Final Essay-What do Journalists do?

What do Journalists do?


When I enrolled for “Research Methods and Studies”, I had a very skewed vision of what it meant to be a journalist. I had participated in my high school’s paper, writing two stories a month. I enjoyed what I did and it encouraged me to entertain the idea of minoring in journalism while in college. Looking back on the journalism class I realized that it was a very simplistic and elementary level of journalism. I was excited to experience the next level of journalism in college. I spent many of my days being shocked by the news I was learning in Research Methods and Studies, and it was a welcome shock that made me thrive to learn more. I will absolutely not claim that I know every facet of what a journalist does, but I do know that I learned a considerable amount during my 15 weeks in the class.

Being a journalist is no small profession. It takes a special kind of person to develop the skills to be able to perform your job effectively. I did not know whether I would want to become a journalist or not after I took the class, and I am still pondering over the idea. This is a personal battle because I do not know if I have what it takes to be a journalist. Journalists have to do whatever it takes to get the story. Now this might be in a small town and you have to pursue and individual to get a story, or it might be on the front-lines of war. I experienced the latter while watching the documentary “Dying to Tell the Story.” A startling fact that has stuck with me after watching Dan Eldon’s story is that in the past 10 years, nearly 1 journalist has died in a war zone every week. This just proves how dangerous a job journalism can be, but some journalists live off of adrenaline inducing experiences such as war. Personally, if asked to go on the front-lines to get a particular story, I would hope I would have the courage to accept the task, because I would want to do my duty of informing the people.

For some people in our class, the assignment of going around to random students and asking what they were thinking about was like a war zone. For me I did not think I would have too much trouble branching out and asking an individual a simple question, but my attitude took a sharp turn after I asked my first person. I experienced rejection as a reporter for the first time, and it was an interesting and humbling experience. I went into the assignment not considering the possibility of someone not wanting to be interviewed, but it served as a good journalistic lesson. Journalists will face many hardships when trying to attain a story. A fantastic lead who you think will provide just the right quotes for your story might not be interested in helping you at all. It is all about how you overcome these obstacles which all journalists will face. When I experienced the rejection, my initial reaction was not wanting to even attempt to interview anyone else. I felt like my extrovertedness had disappeared and I wanted to call it quits. After walking around aimlessly for quite some time, I realized that I would get nowhere if I didn’t at least try again. Fortunately, the next three people I interviewed all accepted the invitation and I was able to hear three wonderful stories that I would’ve never heard had I given up.

One of the most important values in life is being truthful, and this concept weighs heavily on every journalists shoulders. People will believe what you write, and it is crucial that every bit of information you share is the truth. You won’t survive in the journalistic world if you are found out to be a fraud. I learned this by watching the movie “True Story”. Mike Finkel, writer for the New York Times, was covering a story in a foreign country. With the intentions of making it a very emotional story, he twisted some of the truths to produce the story he wanted, but it wasn’t fully accurate truth-wise. He was discovered immediately, and within minutes of the film starting it shows Finkel being fired from one of the most prestigious news organizations in the United States. The next few scenes of the movie portrayed the repercussions of his lack of truth very well. Finkel is shown calling multiple news organizations, even old friends who might owe him favors, and nobody wants to even consider hiring him. Another element of the film is his loyalty towards Michael Longo. He gave him his word that he would not release any information regarding the stories he is sharing, but Finkel is faced with a tough decision. He is approached by a detective who is leading the investigation against Longo, and is heavily pressured to share whatever information he has, claiming that he could be the deciding factor on whether Longo is released from prison or not. I tried to put myself in Finkel’s situation, and I know how difficult it would be to negate pressure from a government official. But Finkel remained loyal and I believe that is a factor in why Finkel and Longo have remained in contact to this day.

Journalism is an emotional battle. There are a lot of negative things that happen in the world, and it is journalists responsibility to cover what is going on. One of the first stories we heavily covered was of the Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi. The heartbreaking photo of the little 3 year old washed up on a beach was circulating the internet, and the class decided to investigate the story. I went back to my dorm that day with a lot on my mind. Part of me was simply sad about the entire situation of a young boy losing his life, but then I had a realization that the journalists who took the photo were serving an important purpose. It was highlighting the Syrian refugee crisis for people who had no idea what was happening on that side of the world. After I recently searched the photo again, I found many articles that proved my point. One stated that “Up to 20 million people saw the harrowing image of Aylan Kurdi in only 12 hours,” and “Dead Syrian Child Picture Worked, Media Changed Public Perception after Aylan Kurdi’s picture went viral”. The journalist brought light to the dark and relatively unknown situation, and now there are many supporters who are wanting to aid the Syrian refugees. The power of a photograph is immensely strong. Most would argue that a single photograph is more effective than a long story regarding the same issue. Either way, the journalist who had to take the harrowing picture served a purpose and he did it effectively.

I felt a wide range of emotions during my experience with Research Methods and Studies, but I realized the true importance of what a journalist does. You tell the story. The people need to be informed and you need to get the information to them no matter what it takes. There will be many obstacles but the feeling of telling a story that could possibly change the lives of others is one that is difficult to replicate. My perception of journalism has changed throughout this course, in the best way possible.


Blog Post #13

Boy  tells Santa he is worried Autism will put him on “Naughty List”

Christmas is a magical time of year. Kids world-wide overflow with joy just thinking about the mystical Saint Nick who graces them with gifts every Christmas morning. Santa Claus can be found relaxing before his big day at shopping malls, with a listening ear for the little ones who want to make sure they’re on the “Nice list.” A heartbreaking story comes from Michigan, where an autistic boy confronted Santa with a concern he had. He asked Santa if “being autistic would put him on the naughty list.” My initial reaction to this story was deep sadness, thinking about the boy and his thoughts. It makes you want to drive to Michigan and give the little guy a hug. What Santa says will further break your heart, in the best way possible.

“It’s okay to be yourself, and you’ve been very good at doing just that.” The simplest, kindest words spoken from the jolly man himself, changed the course of the sweet boys’ Christmas entirely. It was such an unexpected circumstance, and “santa” handled it with grace and affirmation. The mother of the child expressed her gratitude on Facebook and her story was shared more than 30,000 times. It is a story people are wanting to see during this joy filled season, simply reminding others of the spirit of Christmas. I am so glad Landon asked “santa” about his concern and was able to get back to the youthful joy of celebrating Christmas.

I was confronted with a similar situation in my hometown a few years back. Our family friend, Savannah Stralow, has high-functioning autism. I remember the day clearly. I was driving her home from school and having a normal conversation. There were a few moments she was silent, and then she asked me if I knew that she was autistic. In the moment I was completely taken off guard. I looked over at her and saw the sincerity in her eyes, realizing she was honestly curious if I knew. My mind was racing, and I simply told her that yes I did know, and it just makes her that much more awesome. I wish I could have phrased it differently, but I needed to let her know that it absolutely does not define her in a negative way at all. After I responded, she sat back and seemed to be her relaxed and goofy self, and conversation went back to normal.

The story of Landon and santa hit me emotionally, and I am so thankful that Landon was at the mall with this particular santa. I know that the single instance of hearing the reassuring words from such a special person is what will influence many of Landon’s Christmas’s and life adventures to come. It also just makes me thankful for people like the man who was acting as santa that day. Genuine kindness is so refreshing to find in the world, and it makes for an incredibly heartwarming story as well.



True Story- Movie Assignment

Do you trust the truth?

Film: True Story

Aaron Van Maanen

James Franco and Jonah Hill drop their comedy roots and collaborated on a serious film. True Story is based off of true events, and is the detailed encounters between a convicted killer and a struggling journalist. The film opens with Jonah Hill who is playing as Mike Finkel, a journalist for the New York Times. We see him interviewing a group of five African American boys, obviously trying to uncover truth. He is using a translator and has to result to a financial incentive to get what he wants to hear. Once he returns to the United States he writes the story and it ends up as the cover story on New York Time’s latest magazine. It seems like everything is working perfectly for him, until he is called into a meeting with a representative from the company.

The organization “Save the Children” contacted the New York Times wanting to fact check the information provided in the article, including major details such as the actual identity of the child featured in the story. Finkel is asked to prove the identity of the child, but is unable to do so because he claimed he didn’t take notes that day. It is soon easy to realize he made up a majority of the story to try and make the best story possible. He did the research but changed his focal point to one child to attempt to make people care more. The representative called him out on it, and after refuting for minutes, Finkel suggests that he should write an extraction, but begs that they won’t include an apology. He fears if that would happen “nobody would touch him.” The representative calmly told him that he had a bright future ahead of him, but it was not with the New York Times. After that scene I realized how truly important it was to only convey the truth in stories. One bit of false information could cause the downfall of your entire career as a journalist, as Mike Finkel soon discovered. A regular audience reading the paper will believe whatever is written, which is why it is so important for the company’s credibility reasons to only publish the truth. Finkel spends the next few scenes trying to call other journalist organizations but even his old friends don’t want to hire him after what happened.

The parallel story in the film is that of Christian Longo’s, played by James Franco. He is shown being apprehended by the police in Mexico, and he states that his name is Mike Finkel. The actual Mike Finkel is notified of this and arranges a meeting with him right away. The main question Finkel had for Longo was why he chose to “steal” his identity. Longo expresses how he had always followed Finkel’s career because he always focuses on finding the truth. He then tells Finkel that he wants to tell him the true story of what happened but makes him give him his word and promise he won’t write about it until after the trial. There are many scenes where the two characters write to eachother, and soon Finkel realizes he has enough information to publish a book about Longo. This presents the next troubling journalist aspect of the movie. Finkel is approached by a government official who is involved in determining whether or not Longo is guilty of the murder of his family. He pressures Finkel to give him the information and documents he has received from Longo, claiming he could be the one who could release him from prison or send him to death row. Finkel is pressed with the difficult decision but is loyal to his word and does not divulge any information he received from Longo. I know that if I were asked by government officials it would be a difficult process, because I would want to stay loyal but I would not want to break any laws, such as withholding evidence.

One of my favorite lines from the movie is when Finkel and Longo make the deal of Finkel getting full access to write the story on Longo. Finkel states “You might not like what you read.” Longo simply replies with “I understand.” This comes after a friendly conversation, and I was almost taken off guard. One thing I struggle with is keeping my opinion out of journalist articles. Finkel and Longo had in a way just became friends, and then Finkel tells him that if he writes the story it might shine a negative light on Longo. This is an obvious necessity that I struggle with, but Michael Finkel is a professional who has a realistic grasp on what it means to be a journalist. He made the mistake of falsifying an article to enhance it’s emotional weight, but he wasn’t a writer for the New York Times by chance. He knows what it takes and understands that it is not always pretty.

Another one of my favorite lines from the movie comes from Finkel, and it could be controversial to some. “Everyone deserves to have their story heard.” In the recent wake of the San Bernadino shootings, I stumbled upon a tweet from a celebrity that stated “The media needs to stop saying the names of people who mass murder others on tv. They don’t deserve their names read. They deserve nothing.” I thought of the tweet immediately after I heard the line in the film. I want to agree that everyone deserves to have their story heard, but I also agree that people who do horrific things such as mass murder deserve nothing. It is a difficult thought, brought about by terrible happenings.

The film True Story was better than I could have ever expected. It was also interesting having an intense focus on the journalistic aspect of the movie. It presented many different angles on the meaning of truth, and how important or reliable certain truth’s can be.

Blog Post #12

It was just another day in San Bernadino, California. There was an office party taking place in a treatment center for people with disabilities, when one of the co-workers stormed out. Syed Farook was a five-year employee of the company, and had recently visited Saudi Arabia after meeting his new wife online. The couple had a child, who they had both dropped off at their grandparents that morning. The couple then proceeded to engage in one of the most violent attacks our nation has experienced all year. They opened fire in the regional center where they killed a total of 14 people while injuring another 21. Authorities struggled to determine whether or not international terrorism was a factor or not, while Obama released a statement expressing how the mass shooting was a part of a pattern of shootings that had “no parallel anywhere else in the world.” The shooting ended with a shootout between the attackers and the LAPD, leaving the two attackers dead.

Tashfeen Malik was the wife of Syed Farook, and the other gunmen in the attack. She was born and raised in Pakistan and lived in Saudi Arabia. She was able to come to the United States with a “fiancee” visa. The couple had a 6 month old daughter, who I previously mentioned was dropped off at their grandparents house. It was on Farook’s second trip to Saudi Arabia that he married Malik, and she returned with him. She was described as a reserved, shy woman. She was not on any list of potentially radicalized individuals. She was just a practicing Muslim, doing the 5 prayers a day but nothing out of the ordinary. After the shooting a FaceBook post revealed Malik declaring her loyalty to the leader of ISIS.

ISIS declared the shooters as “supporters” of ISIS, but they did not say the shooters were members or that ISIS was responsible. “We pray to God to accept them as martyrs,” ISIS’ al-Bayan Radio declared Saturday. There are claims that Malik professed her loyalty to the Islamist network during the shootings, but ISIS calling them “supporters” is a lesser level of allegiance, indicating ISIS most likely did not have direct contact with the couple. ISIS, when claiming responsibility for other terrorist attacks, would call attackers “knights” or “soldiers” rather than supporters.

There were many fatalities, and a heroic story emerged from one of the tragic deaths. Shannon Johnson shielded Denise Peraza with his own body. Johnson was killed during the attack but Peraza was only injured. “I will always remember his left arm wrapped around me, holding me as close as possible next to him behind that chair,” she said. “And amidst all the chaos, I’ll always remember him saying these three words, “I got you.”

This is one of the many mass shootings that have happened in America this year. Many people are demanding a call to action, saying prayer is not enough anymore. I hope that our leaders will make the right decisions to help keep our country safe.





Paris, France Interview

(bold letters are Trevor Luebe’s responses)
Trevor, I am friends with your cousin Jenna Rott, and I just saw her Facebook status about how you were at the soccer game in Paris during the attacks. First of all I am glad to hear you are safe! I am in a reporting class at UNI and I was wondering if you would be willing to share what you experienced that Friday at the game and what the environment was like after the attacks took place, if you don’t I completely understand. Thank you so much for taking the time to read this! Sincerely, Aaron Van Maanen
Yeah i can do that! 
Thank you so much, Trevor! What was your initial reaction at the game, did people know what was going on? What was the environment like as you left the game?
When we heard the first bomb, people thought it was part of the game. It wasn’t until the second bomb that you could tell that people were a little worried. After the first half, my roommate got a text from a friend in france and she said that there was a shooting. As the match progressed we learned a little more but were still in the dark. With a minute left in the extra minutes we were told to leave. We started walking down the road to the metro and then suddenly everyone turned around and started running. I grabbed my friend and we ran. As we ran with the crowd I could hear people screaming and left behind shoes, bags and other items. We walked down another road and people started to calm down and try to figure out what was happening. We were escorted by police on the sides of the road and as we approached the metro two buses full of military soldiers passed by. We got closer to the metro and there was a barricade of police cars and policemen with rifles. We go up the ramp for the metro and get in. We arrive at the metro stop Gare de Nord and as we wait five people come running down the stairs yellign “close the doors close the doors!” the doors shut and everyone ducked and the metro took off. I live next to the shootings so I wasn’t able to go home so I ended up staying with a friend in my program with my roommate.
Oh my goodness. I’m so glad you and your roommate are okay, man. Thank you so much for sharing, you and everyone in Paris are in my and so many others prayers. Thanks again for being willing to share your experience, would you be comfortable if I posted some of your quotes on my blog for this class? If not I absolutely won’t.
no problem and i give you permission! glad i could help
Thank you so much Trevor! Stay safe and I hope you have a good rest of your trip.
thank you! and it was no problem!

Class Notes 11/17

Paris Attacks

  • 6 different locations, 8 suicide bombers and gunmen
  • ISIS claimed the attacks
  • Released a video saying there will be an attack in Washington DC
  • What would be one framework/story angle where we can examine this?
    • People who were affected by the attacks here in Cedar Falls (local impact)- what would we try and get out of the story?
      • Send the reporter to get an interview with someone who has family in France or someone who was planning on visiting France
      • Using personal networks to find a lady who works at John Deere who was working in France- but how would you find that lady?
      • Contacting high school French teachers, other leads, students who have visited France in the last year
  • Started my search at 9:58 AM, got my first response at 10:05 AM
  • I messaged Trevor Luebe on Facebook, a mutual friend posted a Facebook status on how he was attending the soccer game during the attack.
  • His first response to my message was “Yeah i can do that!”
  • I did not want to overload him with questions, but I asked ones that would prompt in-depth responses.
    • What was your initial reaction at the game, did people know what was going on? What was the environment like as you left the game?

Blog Post #11

Paris Terrorist Attacks

A nation known for peace has recently experienced one of the most horrific tragedies in recent history. In an attack claimed by ISIS, atleast 129 people lost their lives while at least 352 others were injured. Eight ISIS terrorists armed with AK-47’s and suicide belts planned attacks at six separate sites last Friday night. A solemn message from French president Francois Hollande explained how it was an “act of war” and that France “will be merciless toward the barbarians of Islamic State group.” The attack was devastating for France, and the response from the president is somewhat surprising but warranted. France has already responded by bombing ISIS camps, and a disturbing message has been given by an Iraq based ISIL group.

“We tell countries participating in the crusader campaign: We swear that you will experience a similar day to the one that France experiences; since if we have struck France in its heart – in Paris – then we swear that we will strike America at its heart – in Washington,” said a militant who calls himself AL-Ajkrar Al-Iraqi. I don’t want to live in fear but hearing that message from a dangerous group who is not afraid to take action is terrifying. When I heard that statement, I instantly was curious as to what Obama’s next move will be. President Barack Obama, speaking to reporters in Washington, decried an “attack on all humanity and the values that we share,” calling the Paris violence an “outrageous attempt to terrorize innocent civilians.” Obama is also planning on attending the climate summit meeting in Paris.

A sad fact of the terror is that it is the deadliest terror atrocity to hit a Western European city since a series of train bombings in Madrid, Spain killed 191 people on March 11, 2004. The most brutal attack that happened in Paris on Friday evening happened at the venue of an American rock concert. It was estimated that almost 87 concert-goers lost their lives. What initially sounded like fireworks, the audience believed it was part of the bands’ act. The band instantly stopped playing as the terror erupted in front of them. All band members have since been safe and accounted for, and left Paris shortly after the attack.

The sadness and terror caused in Paris will have lasting affects that will be arising in the near future. The retaliation will hopefully not lead to even more innocent lives being taken, but this may be what causes the alliance of many nations to take down ISIS once and for all.



Class Notes 10/12

Missouri Threats

  • Protests continue

Mizzou Professor Melissa Click Assaults Student Journalist

  • “You need to back up if you’re with the media”
  • “You don’t have the right to take our photos”
  • He is explaining that the first amendment protects his write and hers to be there
  • So many people are forcing him to leave and he is keeping his cool while the others are being aggressive
  • “You’re an unethical reporter”
  • “You lost this fight just leave”
  • “Well then we will just block you”
  • Groups were chanting “go”
  • “How about humanity and respect”
  • “I’m sorry these are people too, back off”
  • “We’ll call the police on you.” “You can’t, the first amendment protects us both”
  • “They have an education to get and a life to live”
  • Mizzou has an incredible journalism program and this is happening
  • “They just want to be together, and you are here infringing on what they need, to be alone”
  • “Just put the sign in his face”
  • “They’ll change the story on you.”- when the guy almost has an altercation with the journalist and his friend gets him to stop
  • “I’m being pushed, it’s our right to walk forward.”
  • “I need some muscle over here, who’s going to help me get this reporter out of here.”
  • “You can go”
  • “This is public property.” -then the professor mocked him
  • “He shouldn’t be here, don’t let him back in”
  • “Media, please stay off the grass”-dumb person
  • The reporter responded admirably, keeping his cool and just tries to document history.

Class Notes 11/10

Black Hawk County Press Release

  • First paragraph details the information of Cedar Falls and Waterloo’s runoff elections
  • The next paragraph explains how Jon Crews dropped out of the runoff, but explains how his name will still be on the ballot because there is no prevision in Iowa law for canceling or withdrawing from a runoff election.
  • Next election will be on a Tuesday once again. December 2nd, 2015
  • People could just assume Jim Brown will win and not vote for him, allowing another candidate the chance to win
  • If Jon Crews wins the election and still gets elected, he does not have to stay in office. The routine that would be followed, we’d forget all about the fact of the runoff, the city council would either hold another election or appoint somebody.
  • We could have Jon Crews with the most votes and still not have a mayor, they would have to appoint somebody.
  • We estimated the runoff election would be about $20,000
  • Monday people will be in town to vote on Tuesday, something to do with the ability for people to travel

Cedar Falls Mayoral Elections Essay

The Cedar Falls election was held on November 3rd, 2015. The three candidates for mayor were Jon Crews, Jim Brown, and David Haltermann. It was an exciting night of anxiously waiting for the results, and the conclusion did not surprise many. There was going to be a run-off election between Jim Brown and Jon Crews. There was an unofficial count from Tuesday’s election and it showed that Brown had beat Crews by nearly 700 votes, but neither candidate won the majority and the town of Cedar Falls was going to have to prepare to vote once more in December. After a few days, shocking information was reported regarding Jon Crews’ status in the run-off election.

The WCF Courier covered the breaking story. With an attention grabbing headline of “Jon Crews is calling it a career,” it drew many views from Cedar Falls residents. Crews was faced with a difficult decision, and was able to discuss it with his campaign co-chairs before reaching a decision. “It’s hard to leave a job you love,” Crews stated emotionally. “I’ve enjoyed immensely the job and I feel good about what’s happened in Cedar Falls. I can leave with my head held high. We’re in good shape. Very good shape. Truthfully, a lot of cities would trade places with us in a heartbeat,” said Crews. This interview was hard for Crews to get through, and reporters expressed how his voice was breaking throughout his responses. “This campaign was going to be the last one. There’s some projects to retire to and family to see more of. That was the plan.”

Crews gained many supporters over the span of his career as mayor of Cedar Falls, and many urged him to continue with the campaign. Crews met with Jim Brown to inform him of the decision, and he wanted to ensure a smooth transition for Brown to become the next mayor. The Courier was able to hold an interview with Brown as well. “”I’m humbled. He’s been such a good public servant. It’s humbling to me in terms of his trust, in relation to letting go. I’ve know Jon outside of politics. I’ve seen him in public. He’s a good guy. We can look at Cedar Falls and point to him for a lot of that success,” said Brown.

With the decision of dropping out of the race, the runoff election is still going to happen. Crews’ name will still appear on the ballot, and he encourages all of Jim Brown’s supporters to return to vote, as it is still very important. “He needs to get his supporters out to vote that day,” Crews said. “Jim is inheriting a good city. I know he knows that.” Crews also had a very respectful statement in regards to Jim Brown and the citizens of Cedar Falls. “I extend my best wishes to Mr. Brown. I pray that his commitment to the office of mayor and to the citizens of Cedar Falls will continue the legacy of progress that has been set. To every resident, whether supporting me or not, I wish you well. I sincerely thank you for the wonderful opportunity you have given me,” Crews said.

After serving as mayor for 30 of the last 44 years, it is time for Cruz to hand the baton to the next great leader of Cedar Falls. He plans on helping his wife with her foundation and spending time with his growing mixed family. Crews helped make Cedar Falls is what it is today, and now Jim Brown will continue his legacy.