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Reporting on my feet

My original story idea for this week was “old news” re: the pit bull ban in Fayette. I’m glad that Greeley told me beforehand about that – instead of going through with the entire story and then getting hammered for it being a crusty, old, overreported story. I had thought my angle on it – that the ban goes into effect this week – was worthy enough, but as you’ll read a little bit further on, I’m glad I didn’t do this story.

Greeley mentioned this week that it’s vital to have a “plan B” – and for me, this week was a great time to put it to use. There’s an older woman (Nancy) in my Cross Cultural Psychology class who seems to just have an incredible burden and an amazing all-around story. I spoke with her and found out she has lupus (and needs a motorized wheelchair to get around), takes 20 hours of classes at MU, cares for her two high-functioning autistic children, and has had to deal with an incredible amount of stress in the past few months. Her husband got sick and had to be placed on long-term disability from his job, and her 18-year old daughter just found out she is pregnant. Sound crazy? That’s not all. Because of legal technicalities surrounding her husband’s long-term disability payments, the insurance company has taken steps to try and recollect the payments at an incredibly inopportune time.

Phew. All that aside. So now, as I mentioned above, Nancy’s son is considered highly-functioning autistic. He’s 16 and Nancy tells me he works about 20 hours a week at Gerbes. Sound good? Yep – sure, what high schooler wouldn’t want spending money? Well, it turns out that because of the family’s dire financial straits, he has taken it upon himself to use his paycheck to help pay for groceries and other household items. Nancy said it best herself, “You just can’t make this stuff up, I can’t believe this is actually going on.” So, my plan for tomorrow (Saturday) is to try and meet up with Nancy and her son – she tells me he is scheduled to work at Gerbes during the day, so I’d like to get some video of him at work, then interview him and his parents at home.

My first thought this morning upon arriving to the commuter parking lot at the Hearnes Center was, “What the hell is going on!?” There were quite a few buses already in the lot, and it seemed like the entire parking lot was full – the Missouri State High School Wrestling tournament is at Mizzou Arena for the next few days. So with my plans to interview Nancy’s son in limbo, I figured I’d swing by the Arena when I had the camera today to find a story. So after picking up the camera, I fought Columbia’s stop & go traffic down to Mizzou Arena and managed to sweet-talk my way into the lot behind the Arena where all the buses park. I figured there’d be a gold mine of stories waiting to be told by some of the bus drivers – especially since many come from all around the state for this.

Now, I know what you’re going to ask – what’s the local angle? Well, the CCC I found isn’t a Mid-Missouri resident, but the story he told me sounded like something many people can identify with – and his presence at Mizzou Arena was much more than just a job.

I struck up a conversation with a gentleman by the name of Anthony (whose last name slips my mind – he gave it to me on the tape but I haven’t reviewed it yet). A bus driver for two years, Anthony drives for the Kansas City Center School District. Long story short, he retired from his old full-time job several years ago, but as cost of living expenses kept rising (i.e. gas, food), Anthony says he had to take the bus driving job to help pay for the future cost of his daughter’s college education. While saying he is a “Jayhawk fan”, he says he is immensely proud of the fact that his daughter will be attending Mizzou in the fall. He spoke passionately about how much it meant to him that his daughter has a chance to get a college education. He says he feels, as an African-American, that society has made vast strides in furthering racial equality; but at the same time felt that it is up to our (and his daughter’s) generation to truly cement the gains made in his lifetime.

It was an incredibly moving conversation. I felt like he had a lot of emotion and approached life with a lot of zeal. I followed Anthony and another bus driver into the Arena, and I got some video of Anthony watching the wrestling matches. He said he’d be here all weekend, so I’d like to try and track him down again and try to get a picture of his daughter than I can use for the story. I also got some video of him cleaning out the bus – sweeping, talking on his cell phone, etc., so I feel I’m turning an “event” story into a more full feature on the little people behind the big high school tournament show.

Phew. Quite a week, and yet all this work to do!


As for a journalistic reflection, my Mom told me about a fantastic hour-long story on 20/20 about poverty-stricken areas of Appalachia. Diane Sawyer reported on four teenagers all trying to find a way out of their situations. I thought the stories themselves were tremendous – each kid had been through some amazing experiences – both difficult and uplifting at the same time. All four had dealt with horrible family conditions – one young man has to live in his truck because his parents are alcoholics and deal drugs, and his dream is to get out of there, get to college any way he can – which for him means playing football. Another man gets a job in a coal mine at the age of 17 – paying $65,000 a year, a fantastic sum for someone without a college diploma. There are two girls who both live in drug-infested houses. Basically, the hour-long show followed the four for about two years.

This is the story:

I felt it was an amazing job of getting the real authentic scenario for each individual. We are taken inside each person’s home and spoken to like a trusted friend. The adults even show us their drug staches. Sawyer travels miles underground into the mine where one of the teenagers works. We’re shown the horrible health and dental conditions that many children have in the region. My only complaint about this story was that at some very select moments, it seemed like Sawyer inserted herself into the story.

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