I’m NOT saying you should stalk, but….

So, not to ruin your last days of summer, I just thought I’d break it to you gently. School starts in just a few weeks.  If you’re like me, you’ve got mixed emotions. I dread getting up early and going to bed early. I fear not being able to keep up with the new schedule. I tremble at the thought of having to work. Pushing aside those feelings, I know from personal experience that life is what you make it. A person can choose to be miserable—or not.  It’s all about attitude.

I care a lot about my journalism students and the way they handle their assignments. I’ve already had a few of them text me this summer about leads they have for future stories. Man, that excites me! The last thing an editor or adviser wants to hear is “I can’t think of anything to write.” I look at this way. When I’m armed with a pen and a reporter’s notepad, I have a license to slip in a new world with every assignment. And I’ve gotten to do some pretty fun things, especially when I was writing for several Christian music magazines. I’ve seen what it looks like from inside a mosh pit. I’ve attended posh *sniff, sniff* parties to celebrate celebrity achievements. I’ve eaten from the spread reserved for the media backstage at awards shows. I’ve had FUN on assignment.

If you like to write and you like adventure, then I’m sure that at least once you have experience the adrenaline rush that comes with being on assignment.

When I’m on assignment, I like going into stealth mode.  Again, there really is a certain rush that comes with it. Once I was in a HUGE crowd in downtown Nashville, and I needed to get to the stage to get photos. I’m 5”. I am not intimidating. I am also not a quitter. I HAD to get to the stage. I saw a Coca Cola man delivering his wares, and I fell right in step with him. He took me right up to the stage. Don’t ask me why a Coca Cola man would be pushing a cart in the middle of thousands. Call it serendipity. Well, you could call it a terrorist attempt. Hmmm. Back then the thought never crossed my mind.  Fortunately, I believe the man was just delivering Coke. The soda. The real thing.

On another occasion, I needed an interview with a California band. I couldn’t get through via the publicist, the manager, the A&R people. So I played private investigator. I tracked down the drummer’s MOTHER and sent her a box of Goo Goo candy bars from Tennessee. She set up the interview for me. How cool is that?

So you’re going back to school, back to all those nouns and verbs and formulas and theorems and historical facts and biological details and definitions and….Am I depressing  you? I’ll stop now. The point is I urge you to make whatever you are doing an adventure.

Before I taught high school, I taught a couple of English classes at MTSU. Yeah, I know that was a long time ago. I wanted my students to feel the spirit of adventure that comes with writing. Thus, I asked them to people watch and write a detailed descriptive paper. Wouldn’t that be fun? Wouldn’t you like to go to the mall and just sit and watch? Well, my student took the assignment a little too far, and for a week he STALKED a girl he secretly admired. I am very fortunate to say neither of us was arrested. But don’t you know he had a good time until I told him that he could go to jail! (I am not, I repeat, NOT encouraging stalking.)

I’m simply saying you can choose to be miserable—or not. Check your attitude. Everything you do is an assignment—maybe some of these mundane assignments are even divine appointments from God.

How will you handle it?

What is the craziest thing you’ve ever done to complete an assignment for school, newspaper or otherwise? Tell us about it.

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16 thoughts on “I’m NOT saying you should stalk, but….

  1. Hmmm… well that could be many things really. My favorite assignment ever was when I did my teacher feature on Mrs. Lockhart when she was on maternity leave having Josh, but I would have to say my biggest adventure on assignment was probably when I went and rolled Mrs. Hulme’s car with the rest of the newspaper staff only to come back and find Mrs. Lockhart’s house and yard rolled 🙂
    I am currently back in school, and will graduate in December Finally! However, being back in school has taught me that everything is an adventure! Thanks for the memories CCCHS Chronicle staff…

  2. My biggest adventure involved Milton and I tracking down a real life superhero named Catman. Catman made himself difficult to track down but by going to McMinville, giving my number to his sister’s friend at the Waffle House, and turning around to travel back to the Waffle House, Milton and I found Catman. Did Catman actually dress like a cat, and was he a tad weird? Yes, that was to be expected, however, it was the biggest thrill I got from The EDGE my junior year. Milton and I called Mrs. L excited but I think she was happy to know that Catman didn’t take us hostage, and that we managed to get the story and be that upbeat about it.

      • Ha! Of course you know about this! As soon as Emily and I got back to my house we called you! I couldn’t stop smiling throughout the whole interview. Even afterwards we would blurt out, “I can’t believe we met Cat man!” We did it for weeks afterwards. Another crazy adventure I had was when I went to a Daughtry concert in June of this year and sat two seats from a 107.5 The River journalist. I kept whispering to McKenna to poke her. I’m sure it got close to stalking. All I did was stare, but once the concert ended I rushed past the people in between us and spoke with the journalist myself. She asked me for my number so that we could stay in contact. Awesome! Serendipitous!

    • Nick Beres – Channel 5 News:

      First, allow me to bestow upon you a high kudo for your excellent coverage of the legendary “Catman.”

      Secondly, let me say, for the record, that I am profoundly proud to hail from, and reside in, the same town as does Catman–McMinnville, Tennessee.

      Very few can say that, on a daily basis, they walk the same pavement as does a real-life Super Hero. Well, I can say, with absolute certainty, that I do.

      Whereas Gotham City had Batman, and Metropolis had Superman, the City of McMinnville has Catman–and his character is for real!

      “Thanks,”
      Mike Vinson

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  3. There have been so many of these moments over the years…So many times that I have made my way back to my car, relaxed in the seat, closed my eyes, and thought to myself “Did that really just happen?” I have slunk around in shadows and waited on my unsuspecting interviewees – those silly athletes who thought that they could actually avoid the press after a terrible performance! I can remember several times when male athletes would run into the lockerroom after a game under the misguided assumption that a female reporter would not go into the men’s lockerroom. Needless to say, they were quite shocked to find out that when are you pursuing the written word on a deadline, the fact that a room is designated for a specific gender is at best a mere suggestion.

    Okay…I don’t know if this counts as the craziest thing, but looking back, it surely was the most unpleasant. The first time I covered a cross country meet, I had no idea what I was doing. I went to the finish line to wait for the runners to cross and was a little surprised to find that I was pretty much the only person waiting at the finish line. I was actually naive enough to think that I was lucky because I was going to be the first person to interview the runners! The problem was that I had no idea that the first thing that the majority of runners did when they finished was…well, get very sick. So I was standing there, with about 30 kids coming over the line, all getting sick right in front of me. I was quite certain that I was going to be sick at that point. I managed to find the girl that I needed to interview and while I was interviewing her, two kids came over to us and got sick so close to us that I was certain that it actually got on me. I got the interviews and I finished the story…But it was hands down the ickiest sports writing experience of my entire life.

    • Oh man, I didn’t realize that little “detail” about cross country runners. And I can only imagine how the look on those guys faces in the locker room. Ha. But you always did know how to meet a deadline. I ALWAYS loved the fire you had when you tackled a story. You inspired me so much and still do. I have so such admiration for you. I know you take it into the courtroom now. But wouldn’t it be great though to be a sports reporter covering MLB? You could have your Cubbies, and I could have my Bosox. Man, oh man. That would be a dream job.

  4. Serendipitous for sure! And you have got to keep on taking the initiative to meet people. That’s what it’s all about in the writing world. You can’t hide away and hope the stories and opportunties come to you. They won’t. Life isn’t much fun living it all alone either. One detail leads to another, and the next thing you know you have an entire story. That’s life.

  5. I once semi-stripped in a class for a camera, posing as a dirty bum surfing eBay.

    But that was for someone else’s assignment.

    I’ll keep my assignment-completetion actions to myself… or will I?

      • Uh, iTim….I remember you doing a lot of WEIRD things for stories, but I don’t remember the dirty bum ebay surfing. I do remember your Big Foot posing. I imagine there are a lot of stories I don’t know about, huh. I would like to hear more…or do I dare?

  6. One of my favorite adventures was when I was writing an article for the December version of “Into/Out of Manchester.”

    The staff member writing the “Into” portion wrote about Christmas shopping at Walmart. I decided to cover Christmas Shopping at Opry Mills.

    What a fun assignment. I could do work for the newspaper and get my Christmas shopping done all at once! I had a great time stopping to interview a customer here and there, the barista at the mall Starbucks, and even the Bass Pro Shop Santa as I made our editor Becky Fried sit on his knee.

    That was all it took to make my Christmas merry!

  7. Well, this one time, my favorite journalism teacher sent myself and one other staff member out on assignment to sell advertisements for our paper. Now, we were both sophomores; rookie staff members rarely do things right the first time, a piece of wisdom that plays directly into this learning experience. At any rate, there we were, two young staff members so fresh that you could smell the ink on our press passes, and the world was ours. I remember the first thought that went through my head was, “We just WALKED out! School is in session right now, and I just told the office I was leaving and WALKED out the front door!” Of course, freedom of this magnitude does not go unchallenged. No sooner had I started my car than Officer Goodwin approached the vehicle and demanded to know where we were headed. Anxiety and trepidation creeping through my nervous system, I shakily explained where we were going and why we were going where we were (how’s THAT for an alliteration?). One look at that shiny new press pass; however, and Officer Goodwin left us with a smile. The rest of the trip passed without incident, and we returned promptly at the 12:50 bell. As per instruction, my cohort and I left a message on the dry erase board informing our wonderfully scatter-brained teacher that her staff members were back safe and sound, and all was well… or so we thought. Approximately thirty minutes into fifth period, a rather disheveled Mrs. Lockhart bursts into my Algebra II class like a Kansas tornado on a hot July day. One look from her and I knew I had messed up something terrible. I sheepishly got out of my seat and trudged across the room to the door, a distance which felt like it would never end as all eyes in the classroom were on me, every inquisitive stare indicating the same thought traversing through every single student’s brain, “What did HE do?” Finally, by some miracle, I made it across the room. “Yes ma’am?” I barely managed to squeak out. Apparently, in the rush to get back into school and to class on time, my friend and I had not left a note informing our advisor of our return. After a harsh reprimand, I followed her back to the staff room for what I assumed was further punishment. Upon arrival at the staff room; however, I noticed something: a note, on the board, informing Mrs. Lockhart that Chad (my cohort) and I had, indeed, returned safely to school. As casually as I could, I pointed out the note to Mrs. Lockhart. Needless to say, she was mortified. After she had exhausted the English language’s word combinations for “I’m sorry,” we had a good laugh about it. While this story a lighthearted, comical tale about rookie staff members and great mishaps, it is ringed with wisdom and insight into the journalism world. Never assume that a message is clear enough. Sometimes the difference in a balanced article and one spun like a top is simply making sure your readers understand your point of view. Or, as far as the staffroom goes, making sure that your editor correctly understands the angle of your piece, making sure your staff understands what you mean by “check the AP Style Book” (even though that seems like a pretty clear instruction), and make sure that even though everyone knows that you love her, giving your advisor a hug on a particularly difficult day and letting her know that everything is going to be alright.

    Love you!

    -Erik

  8. Oh, how I needed a laugh. That was SO FUNNY. I am so thankful you are so so forgiving. You’re never going to let me live that down. I miss you terribly. Love you! Hugs are definitely a necessity when the going gets rough!

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