October 12, 2005

your uncle was a crooked french canadian

...or why I'm starting to hate the Champaign Police, the C-U MTD and the U of I College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

I don't use this blog to bitch a lot. I whine and moan a bit but I do very little actual bitching, at least from my point of view. It's easy to have a blog and just bitch and moan about the things that get stuck in your craw all day long, and despite the fact that some people seem to find this amusing, I've never been one for that. I want this to be more pensive and personal as opposed to some oh-look-at-me-I'm-so-hilarious-because-I'm-an-alcoholic-douche-bag-and-everything-pisses-me-off-but-I'm-oh-so-funny-bitching-about-it
kinda thing. But lately there are somethings that are just getting to be too much. So if whoever actually reads this will indulge me, I'm going to bitch my heart out on a few topics.

1. The Champaign Police
By now you all have probably heard about how we were robbed on Saturday. While nothing of mine was taken (this guy was looking for laptops and had some kinda of change fetish), I was still disgusted by the performance of the police department. It took 4 calls and over an hour for them to arrive in the first place. There were no officers available at the time, we were told, because it was just after bar closing and they were on "emergency calls." TRANSLATION: They were making money for the city to do more downtown development by ticketing underage drinkers. After getting there and taking down a little information, the officer got a call and had to leave to "take something" to another officer. He said he'd be back in 5 minutes. He came back over an hour later. When he did get back he took a look at the scene, told us why he couldn't get evidence and basically told us there was nothing we could do to prevent a future break-in. Only after we asked did he suggest being proactive about going to pawn shops or anything like that. Now that is some good police work.

I've had a love/hate relationship with the MTD for a few years now. In many ways the buses are very conveniet. They get me to campus and back home and, if I need them to, even out to Meijer or the mall. But this is all based on them being where they are supposed to be when they're supposed to be. This seems to be the major problem (other than the fact that their buses seem to hit and/or kill someone on campus once a year or once a semester or so). They reroute buses because of construction and don't post the altered routes anywhere. The buses drives don't even all take the same altered route. So how the hell are you supposed to know where to get on the bus?
Today I was waiting for the bus to class. This bus ran like clockwork last year. You could count on it being at the corner at :18, :38 and :58. Lately, not so much. Today the bus was like 10 minutes late, and when it came it almost drove past the 3 of us waiting for the stop. When she stopped just across the street she told us she wasn't sure if we were waiting for that bus or not. Well why not fucking stop and find out? GRR! I was 10 minutes late to class because of this and I walked out there happy that I'd be on time to this class for the first time in a week.

3. LAS
The entire time I've been in college I've been pursuing a dual degree in rhetoric - creative writing and journalism. As of last spring, I'd completed all the requirements for the rhetoric degree. Saturday I recevied a letter from an LAS dean telling me that my petition for a second degree was denied because the reasons provided in my petition weren't compelling enough. Now keep in mind, I have no work left to do on this degree. Had I not transfered into the College of Communications to pursue a degree in journalism, I could have graduated last year and be making thousands of dollars rather than taking out loans to pay them to this school. On a campus that's so jazzed about cross campus collaboration, how can they justify deny an undergraduate the opportunity to pursue work in two fields? If I was a journalism professor doing research with the Beckman Institute, they would be excited as hell because that would look great in the newspaper. They can't argue that I'll be using up resources by earning a second degree because I've already taken all the classes I need. The only work the have to do is signing a fucking name on a piece of paper in May. You best believe I'll be fighting this despite the fact that the letter told me the decision is final (contrary to what I was told before about there being an appeal process).

On a much happier note, I'm going to see DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE TOMORROW!

On that note:
No Joy in Mudville - Death Cab for Cutie

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October 6, 2005

under some dirty words on a dirty wall

So I had a very bizarre experience the other night. I was assigned by the DI to go cover a vigil that was held by Gamma Phi Beta for a freshmen in their house who was killed by a Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District bus exactly one week ago. ( Here's the story I wrote.) This experience marked a number of firsts for me. It was the first time I had to right a story covering an event. It was also the first time that I had to deal with a subject this serious in a story that would be read outside of class. All my stories for my advanced reporting class last semester dealt with suicide and how it's dealt with on campus, so one might think I was well prepared. But even talking to the friends of someone who has committed suicide in the past is different then sitting there with notebook and tape recorder in hand while friends and acquaintances grieve. I felt very out of place and very voyeuristic. It was also interesting noticing the way the local TV news teams covered the story. Since they were there with big cameras and bright lights, it made my hand-held tape recorder and small reporter's notebook seem slightly less invasive, at least from my point of view. Needless to say, I felt slightly uncomfortable the whole time. It took a lot to bring myself to be able to approach anyone for interviews for my story. In the end, I talked with the chancellor and the girl's RA and they provided me with insightful comments about the vigil and the traffic situation on campus.
This whole experience got me thinking about the way people perceive the media. I'm sure there were people in attendance that felt my fellow journalists and I were vultures, preying on this tragedy to produce a story that would attract readers and viewers. I entertained the thought myself. But what I realized was the as a journalist, there is an obligation to provide coverage of events like this because they impact the community greatly. Over 500 students turned out, so obviously people were deeply effected. It also effects everyone on this campus because of the way in which she died. Traffic and pedestrian safety are serious issues in this community that need to be dealt with. If the paper and the TV stations didn't cover this event, we would be doing the community a disservice. The DI came under a lot of criticism for the way it handled the story of her death when it first broke. What people need to realize is that the people running the DI are not professionals. We're all students still in the process of learning the craft. Dealing with stories like this is difficult for anyone in the field and it's necessary to learn by doing. I'm not saying the media doesn't make mistakes and get too invasive with the way they cover these things sometimes. But it's important to remember that most of the time they are just trying to get the best coverage they can of a story that has a deep impact on the community.

Feel the Pain - Dinosaur Jr. (been likin' this song since I heard Fires Over Phoenix play it at Cowboy Monkey).

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