus. At that point I made friends with the program’s director, Brady Heiner, and its brand new coordinator, Romarilyn Ralston.

At least once a semester I try to go back and see the Project Rebound folks because, despite obviously being objective in my reporting, I do feel the cause is an important and righteous one.

The story I used for this scholarship application is my most recent piece about the program: A profile of its coordinator, Romarilyn.

It started as an assignment for my Multimedia Journalism class, and the actual meat of where it originated comes in the form of the video I produced alongside the written article. It’s embedded within the story if you haven’t seen it, and it’s probably my most proud achievement in a multimedia realm.

Though that being said, her story is also incredibly powerful, and certainly one of those stepping-stones that I would argue got me more invested in the idea that Features are a powerful tool for telling other people’s stories more than they are extra avenues of reporting.

Another piece stemming from my work with the Daily Titan’s advisor as a part of her Investigative Reporting class, the homeless coverage I was a part of is another ‘saga’ in my reporting experience thus far that I remember fondly.

Certain specific events, like our coverage of the Point-In-Time count toward the beginning of that semester, are things I’ll never forget.

However, the coverage of Mercy House I did alongside Roxana Paul is another thing I’ll always hold dear. It fits into a similar vein as the Romarilyn story I talked about above, as it gave a hard news-focused kid the opportunity to do slightly more Features-based coverage by actually going out and talking with some of the homeless population in Orange County.

Yet it was also a story steeped in hard news, covering the numbers with how much help is available in the County and talking to the people who provide the aid on the ground.

There are plenty of other elements I could dive into regarding this story. It was one of the first time I took pictures for my own article, it had graphics and other multimedia elements, it was part of a wonderful series put together by a group of really talented reporters. On top of that, it helped me out further last semester when I assisted with the coverage of Santa Ana clearing out whatever homeless population was living along the riverbed.

It’s another story I would consider one of my most in-depth and powerful. So read it if you haven’t, and check out the other Homeless in OC coverage the Titan did as well!

The Magic of Storytelling

The Magic of Storytelling

The longer I spend time doing work for Gladeo, the more I find myself loving the idea of writing features as much as hard news.

Mostly that comes out of a deep interest in the people and telling their stories, something that comes inherent to all aspects of news writing but takes an especially poignant angle for profiles. After all, a profile is taking the opportunity to tell someone’s story with the sole focus of telling it.

For some reason I always figured I was never very good at features writing just because I’ve always written hard news. But once I got it in my head that it’s all about telling someone’s story, I’ve found myself getting more confident in the idea of writing them.

As I said, Gladeo has helped. Even if it takes more of a Q&A approach to the idea, everything still ties back to finding interesting people and learning the interesting things they have to say.

Tonight, that hunt for interesting people brought me to Magic Moreno. His full pedigree is far too lengthy for me to possibly ever be able to grasp in just a few fleeting words, so I’ll let his website do most of the talking there, but in essence he was a child star musician at six years old and eventually became a music producer/performer with multiple gold and platinum records under his belt and a rolodex featuring such names as Aretha Franklin and Freddie Mercury.

Needless to say, a fascinating guy to get an hour-and-a-half with.


Editor’s Note:

Quick shout out to Aly for making friends with Magic’s son through band at RUHS. I knew you’d come in handy one of these days!


What wound up being even more fascinating about Magic than his accolades (though those alone are a great chat) was his spirituality, his philosophical outlook on the world and how both of those tie in so deeply with his career and how he looks at giving back through other branches of his work like teaching.

I’m only about an hour or so out from actually talking with Magic as of writing this post, So I’ll need a little more time to debrief, and transcribe out what I got to truly have any insights that stood out as especially bright gems.

If anything, I’m considering publishing the entire transcript here once it’s all out together and my Gladeo piece is out there. Because his words deserve an uncut treatment.

Seriously, this interview wasn’t only cool because I got a brief glimpse into a star-studded life, or even just because of the 10 minutes or so we spent listening to a song he just finished producing.

Though that was amazing in itself, seeing him able to distill out one of the 100+ audio tracks comprising the song just to explain how it was an exotic instrument out of Uganda and showcase the way it seamlessly blended into this copacetic composition up until you specifically know to listen for it.

Particularly interesting for me having dabbled slightly into similar audio mixing for broadcast classes, but there’s a vast difference between the three audio tracks there versus the 100+ for a song.

But overall, the stuff that stood out most to me were his philosophical approaches to the ideas of why we do the things we love, the drive we have for that.

I actually felt a pretty deep connection with what he was saying while thinking about the work that I’ve done in the past. After a week that felt like a spiritual lull for me, it was honestly a wonderful thing.

Like I said, it’ll probably be a while before I get to throw everything out into the world, but look forward to it.

I’m certainly looking forward to adding his name onto the list of people I’ve had the pleasure of telling their stories.

Jason’s Ten-Dollar Word of the Day

I spent a lot of the day today doing work, copy editing for a number of different people mostly. While I could go on about why that made me late for getting this post out into the world, that would be boring.

Plus anyone reading this after tonight probably wouldn’t care in the first place. So I’m just going to not do that.

Instead I’m going to pull out an interesting tidbit from one of my jobs today and expand on it.

See, while doing a copy edit for a story coming out of Boom sometime soon regarding the current discussions about separating immigrant children from their parents at the border (a topic I don’t plan to delve too deeply into here, don’t worry) I found there were a few words I had to look up to see if they were being used correctly.

One such word stood out in particular because it gave me a more proper term to use for something which otherwise I’ve always treated in a casual manner.


Proselytize

Intransitive Verb form

  1. To induce someone to convert to one’s faith.
  2. To recruit someone to join one’s party, institution, or cause.

Transitive Verb form

  1. To recruit or convert especially to a new faith, institution or cause.

via the Merriam-Webster dictionary


Basically, when the Jehovah’s Witnesses come to your house to talk with you about their faith, they are proselytizing.

The term extends further than just religious door-to-door salesmanship, however. It’s also a politician’s term, a social movement’s term, an industrialist’s term, so on and so forth.

Funny enough, the word actually reminded me of a story I wrote back in 2013 for the High Tide. Julian Stern, a kid who I’d known through being a school acquaintance for some time by then, was running for City Council while just 18 years old.

Very specifically I recall him spending some time in my house to do the interview because he happened to be going door-to-door campaigning in my neighborhood at the time. It was an interesting interview to be sure, and I actually wound up reflecting that in the lede to my article.

You can read the article here, by the way. Bottom right-hand corner of page three.

Looking back on it now I probably would have been laughed out of my high school newsroom for trying to use a term like “proselytize” in my story, but it would’ve fit quite well as a more specific, mature term.

Of course the average reader more easily understood that he was “selling himself rather than magazines,” and that’s why it was the better choice to go with, but still. I would like to see myself use proselytize in a sentence sometime soon.

Also, don’t read too much into my saying ‘selling himself.’ I know you internet, you’ll make anything dirty, but this is not the time.

Stop it.

Well that’s my ten-dollar word of the day. I actually enjoy seeing things like ‘words of the day’ on every online dictionary and goofy calendar ever made, so I might just try to do this again next time I find a new word that’s interesting. If you’d like to see more of it, or if you learned an interesting new word today yourself, let me know down in the comments!

Am I Uncomfortable with Silence?

Am I Uncomfortable with Silence?

So this post comes in response to what I wrote the other day about the dichotomy of transcription, why it’s a terrible thing to do but also why it’s the best thing one can do when practicing journalism.

I know there was a gap where I talked about videa gaymes because of timely E3 business, but these extended thoughts kept nagging at me.

So consider this a part two of the discussion of transcription, and check out part one here if you haven’t already.

There was another ‘con’ to the act of transcribing that I considered going into while sitting in Starbucks with mom, working on the first post. But I decided not to include it because the more I thought about it, the more the problem felt like one example of a larger, personal idiosyncrasy of mine.

The idea of being subjected to total silence as something potentially uncomfortable to endure.

Now, to preface this discussion with myself, I’d like to say that I don’t actually feel like I’m the only person on the planet who might just be uncomfortable with silence. If anything, I think it’s an inherent part of being as social a creature as humans are.

There are likely hundreds of scientific studies out there on the matter, covering things like our tendencies to fill dead air in a conversation by changing topics or inserting speech fillers like “um” or “ah.”

But I’m going to be looking at the subject from an entirely personal perspective. None of those silly “empirical tests” and whatnot to murk up my subjective torrent of words.

I’ve always been a rather introverted person growing up. Ironic for someone going into a field where they need to constantly talk to people, I know.

My passions have always leaned toward personal activities like reading, writing and video games rather than group activities like partying and sports. I had my groups to do things like play video games with of course, but you get the idea.

Because of that I’ve generally considered myself the kind of person who enjoys, if not thrives in more silent environments. Sitting sheltered off in my room to do work, for example, which has in the past led to my parents deeming it “the cave.”

Yet the more I reflect on my past, the more I’ve come to realize that perhaps it’s more the isolation in which I thrive, rather than the quiet. I say that because more often than not I’ve always tried to fill the silence with other noises even when I’m not with other people.

Video games themselves are the perfect embodiment of this. I’ve been playing them my whole life, and the songs and sound bites from a number of titles are just as iconic to me as some images, just as likely to help recall certain events or moments from my life.

As a quick example, I’ll never be able to disassociate the opening theme to Pokémon White 2 from the specific Target (right across the street from the South Bay Galleria) where I started to play the game for the first time after having put it down unfinished when it first came out.

The idea of making sound ever-present in my life goes much deeper than that, however.

As much as I love driving as an activity, I find my commutes to-and-from Cal State Fullerton nearly unbearable when I can’t listen to a podcast or a video as I go.

When I’m falling asleep, I can never just lay back and go to sleep. I have to do what I consider pre-dreaming, where I start to imagine some sort of scene in my head – a scene that includes some sort of dialogue or musical score – in order to really lull myself into unconsciousness.

While reading tends to be one of the exceptions to this rule, as sometimes ill sit silently just imagining the pages play out in my head, sometimes particularly boring novels for class can get so unbearable that I need something else running in the background to help me get through it.

More often than not I have my computer somewhere in the bathroom as I shower, that way I can continue to listen to whatever video series I have running while standing under the relaxing spray for arguably way too long.

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The laundry basket makes for a convenient pedestal.

The list, as I’m sure you can assume, goes on-and-on.

Having gotten far off-track with that background information, let me tie everything back to why I believe feeling uncomfortable with silence is one of the reasons transcribing audio is such a terrible thing for me. As counter-intuitive as that must sound.

Sound. Audio puns. You know the drill.

When I imagine audio that fills all of the dead space in a moment, it’ll often be the sort of things I’ve discussed already. Podcasts. YouTube videos. Music.

Hell, more often than not my family has the TV on, but it’ll be on a mindless channel like the Food Network just to create background noise while we do other things.

However, I don’t consider work audio, something I’m transcribing, to be in the same category of unencumbered noise to distract from the uncomfortable void.

Part of that could be distilled down to the psychological difference between doing something for pleasure versus doing something for work, I suppose. But I think it goes deeper than that.

When transcribing an interview, you aren’t simply jamming out or getting engaged with an adventure someone else is describing. Unless of course your interviewee is describing an adventure… But again, semantics.

Rather than having the chance to just mindlessly enjoy something and absorb what’s happening, transcription is a much more heavy-duty job. You’re listening to someone talk in the same way, but instead of just absorbing it passively you’re very actively listening to that audio, translating it and jotting it down before going back to make sure what you’ve jot down is accurate.

You become more like a wall or a mirror than a sponge, bouncing that information off to a different place rather than just taking it in. The activity is much more taxing, and it becomes easier to lose your interest.

But on top of that, the requirement to constantly repeat things for accuracy leads to a whole host of other internal issues inherent to the process. While transcribing is a “listening” activity, large portions are spent in total silence. Silence is needed to finish copying down the sentence you just heard before the subject moves into their next thought. Silence is needed as you go back in time to listen to something again, and one can’t even have any other sorts of sounds going on the side because the copying needs to be as accurate as possible.

Then let’s not forget the fact that when one is transcribing audio, they can’t necessarily think about anything else other than that audio, either.

While a mind can wander while going to sleep and fill empty space with memorized sounds, transcribing requires a person to repeat what they’ve heard over-and-over again in their head to make sure they don’t forget what they’re writing so they have to go back and hear it again.

That reminder of the sentence is noise to break up the silence, yes, but again it plays back to the mundane, repetitive nature of transcribing that makes it somewhat unbearable as an activity.

Imagine constant switching between total silence and hearing the same sentences on repeat for a few hours. That’s what transcription is at its core.

Whether or not everyone else in the world feels the same way about silence and how it effects things like transcribing is hard to judge since I’m just going off of my own thoughts.

But if nothing else, simply reflecting on those thoughts and trying to imagine why certain things make me feel the way they do, even if I don’t come to any sort of substantial conclusion, is something else that’s inherently characteristic of being human.

The ability to reflect on one’s own situations, and even reflect on the ability to reflect in the first place. That’s the kind of meta that I find fascinating.

Especially when it comes off of an essentially pointless “deep thought” that winds up boiling down to me complaining about my job, if you think about it hard enough.

The Trouble with Transcription

The Trouble with Transcription

After spending large chunks of the day working on transcribing an hour-long Gladeo interview (arguably procrastinating a lot but that’s a different story), I find myself reflecting on the art of transcription as a whole.

… And the fact that it is simultaneously the most helpful but also the worst, least enjoyable part of my job as an aspiring journalist.

It might seem like hyperbole to use such radical opposites to describe the dichotomy of such an important part of the job, but I can almost guarantee that anyone who works in the field will likely agree.

But from where does this dichotomy stem?

Transcription is an ever-present and somewhat unassuming part of the job. If you’re going to be interviewing and quoting a subject in print, you need to have their spoken words written out to be able to print them. It’s just what needs to be done.

On one side of the argument, transcription is mundane, boring and at times even seemingly superfluous. Many times in the past I’ve found myself working on transcribing an interview thinking “oh I’ve heard this before.” More often than not it’s because I have heard this before, as I heard it the first time when I conducted the interview.

However on top of that basic, unavoidable problem of just hearing repeat information, transcription is also a pain because it feels like busy work when going through the motions. You are quite literally copying down the words someone is saying onto a sheet of paper. There aren’t too many tools out there to assist with the job, either.

Because you want the most accurate wording possible so your piece comes out as accurately as possible, it behooves you not to rely on something like Siri to hear the audio and write it out for you because the computer can’t tell the difference between minutia when it comes to speech.

Ever tried to tell Siri to tell someone ‘you’re here for them’ and she instead tells them ‘you hear them’? Not the kind of mistranslation you want at any level of professional publication.

In recent semesters the Daily Titan staff has discovered a web browser-based app called oTranscribe which is honestly a godsend for the job. Not only does it allow you to slow down or speed up the audio you’re listening to, but it can be adjusted to do things like automatically time stamp, and there are other keyboard shortcuts that allow you to pause the sound while typing. Only it will go back about three seconds automatically so you can review the last sentence you transcribed.

oTranscribe is seriously awesome and has helped my job immensely. But… It doesn’t exactly address the problem of getting bored while listening to the same audio you’ve already listened to. That’s unfortunately an issue that will remain into the foreseeable future, up until some device that transcribes perfectly for you is invented.

In the real world, there are some factors that tend to alleviate the mundane boredom of the act. For example, it becomes much faster and more engaging to transcribe something when you’re, say, transcribing something live as a meeting’s secretary or rushing to get the words together for a deadline article that required a source who could only talk in the penultimate hour before publication.

I’ve done that before. Makes the process go way faster in my experience.

Without the “luxury” of a rapid turnaround to help enliven the process, transcribing can drag immensely.

Say, hypothetically, you have an hour-long interview to transcribe. An hour’s worth of the same person talking about the same thing you’ve already heard that you’re just writing down to help you later. Then add onto that the fact that there is no hard, set deadline to hit.

Someone could procrastinate forever on that kind of assignment. By doing things like writing an overly embellished blog post about the fact that you need to do it but can’t help getting distracted.

Hypothetically.

With all of that said, let’s look at the other side of the argument: Why it’s worth transcribing audio despite the heartache that comes with doing so.

I’ve had to handle stories in both ways I’m about to describe.

Some stories have been on such a last-minute deadline that I’ve had to rely solely on my brief written notes to find a time stamp for the quote I definitely need to throw in my story. It’s an effective system in that it’s fast — one of the more useful things it can be on deadline, but there are some problems.

More often than not, in the midst of an interview a reporter will be thinking about half a dozen things all at once. Not only is the necessity of the content their story requires and the deadline for which they have to get that information weighing heavy.

They’ll also be thinking about their next three follow-up questions that will give them the information needed. Except wait- the subject just said something really important an interesting. I better slot in another question to get more details about that.

Oh, and don’t forget to be checking the audio recorder to ensure it’s still taping. At the same time as you’re taking hand-written notes that are detailed enough to rely on in case the recorder breaks yet brief enough to make sure you don’t fall behind while the subject talks at a mile a minute.

See what I’m getting at?

Interviews are a serious juggling act, so much so that the overtaxed mind of the interviewer is likely to glaze over some details throughout the course of the talk. While those details may not necessarily be important, they could be. Hell there could be a perfect end quote for the story at minute 37 of one’s interview, but they were so busy jotting down notes from the previous statement that they forgot to mark down the fact that something good was just said.

In that first kind of deadline situation, the reporter might lose that quote forever because they’re in such a rush that they can only use things they’ve jotted down and know are necessary.

But let’s imagine a second situation. One in which the reporter has a few days or even weeks to work on a story. Be it a larger enterprise piece, a profile or even just an event story where they got a background interview in advance.

Should they suffer through the lengthy slog of transcribing that interview, suddenly a whole host of new doors open up.

When writing the article, now said reporter can have the transcription up in a window just to the side, allowing them to have all their information in one place that they can copy over without having to re-type everything or struggle to understand what’s being said on a pressured deadline.

Personally I’ve also found this method extremely helpful in that I can mark off what information I’ve already used by highlighting the transcript. It may seem like a small thing to remember what statement has been used versus which one hasn’t, but having the information laid out in a clear, concise way honestly frees up a lot of brain power to focus more on other thing, like where to go next or what statement jumps off the previous one best.

Then there are other benefits to having a written transcript, like being able to share it with an editor or fellow reporter who has offered their assistance in crafting/improving a piece. That way they can glance through the written words I just a few minutes versus having to listen to hours worth of audio just to catch up and know what’s happening.

I could go on and on, but I think you get the point. For as huge a pain in the ass transcription is, going out if your way to do so makes the entire writing process that follows monumentally easier. I can pinpoint specific stories where I wish I had transcripts of my audio, as they would have made those pieces leagues better.

The piece I had to do a few years ago on a presentation that was given entirely in Spanish comes to mind… But to be fair the issue there was arguably more about that language barrier than specifically the lack of transcripts themselves.

As unrelated an example as that may seem, it does actually highlight the chief reason I think transcriptions are essential for any and all journalists. You may think it’s mundane and worthless to listen to your interview twice-over, but the more you repeatedly look at something the more engrained that information becomes and the more you understand it.

In an industry where our job is to understand a person and what they’re doing intimately enough to convey that information to an audience presumably ignorant on that subject, the better you can understand the words you’re working with, the better you can convey the spirit of that subject through their words.

Making up for lost time

I had a fun day with my friends yesterday. Chilling for the first time this summer, playing games late into the night, watching dumb internet videos and eating pizza.

Because I got lost doing that, I unfortunately didn’t have the chance to write a blog post. I don’t imagine anyone is going to fault me for that necessarily, but I still personally feel bad for dropping the ball on my goal, so I wanted to write something extra today to make up for it.

It won’t be nearly as gargantuan as my Yu-Gi-Oh!-themed post from this morning, as I spent large chunks of the last week working on that.

Also yes, I know I could have just rescheduled that to post yesterday and completely circumnavigate this internal turmoil.

But I didn’t think about it until today so shush.

I’ve just finished doing another edit for Boom, this time on a piece about the impact of Mexican migrants on the history of soccer’s popularity in the United States as we approach the 2018 World Cup. However, like with the Kennedy piece from the other day (which is online and can be read here), I don’t necessarily have much to say about this one because it’s not available to read so I can give full credit where it’s due.

So instead I figured I would talk about some of the highlights from my friend hangout yesterday.

We played Minecraft for a hell of a long time. It’s something we’ve been doing through online connections and Skype chats for the past couple weeks, so getting to do it in person was a lot of fun.

In fact it was also an excellent showcase of the power of the Nintendo Switch to be a great multiplayer console. While mine was plugged into the large TV we have upstairs that way I could play split screen with Juan (who doesn’t own the game), both Tiana and Mitchell were playing on their personal consoles at other parts of the room, since they’d both brought them along.

Then on top of that, we were also playing with Jonathan, who’s still up at UC Davis finishing off his school quarter. Luckily he had the time to spare, since our main world is hosted on his console. We even called him on Skype, and he basically stayed in the loop for the entire day, which was pretty cool.

Sometimes it’s nice to appreciate how miraculous technology can be in terms of keeping us all connected.

I would share some photos from our time playing, but I’m still working on a more reliable way to pull photos off the Switch that don’t involve needlessly posting them ALL on Twitter, so that’ll have to wait for another time.

For now enjoy this reference Minecraft made to Heavy Rain that was just convenient enough to be hilarious:

After our (admittedly somewhat bloated) play session of Minecraft came to a close, we had some pizza and watched dumb internet videos. Memes, vine compilations, video game-related things. All that good stuff.

One such video was Long Long Man, which is a series of Japanese gum commercials that you need to watch right now if you haven’t seen it.

We introduced my sister to it and this was her reaction when the big reveal came at the end.

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I’m not kidding, watch it. It’ll change your life.

Here you go. Thank me later.

We also watched the first episode of Aggretsuko, a slice-of-life anime about anthropomorphic animals who work in a modern-day office setting.

Also the main character deals with misogyny and other headaches by sneaking off to sing death metal in secluded places.

It’s an odd show and I’m not sure I can necessarily give a full scope of my opinions on it having only watched one episode. However, my friend Kaleb did write an extended piece about the show from a more knowledgeable platform that I would recommend giving a read.

One other particularly notable thing from last night was our experience with Fire Emblem Heroes. As I’ve talked about before, one of the reasons I stick with the game so adamantly is because we all play it together.

It hasn’t exactly been kind to me recently, however. I was rather eager to go after one of the red units on the Legendary Ryoma banner, to the point that I started spending a lot of orbs.

However, lots of time and orbs passed, and I wasn’t getting anything.

Eventually it was concerning how I wasn’t able to pull a single five-star unit on the initial eight percent banner.

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It got pretty bad. Even my last-ditch effort to buy some orbs when I ran out failed, despite the fact that I imagined having everyone around would make it more likely that the game would take it easy on me.

The game didn’t take it easy on me.

The Ryoma banner is gone now, and all of my orbs have gone to waste.

It’s not an encouraging feeling. Especially considering Tiana decided to summon on her eight percent chance just to test whether or not it was my luck.

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Turns out it was all my luck.

Hallelujah.

That disappointment aside, it was a pretty amazing moment when she literally pulled the unit that had been avoiding me for so long just in a whim.

All-and-all I’d say that aptly describes what makes our hangouts so fun. Doing things that would otherwise be a good time alone, but become that much better when we’re together because of how we can play off each other.

That said, I really don’t have too much more to say, so I think I’ll leave it here.

Hope everyone has had a nice Thursday! Look forward to my posts that will wrap up this week about the RUHS band banquet tomorrow night and whatever updates we’ll be seeing in FEH in the next few days.