Kaya: It’s O.K. to ‘TK’

There’s a common abbreviation in journalism — “TK” — that often peppers first drafts and second ones, sometimes buried in the article until the very last and final deadline approaches.

The unusual letter combination (“TK” doesn’t appear in many words, so it’s easier to spot amid a lot of text) represents information “to come”: everything from names and ages to quotes and entire paragraphs or chunks that remain unknown or just need a bit of tinkering.

I’m a big fan of using “TK” when I’m writing, even (and especially) when I’m spitballing ideas — some of my notes look like I fell asleep on the keyboard: “‘TK quote,’ TK said. TKTKTK.”

Some of my best stories have risen from a sea of T’s and K’s, including this one. I was typing out the headline, still not quite sure what I was about to write, when I recognized that the TK was more than a placeholder: it was an idea.

I’ve realized that there are always more questions I could ask a source, always more information I could research, always more color I can add to make my stories more interesting and engaging. By leaving things open-ended, by creating a space to add something new, even by reminding myself that I really do need to ask someone how old they are, I open up the page to bigger ideas and possibilities.

I’ve also realized that leaving space in my life for the things to come can open up my own future to bigger ideas and possibilities in a way I didn’t always think was the smartest, most pragmatic move I could make.

For a long time, I thought if I left space in my life — if I filled my planner with TKs instead of meticulously handwritten meetings and appointments — I would end up feeling empty. I often worried (and still sometimes do) that if I didn’t plan everything out for the next days, weeks, months, and years, those TKs and those spaces I left would turn into nothingness and regrets — for the opportunities I didn’t seize, the hours I wasted, the time and energy that could have been spent doing something other than daydream, relax, rest in preparation for things to come.

But leaving out the TKs just left me with information I didn’t need, my energy overspent in pursuit of what I saw as a very linear path. Packing my schedule in high school, and in my first year and a half in college, seemed like the only way to achieve my goals as a journalist and as a person.

And in some ways, those extracurriculars and activities did help me reach new heights. But the moment I dropped the meetings and classes that overwhelmed me, and the moment I made space for the TKs and all the good things yet to come, I didn’t feel empty, or regretful, or unfulfilled.

Instead I felt fuller, happier, more fulfilled — as if my potential increased when I scrapped the jumbo planner and opted for smaller pages and more stickers. The thing I feared — that I wasn’t doing enough, even though I was doing a lot — actually dissipated when I started approaching things in anticipation of life’s great TKs. I spent more time with friends, I cooked more, I had the chance to have relax and have fun without worrying that I was wasting time.

Sure, some of the things I wanted to accomplish were no longer carefully plotted, the boxes waiting to be ticked off. Suddenly, there were bigger gaps in my future — ones that I haven’t yet filled in. Those big unknowns are scary for everyone, and especially for me, as someone who worries a lot about filling in the gaps.

But a TK doesn’t end up in the final version of an article. Information goes there — information the reporter finds in the process of research and discovery. The same applies to life: the things we don’t know yet are still to come, but eventually, we get to figure them out.

Every once in a while, when you’re feeling overwhelmed, or off course, on a tangent or a break from some carefully-designed plan, remind yourself that it’s O.K. to TK. Because the best is yet to come — even when we don’t know what that is right now.

Shaun: Five Things You Can’t Be Afraid of if You’re Going to Study Journalism

1. Talking to strangers

This might sound obvious, but when you’re standing in Kenmore Square on assignment to talk to five strangers, it can be very intimidating. The truth is that most people will give you their time if you identify yourself as a reporter and are respectful of their personal space and opinions. That said, you’re going to get rejected, sometimes with a polite “I don’t have time, sorry,” and sometimes with any number of rude gestures. Subway stations and bus stops are great places to find strangers who have nothing to do but talk to you anyway.

2. Phone calls

You can’t interview everyone in person — in fact, you can’t interview most people in person. A lot of the reporting process is spent on the phone, which means phone anxiety has to go. I came to college with major phone anxiety (I think it’s common for people our age), and the first time I had to call a source for a Daily Free Press article, I was terrified. Phone calls are awkward, and depending on who you’re calling, they can be intimidating. Just remember to talk clearly, listen closely, and offer verbal affirmation that you’re listening every 10-20 seconds. You’ll be dialing like a pro in no time.

3. Criticism

It’s the only way you get better. You might come into COM as a first-year thinking you know how write a good news story, but chances are you’ll be amazed (like I was) at how you actually don’t. COM, and all the extracurriculars that go along with it, are full of people who have climbed the ladders and done the nitty-gritty and want to help you succeed. Take advantage of them and the feedback they give you.

4. Competition

I want to be a White House reporter one day, and maybe you do too, and so do a thousand other people, but not all of us can do it. There are a TON of jobs in journalism (despite what your parents might be telling you) across an incredible array of areas. That said, you don’t get a job just because you want it (insightful, I know). Competition for internships and jobs is palpable, but I think in some ways that’s a good thing. It encourages you to push yourself to better.

5. Anti-journalism rhetoric

People will argue that journalism is dying, but I’d argue that journalism has never been stronger. I know people whose parents hate that they’re studying to be a journalist, because they don’t believe the profession is noble or fair. And even a cursory scroll through Twitter will show you that it’s far more popular now to say “fake news” than it is to actually read news articles. You have to take anti-journalism rhetoric in stride, and use it to motivate yourself to be the best, most accurate, most factual reporter you can be.

Thanks for coming to my TED Talk.

Alexa: A Summer of Interning

Hope everyone is enjoying their last few weeks of summer. This summer I hadn’t really planned on interning anywhere but when I was offered an opportunity to do so I was really excited. I am interning for a company called, SmileSimplicity. The company focuses on enhancing a person’s smile without eliminating any tooth structure (unlike regular veneers which contour teeth and can never be reversed). I am still interning there and feel lucky to have the opportunity to work with such innovative, hardworking people.

You’re probably thinking: what does this have to do with journalism?

Well, a part of my job is interviewing patients before and after their SmileSimplicity procedure, creating marketing tools and writing press releases. The positive thing about working for a small company was that I wasn’t just doing things to keep busy but I am able to be  involved with important components, like being a part of conference calls and having the opportunity to contribute to advertisement ideas. I didn’t feel like an intern, I felt like an employee. I was also able to learn more about the business side of journalism. Even though I still would like to pursue a sports journalism career, I’m glad I have had the opportunity to branch out and see a different side of journalism.

I am so excited to meet all of you come fall and hope you are looking forward to being a Terrier!

Julianna: Summer Begins

Hey BU COM 2016!

Now that you’ve graduated (or graduation is right around the corner) you will come to realize that the next two and half months will culminate to be one of your most significant summers. Look at these next few months as the introduction to the newest and best chapter in your life. Not only will you start college in September, but you will also begin to “put yourself out there” in the world. And so in this introductory phase you will learn more about who you actually are as you experience orientation and say goodbye to family, friends and your hometown.

I guess you can say that I am in quite the reflective and inspiration-seeking mood. It happens to be that just as you are going through an exciting and life-changing summer, so am I. In August I am going on a 10-day trip to Israel through the Anti-Defamation League, an organization that works to combat anti-semitism, bigotry and anti-Israel sentiments. I will tour the country and attend seminars about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Now until I leave for Tel Aviv, I am working at my summer job in Manhattan and staying up on the news in Israel and the Middle East. I am filling up the shelves in my Nook library with a journalistic must: Dan Rather’s recently published memoir as well as literature on Israel and its history.

Enjoy your summers and check out my next blogpost in mid-August where I’ll be writing love notes to Israeli falafel and giving all of you important advice for navigating through freshman year.

Julianna: Listen Up, Budding Journos!

Julianna ImageHere are my Top 5 tips on how to up your game as a student journalist:

1.  Join BU’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalist (SPJ)

Shameless plug alert! Our chapter is still in its infancy, however our presence at COM continues to become more and more known. We host Q&A’s with local reporters and editors and even toured the Boston Globe building in November. If you become a national member of SPJ then you have the opportunity to flash a legit press card to prove that you’re a journalist and uphold your First Amendment rights. Look out for a BU SPJ table at “Splash” in September! Also follow us on Twitter @BUSPJ.

2.  Clips Clips Clips

Do yourself a favor, and rack up those clips! The best way to do this is to start writing as soon as freshman year begins by applying to be a staff writer for a publication, such as The Quad (online blog/magazine). If you’re into broadcast journalism then get involved with BUTV10 and/or our radio station, WTBU. Photojournalists can join the Photo Club or apply to be a photographer for a publication. No need to look for an internship during your first semester of college, just start with the extracurriculars here at BU to build up experience.

3.  Keep a personal blog

I must accredit this piece of advice to Courtney Hollands, the senior lifestyles editor at Boston Magazine and BU COM alum. At a recent BU SPJ Q&A, Courtney stressed that keeping a personal blog is key to developing a voice as a writer and expertise in subjects that interest you. During those times that your budding journalism career appears to be at a lull, it’s a good idea to make sure that you are frequently writing, and a blog is the easiest way. As a former Tumblr addict who only reblogged hipster-worthy photos, I am making it my summer project to create a blog that actually features…you guessed it, MY WRITING. So stay tuned to read about everything from album and movie reviews to issues in Israel and re-caps of breaking news.

4.  Stay up on the news

I always say one of the perks of COM is that we get the Boston Globe and New York Times FREE everyday. By the way if you bring a copy of the newspaper to journalism class your professor will definitely notice, so take advantage of this privilege. Of course one of the best ways to constantly be on top of breaking news is by following a slew of news organizations on Twitter. If you have an iPhone then do yourself a favor and get the Associated Press app. It’s free and will send you alerts when important news breaks. The app also syncs up to local newspapers, such as the Boston Globe and Boston Herald, to give you local AP-wired stories.

5.  Résumés…Le Sigh

I feel as though I’ve gotten so much advice on the do’s and don’t’s of  résumés that when it comes time for me to update mine I end up staring at the screen in freak-out mode. My fellow e-board members of BU SPJ recently attended a journalism convention in New York and came back to BU with résumé tips from professional journalists. They learned that the first and most important section should be your related news experience, followed by work, education and miscellaneous/skills. They also learned that employers in the news business want to see that individuals are keeping themselves busy with other things other than reporting, so include your part-time job, hobbies and so on. Make sure to include your Twitter handle only if your tweets are appropriate and free of opinions. Also create an online résumé and/or LinkedIn to link-up to your online clips, personal blog, broadcast packages and best work done in your journalism classes.

Brittany: Stuff Journalists Like — #17 Breaking News

Brittany ImageStuff Journalists Like — #17 Breaking News

My first experience with breaking news came during the fall semester of my sophomore year. I was in my COM Newswriting and Reporting class when all of a sudden we heard sirens coming from right outside the building. We all ran to the window and saw police cars up on the sidewalk and people running down Comm Ave. None of us knew what was happening, but my professor immediately dropped the lesson plan to give us a chance to cover a real life breaking news situation.

Some of the photojournalists in the class had their cameras with them, and went to shoot stills of the action. When they came back, we learned that there had been a bank robbery and the police had chased down and caught the suspect—so we combined the stills and wrote a report on the story.

That day was only my first time covering breaking news—since then, I’ve had a hand in a few other instances as well. This past fall, news of Joe Paterno’s resignation came during my Newsroom class on the day I happened to be the live reporter. Myself and another student in the class took to the streets at about 8:30 a.m., and had a package shot and edited by 12 p.m. It was an exciting story to cover, and you can check out the final product here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eb0_LF4j88U.

Then this semester, a project that I was working on fell through, and I found myself starting from scratch at 11 a.m. for a 3 o’clock show. This was the same day as the second day of the Supreme Court “Obamacare” hearings, so I packed up some equipment at Field Production Services and headed down to the State House to get reaction and film a quick report: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HiuZk9N3gww.

Although it’s tough to turn a package on a deadline, those two pieces are some of my best work. As a journalist, I was forced to tighten up my reporting; as a broadcaster, the adrenaline that comes with a looming deadline ups my on-camera performance: it’s do or die at that point, and not turning in a package isn’t an option. My COM education has placed me in real-life situations, and I know I’m prepared to cover a breaking news situation when I finally arrive at my first job.