Sunday, March 30, 2008

Hello, Old Friend

Sorry I haven’t visited for a while. It’s not you, it’s me.

It’s been a while since I last posted, but we will soon get this blog rolling again.

In the past month, I’ve been busy preparing for my job at the Valley News, a small paper on the New Hampshire/Vermont border. I’ve been practicing my driving in Florida and only got into accident in the process.

I’ve also kept my reporting and writing skills sharp by freelancing for Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers.

For the past few days, I have been moving to my new home in New Hampshire and learning to drive my first car, a blue Toyota Camry 2003.

It’s a little frightening being this independent. Now that I’m alone, I’m going to have to rely on my own motivation to get out into the community and meet people.

And I’m going to have to conquer a deep fear of driving to find the best stories. I still have to get used to driving in unfamiliar territory, especially with the added perils of hills

One of the reasons I took this job was to make myself take risks and learn my limits. The risks do not take away from the job; they add to it.

I'm really excited to start the job. I'm hoping I can learn a lot and help many people.

Since I graduated from the University of Florida, this blog has kind of deviated from its original topic of journalism from the perspective of someone with autism. It's become more of a chronicle of my attempt to find a job, which is not what it's supposed to be about.

But now that I’m finally reporting full-time again, I’m sure I will find more interesting and less ego-centric topics to write about. I still have a few ideas to catch up on, as well. And I’m still planning on replacing this blog with a Web site when I find the time.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Job, Part One: Hired!

It has been more than a week since I accepted a job as a temporary reporter for the Valley News, and it’s still hard to believe I finally have a job.

After sending about 115 job and internship applications, I’m excited to have found a newspaper where I belong. The Valley News was also one of the first papers to contact me about a job opening.

The paper, which covers towns on the New Hampshire/Vermont border, seems like a fun place to start a career. The editor, Jeffrey Good, is a Pulitzer Prize-winner and former reporter and editorial writer for the St. Petersburg Times.

The reporters and editors seem to really care about the quality of their storytelling. From what I’ve seen of the newsroom and read on the paper’s Web site, the staff seems intent on serving their readers and digging for the best articles.

I’m starting off as a full-time temporary reporter for six months with the possibility of being hired as a staff member afterward.

I’m hoping I can get some more experience with multimedia reporting while at the paper, too. I just bought a new digital recorder and plan to save up for a digital camera. I’m sure I will find a way to use them to find new ways of storytelling.

Here are the New Year’s resolutions I’ve made progress on so far:

*Earn driver’s license- Done, but I still need a car

*Get a job-Done

*Learn HTML & CSS- 2/5ths done

* Reading and analyzing articles- Check (Get ready for rants in the future)

I’ve split this post into two entries to keep it short. Stay tuned for the next part: where I freak out about the risks and rewards of the job.

P.S.: I might write/rant about something more timely before that, so this might be continued the post after next.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Now that I’ve graduated, I’m realizing how much I must rely on my own self-motivation to develop as a journalist.

Without professors or editors telling me what to do, I‘m going to have to figure out how to improve my reporting and writing on my own.

It’s easy to fall prey to the frustration and apathy that can strike you in the middle of a job search, especially with the newspaper market in turmoil.

So I’m following my friend’s example and posting a list of what I need to do.

*Read and analyze news stories every day.

*Learn HTML and CSS- look for a Web site to replace this blog when I do.

*Read blogs about journalism and other subjects that interest me

*Learn how to capture and edit video

*Improve my audio editing and photography

* Freelance so I can still earn clips

* Earn my driver’s license soon

* Talk to people in the area to get story ideas and keep my social skills sharp

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A Thank You

It has been a week since my last night as Enterprise Editor at The Independent Florida Alligator. And it has finally hit me that my time there and my time as a student at the University of Florida is ending.

I woke up at about 4:45 a.m. from a barely remembered dream of editing my reporters’ stories at the Alligator last week. And I then realized I’m probably not going to have the chance to do that again for a long time.

I’m not going to be calling my reporters at 10 or 11 at night to make sure they checked their facts. I’m not going to feel the temptation to bang my head against the wall when my writers didn’t file their stories fast enough or had holes in their articles.

I’m not going to feel the pride of editing a reporter’s well-written story or of knowing that the reporters put all their effort into their work.

I’m going to miss competing against a co-worker in a game of who can answer the office phones faster, which ended in a score of 12 to 7 in her favor. And I’m going to miss talking with her about what counts as good journalism when we should be working, instead.

I’m going to miss joking with the University editor about which of our classmates we hate more and worrying about whether we will be able to find jobs and internships.

The paper helped me grow. I wrote articles that I am proud to show off. I realized that this is what I want to do with my life and understand that the autism was not as much of an obstacle for me as I thought it would be. I learned to accept the sacrifices that come with the job, such as giving up a normal sleep cycle. And the ordeals of hunting for a story or stalking elusive sources became fun for me.

But, just as importantly, I learned that a paper is only as good as the people work to put it out, as my friend once told me. If it weren’t for the other editors and writers who put all their effort into making the paper successful, my time there would not have been anywhere as fulfilling.

And I wouldn't have been able to survive college if it weren't for the friends, both at the Alligator and at UF, who helped make life enjoyable.

Consider this my way of saying thank you to the friends who treated me like I was one of them.

This is a thank you to the friends who assured me my writing was good when I doubted myself. And it’s a thank you to the editors who yelled at me when it was not.

This is a thank you to the friends who invited me to parties and talked to me about their lives and helped me feel human.

No, this is not the end of my blog. I hope to maintain it while I search for a job in journalism. Hopefully, I will come back soon with good news.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Invisible Wounds of War

As someone interested in international journalism, I was excited to find this article linked to on a favorite website. The story is about how citizens of Mogadishu, Somalia, are succumbing to mental illness as a result of civil strife that has wracked the country for more than16 years. It also brings up the broader issue of treatment of mental conditions in countries wracked by war.

This is the type of in-depth, humanizing story that we rarely see when reading about war, international affairs or disability. It’s neither over-exaggerated nor over-simplified. It’s a compelling mix of straight and feature reporting that ties into a larger issue. It also makes good use of a narrated photo slideshow.

Reporting on how residents of countries plagued by conflict develop mental health problems is interesting to me, especially since I want to be a foreign correspondent.

Reporters tend to get caught up in writing about the straight losses and victories of war. And the already marginalized members of society are forgotten in favor of the bigger picture.

This article paints a realistic picture of the “invisible wounds” created during war and the stereotypes of people with mental disorders in Somalia. It is especially relevant in light of news that Somalia is receiving less aid.

It’s the type of story David Finkel, who wrote the article I linked to in my previous post, is best known for. It’s also characteristic of articles by Ian Johnson, a former editor of The Independent Florida Alligator. He won the Pulitzer Prize in 2001 for a series about oppressed practitioners of Falun Gong in China.

These are the types of stories there should be more of. But they have to be told quickly or they will disappear.

Saturday, November 10, 2007


I know I complain about my Asperger’s Syndrome often. But the truth is I wouldn’t choose to have the condition cured even if some miraculous medicine could make it disappear. My condition not only made me unique; it gave me a purpose.

Since childhood, I’ve felt compelled to seek out people who don’t blend into their surroundings or feel like they can’t fit in with the rest of the people in their community. The intense sense of isolation made me feel like I didn’t belong with my friends.

Even when I joined them in pretending to be Star Wars characters on the playground, I felt like they enjoyed being with each in a way I could not.

It made me seek out others who felt like me or were just different. And I found them in books about people who faced discrimination or who came from other countries.

I felt connected to characters in books like “Native Son,” the classic novel about a black man living in the segregated Chicago of the 1930s, and “When the Elephants Dance,” a novel about a family hiding from Japanese soldiers in the Philippines during the occupation of the country in World War II. I was inspired by the story of Nelson Mandela’s fight against apartheid in South Africa.

Though I had not faced the severe discrimination that confronted these people, I could at least empathize with their feelings of alienation.

These people felt more isolated and ostracized than I could ever imagine was and were, in most cases, fighting for the right to belong. I felt compelled to seek out people like these and learn more about them.

Journalism gave me the chance to do that. My autism made me sensitive to people who were fighting for the right to belong or be different. It helped me find stories and sources that other people might overlook.

As a student journalist, I’ve met and written about the man who led the college student movement to protest segregation in the civil rights era. I ate pizza with a Sudanese refugee and investigated the struggle to diversify the university’s faculty.

With every story I write about a subject like the ones above, I feel like I become more human. I’m forced to confront my fear of the unknown to find the people who make articles interesting.

And I hope that my stories help others understand what it’s like to be different or encourage them to care about something they might not normally think about. That’s the secret to the best articles. They make people care about something that might otherwise be alien to them.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Not Alone

Since I started this blog, I've been researching ways people with autism and their advocates use the internet to communicate. As someone who knows how empowering it can be to find a medium that allows you to communicate, I'm comforted that sites like Youtube and Blogger have provided autistic people with a forum where they can interact with others on their own terms.

The following video was made by Amanda Baggs, an autistic woman and self-advocate. The first part shows how she communicates, and the second part explains her behavior.

I think videos like Baggs' can get people talking about a condition that has largely been misunderstood. With the rise in autism diagnoses, it's becoming more and more important to have better conversations about the subject.

Resources for parents and other family members of people with autism are growing. A blogging community has popped up to help the people affected by autism. For parents who struggle with the stress of raising an autistic child, blogs like Autism Vox, which is maintained by the mother of an autistic child, are a valuable resource.