Category Archives: Journalism

The thought process behind ‘In a Blink’ video

Every day of senior year from the start of classes to graduation, I filmed 1-second clips capturing my experiences, emotions and the people and place I love. All clips have been compiled into a bigger video I’d like to call “Senior Year: In a Blink.” I’ve gotten a lot of questions about the project, so I thought I’d answer some of the most common ones.

Where did you get the idea from to film one second of every day?

Someone had tipped me off about a TED Talk in which Cesar Kuriyama spoke about what he learned from filming one second of every day of his 30th year of life.

When you’re filming days both good and bad, there’s this bit of emotional vulnerability, and to me, that is what is most moving. Is my life worth remembering? Will I be remembered by others? What do I value?

I thought if I could pull it off, I would love to create my own twist to the one-second-a-day concept by honoring a time in my life and a place I love so much.

Was it hard to remember to film every day?

Initially, yes. It took a good month to get into the habit of landing footage every day. I did have a few close calls, only remembering that I needed to film something when it was 11:30 p.m.

What I’ve loved about this project though is that it has made me more presently focused. When I wake up in the morning, I ask myself “What will I do or experience today that is worth remembering?” If I don’t really have anything that is necessarily worthy of filming or that is going to break the monotony of the day, am I really living?

It’s been a huge reality check, even for someone who prides herself on her bucket list.

How did you choose what to film?

Each day, I’ve had a general idea of what would be cool to film, but that footage doesn’t always make the final cut. Sometimes my best days are the ones that feature spontaneous footage where the result was unexpected.

Also, as Kuriyama mentioned in his TED Talk, if there is a day you have a bunch of things you’d like to film, it’s OK if that doesn’t all make it into the final video. You’d be surprised how much you can remember about any given day after seeing just a 1-second snippet.

Not all days can be good days. What about filming those days that weren’t so great?

This past year has been the most transformative of my life, so this project came at the right time to capture the changes. But with growth comes challenges, setbacks and pain. For instance, I lost my grandfather to Alzheimer’s disease in November and had a health scare of my own in April, which were both documented in the video.

On bad days, my gut reaction was to not film anything at all, and in many ways, it really gets down to our collective unwillingness to present ourselves to others as anything less than constantly happy and perfect.

Take a look at your Facebook and Instagram feeds. How often do you see people write about their fears and flaws? Publishing footage on the bad days allowed me to step away from this dominant, and oftentimes destructive, narrative.

How did you choose U2’s “Where the Streets Have No Name” as the song for the video?

Picking the music to go along with the video was probably one of the more challenging aspects of this project. I wanted a strong song to reflect the sentiment of the piece, and there were a lot of contenders. I had considered Bastille’s “Pompeii,” We Were Promised Jetpacks’ “Keeping Warm” and Imagine Dragons’ “On Top of the World.”

But then I as I began to think about the message of “Where the Streets Have No Name,” a longtime favorite of mine, the more it seemed to embody my experience at UNC. Bono has said he wrote this song about Belfast, Northern Ireland, where people could tell a lot about you just based on the name of the street you lived on given the gaping wealth disparities and religious tension in the region. But the song speaks of paradise, a place where the streets have no name.

There are a lot of competing interests that exist on college campuses  and you’ll figure that out really quickly working on the university desk of your college paper  but at the end of the day, we all are fortunate enough to call this beautiful, beautiful place home. There’s a reason why UNC is referred to as the southern part of heaven, and in my mind, it’s the closet place you can get to what U2 sings about in the song. Now if Bono would just pay a visit…

What’s been your biggest take-away?

There have been so many things I’ve learned. As a former social media editor, I’m really interested in how we use technology to mediate our day-to-day lives. And as a restaurant server, I’ve recently noticed so many of my customers plopping their earphone-wearing children down in front of a tablet playing a movie while everyone else eats dinner. That terrifies me.

There’s been a lot of talk about the pervasiveness and even evilness of technology, and I hate parts of it too, but it isn’t something that’s going to go away. We just have to reteach ourselves to use it in a constructive way.

Prior to starting this project, I was fearful that my iPhone I used to record my videos on would dominate my life as I aimed for that perfect shot, as many do for the elusive perfect selfie or 6-second nugget of Vine gold.

What I found, however, is that the sentimentality of the piece did not come from the quality of the shots but from the memories that prompted them. It wasn’t long after I published the video Tuesday that I received an series of messages from UNC alumni sharing their experiences as students. I even had some who told me it made them cry. It’s been really humbling to realize that the documented experiences of someone you don’t know can stir up such strong memories of one’s own past. To me, that’s just the greatest, and I’m incredibly thankful.

Journalism and its stories to be thankful for

Note: This post originally appeared on my previous blog on Nov. 27, 2013 before I switched platforms. Though it is well past Thanksgiving, I don’t think the importance and beauty of the themes presented in these stories will ever lose their timeliness.

I love that journalism allows people to question a world they thought they once knew. At its best, journalism knocks both the reader and writer breathless but still somehow makes them reach for more. If that doesn’t happen to you at least every once in a while when you pick up a paper or magazine, you’re not reading the good stuff. And if you don’t like what you’re reading, write it yourself. From the front pages to the letters to the editor, there’s room for everybody.

Journalism calls upon those it covers to be better people, but it should also make its reporters not only be better people but want to be better people. Sure, any reporter can crank out stories quickly, know AP Style says it’s “all right” and not “alright” and interview some really cool sources. But the kind of reporters doing the most good are the ones who question more, read more and accept the radical notion that they, too, are human. Reading the stories I’ve included at the end of this post make me want to be that kind of reporter. I hope these stories make you, journalist or not, feel as alive as I do when I read them. And if they don’t, write your own. Write, write, write.

In the current state of affairs in the world, the nation and even within ourselves, we become listless, discouraged and morose. But there’s this hope. I believe it’s in (good) journalism. “Isn’t being a journalist kinda depressing?” asks the world. X politician is corrupt. Nothing’s being done about Y. I just don’t understand how a tragedy like Z could happen. But the way I see it, being a journalist provides you just as much of an opportunity to restore your faith in humanity as it does to destroy it. Because there’s someone writing about these problems. And there’s someone reading about them. And someone cares. And for that, I am so thankful.

Now, the stories I’m thankful for:

“The trucker bought me lunch and didn’t even try to have sex with me, which made him a prince in my world. Several days later, though, heading south on I-95 through the Carolinas, I got picked up by another trucker who was not fine.” The Truck Stop Killer. This long read about hitchhiking girls’ encounters with sexual violence on the road is enthralling and demonstrates the problematic nature of pointing fingers when rape is a societal problem.

“The date was March 14, 2011. At 10:54 a.m., she Googled: when+someone+gets+knocked+out. She spent another four hours on the computer before she took David to the hospital.” A young mother tries to save two sons and loses everything. The imagery is hard to swallow, but the piece is incredibly humanizing of a woman pegged as “FloriDUH’s Worst Mom.”

Holding everyone accountable: a fantastic look at charities, the for-profit telemarketers they use and the man defending them both.

“‘We think the reason no one acted is because the women in question were poor and of color, because the victims were infants without identities, and because the subject was the political football of abortion.’” Why you didn’t hear about Dr. Kermit Gosnell before.

Challenging the status quo is essential — let’s do more of it. British royal born in fanciest ward: $15,000. Average birth in the United States: billed $30,000.

“If we want the rewards of being loved we have to submit to the mortifying ordeal of being known.” La fin.

And on the subject of our preoccupation with how much room we occupy in the minds of others, a single op-ed made me, a longtime waitress, entirely rethink my position on American service culture after many frustrations with restaurants while studying abroad. “We are subject to enough delusions in this life without adding to them the belief that the girl with the name tag is secretly in love with us.”

Why nostalgia isn’t a disease as its nomenclature suggests. Stories about research can be tiresome to read, but this one captures the attention (and hearts of those who love UNC with its nice, little shout-out). Also, let’s talk more about mental health — just not alongside “black and white photographs of mystical emaciated women who stare off into the distance” plz.

Due to my own persisting nostalgia (seven months post-London) and out of self-indulgence, here’s the closest I’ve felt to the city since I left.

Sorry America, the United Kingdom one-ups you with its cheeky tabloid headlines.

“From another, Miranda Lambert was stomping in, full of vitriol and skepticism, an alpha answering to no beta.” The ladies of country can kick ass, too. But still, Taylor Swift should be a part of your feminist manifesta, and brilliant 17-year-old Rookie editor, Tavi Gevinson, tells you exactly why.

A damning narrative of Matt Lauer’s decline on NBC’s “Today” … so maybe I won’t be a talk show host? Yeah, I really like being a writer. I really, really do.