Subscribe to your local paper so I can have a job

Journalists do some unusual things to get a story.

Like stand outside rural diners asking people about President Donald Trump.

Early last month I spent a day camped outside country diners to ask if a Trump endorsement would influence Republicans in their vote in the local governor’s race. I flagged down diner after diner, only to get to the same answer.

Rural Tennessee does not care about Donald Trump.

But this doesn’t surprise me.

When I interned for The Federalist last summer in Washington, D.C., I found myself in a bubble. People cared about “covfefe” and clung to push notifications about bits of policy. When I tried to take these things home to discuss it with non-journalist friends, they were clueless. Or didn’t care.

A lot of people don’t.

As much as the national media might clutch their collective pearls and insist Trump has struck fear into the heart of the nation, the general population is not fainting at every new press release or policy. Push notifications on the Russia investigation are meaningless. They don’t have Twitter alerts for Trump or Clinton.

Most Americans are more interested in street renovations and whether they can buy alcohol on Sundays.

But the outlets that write these stories — the local, small-time papers — are disappearing. Soon, all we might have is pearl-clutching.

And I don’t want to spend my career writing about Trump tweets.

The importance of local outlets lies in the people they write about. Local reporters provide real stories. They pull apart the lives of everyday people. They shine a light on local corruption.

When local reporters talk to sources, they are talking to their own community. Their reporting is not just a job. It’s giving back.

There is nothing exciting about board meetings or wading through the bureaucracy of local government. Breaking news is mayoral scandals or an armed robbery.

But it’s just as important as national news, if not more. Because it’s real.

As I go through my internship at The Tennessean and really get a taste of local news, I am more convinced of the sheer absurdity of national news. It is absolutely important to cover national matters and the journalists who do so are not wasting their time, but to ignore the local news in favor of national would be a disservice both to the industry and the nation.

There is little manufactured outrage in middle America; the normal American doesn’t have time for it. They want to know about their taxes, the weather, and the school football team.

There has been a spotlight on local news in the days after the shooting at The Capital Gazette. The fact these journalists had the steel to report on the deaths of their coworkers reached a lot of people. It reminded the nation that a lot journalists care deeply about their topics, because they are topics that impact the journalists’ own community.

And that’s the kind of journalist I want to be.

Subscribing to the local paper is important. Not only to understand the community, but to prevent those journalists from disappearing.

I don’t want a career of articles on Trump tweets. And neither should you.

 

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I don’t wear real shoes to work (and other Nashville things)

My first day at work, there was a Trump rally. I expected that — my editor had warned me beforehand.

What he didn’t warn me about was being back on the street minutes after I walked into the office to go to talk to supporters who were already gathering for the afternoon rally.

“Oh, you dressed up,” my editor said, as we walked down the street. “That’s so cute. You learn pretty quickly you can’t wear heels here.”

I might have waved her off if I hadn’t been sweating my way down a Nashville sidewalk, barely able to keep up with her as we speed-walked our way to a group of MAGA hats. Or if I hadn’t almost rolled an ankle jumping off a small ledge in four-inch heels to catch up with someone I was interviewing ten minutes later.

It’s a month later and I haven’t worn anything but sandals in three and a half weeks.

My first three weeks in Nashville, Tennessee, have been a (slightly sweaty) dream. I’m down here interning for The Tennessean, which is an amazing opportunity, and I’m incredibly excited to be here.

Reporting on the local news of a city is obviously busier than that of a small town, but I have learned that doesn’t mean people care less. If anything, it’s the opposite. The small talk of the newsroom is local crime and the fight between a ride-sharing company and metro government, not the goings-on of D.C.

But more on that in another post.

A lot of people have asked me if I love the city, but I honestly couldn’t answer until recently. Not because I have my doubts, but because I hadn’t seen much of it outside of assignments. I celebrated my first two weeks in Nashville by leaving the state both weekends.

To be fair, it is mostly circumstantial. I traveled to see a friend and then went home to watch my brother graduate. But after spending two weekends here, I can say that I’m in love with this city.

Nashville is tucked into rolling green hills. I live just outside the city and am equal distance from pedal taverns on one side and hiking trails on the other. And if I drive a few minutes more out on the other side of the city, I’m in small-town Tennessee, tiny diners and all.

But the real highlight of my summer, of course, has been working at The Tennessean.

I worked the morning breaking news shift this morning for the first time. For some, being in the office at 6 a.m. to listen to the chatter of a police scanner sounds like the worst job. But when I made my first call to dispatch this afternoon, I was almost giddy, even though I was asking about a call on a burning apartment building with someone trapped inside. (For the record, dispatch told me there was no actual fire that they could see).

This job gives me the chance to do things I wouldn’t normally do. I went to a Pride festival this weekend. I sat through a police graduation. I ate dinner with Muslims breaking their Ramadan fast.

Journalism in its very nature forces me to lay down my lens, to look at things without judgement. That can be a good thing. Doing so for work makes me do it in my daily life. And a city is better with an open mind.

I’m here until August, so get ready for lots of posts about journalism, about Nashville, and about what those two mean together.

And if anyone has recommendations for comfy sandals, send them my way.

If you want to stay up to date with what I’m writing for The Tennessean, follow me on Twitter @JordynPair.

I think I forgot to tell my mom I went to D.C. 

It occurred to me while standing in front of the Captiol building that I wasn’t sure if I had told my parents I would be traveling to D.C. today for the March for Life. 

So, hey mom. I went to D.C. today. Sorry I didn’t tell you. 

I’ve been doing a lot of writing on busses lately. I’m currently traveling overnight on a bus back to Hillsdale after attending the March for Life. 

Hillsdale Students for Life took over 100 students to attend the 2018 March for Life in Washington, D.C.. Although I travelled with the group, I was actually there reporting for the Hillsdale Collegian. With thousands of people packed onto the National Mall, it was quite the experience.

I reported on several protests over the summer while interning for The Federalist, but none of them were anywhere near this large. Covering events like protests is probably my favorite kind of journalism. It’s a boots-on-the-ground, high-energy kind of reporting. Even when the march was moving at a crawl, or not at all, I was having a good time. 


Experiences like this only reinforces my decision to be a journalist. Most parts of journalism are not trips to Israel, high-profile scoops, or heart-pounding breaking news. They are two nights on a bus and long days of walking. They are hours spent going over footage and editing interviews. They are the drudgery behind the story. 

But this trip also showed me another important aspect of journalism: community. 

I was one of four reporters for the Collegian on the trip (although only two of us were actually acting as reporters for the march), and together we met up with several other Collegian writers, past and present. 


During our downtime after the march, we wandered around D.C., talked about journalism, and just enjoyed each other’s company. Being in an office all night once a week brings people together in a unique way.  We’re friends, colleagues, and fellow students. We switch from talking about our families to article ideas and back again. 

But my community of journalists spreads even wider than the small pocket on Hillsdale’s campus. I had several other young journalists attending the March for Life reach out to me afterward to say they had also been in attendance and that we should have met up. 

I know that journalism tends to be an industry where everyone knows everyone, but seeing this in action is encouraging. It’s nice to know that I won’t be alone in the workforce, that no matter where I end up, I’ll have some sort of connection. 

In the end, today was about community: a community of pro-lifers, a community of journalists, a community of friends. No matter who you are or what you’re passionate about, you’ll have someone by your side. 

Whether you’re talking, writing, or marching, there is always a community waiting to do it with you. 

Four ways to know if a mortar is coming: Israel, Day 6

There are four ways to know if a mortar is coming.

1. You hear the explosion of it being launched. If you hear that sound, run.

2. You hear the whistling of it coming in. If you hear that sound, run.

3. You hear it explode. Mortars always comes in groups. If you hear that sound, run.

4. You receive an SMS message from the IDF. They have spotted someone launching a mortar. If you hear the text, you can walk.

Today our group went to the border of the Gaza Strip. We heard from a speaker who told us what it was like to live among consistent sirens and dropping mortars. She described what it was like to have 15 seconds to find your child and the nearest shelter.

I saw a playground with a bomb shelter today. I was in a school protected from falling rockets.

Nothing else puts your own problems in perspective.

Many of the places we have visited on this trip have been of historical or spiritual significance. They have been ruins and tourist destinations. But there were no shops here, no street vendors. Just a quiet town, a few dogs, and the wind clawing at our coats.

We were supposed to visit the border earlier. We had to reschedule because they had three warnings in one day.

I like to think of journalists as the second responders. We are there behind the soldiers, the fighters, the doers. When the rockets fall, we are the ones with cameras pointed. When people run for shelter, we run after them with a notebook.

That is why visiting places like the border of the Gaza Strip is important. It tells you what kind of journalist you are. It tells you what kind of stories you can stomach.

The story of this town is not an easy one to swallow. No child should have to seek a bomb shelter every day. Not everyone can write this story.

But I’d like to try. I’d like to be that second responder.

There are four ways to know a mortar is coming. There are 15 seconds to find shelter from it.

There are a thousand ways to tell this story.

Run.

Israel, Day 1

I haven’t seen the sun in 28 hours. 

I have spent the last day and a half traveling from Detroit to Israel. I have spent at least half of that time waiting in some sort of line. 

It’s less than 10 minutes to midnight on December 31 in Israel as I write this. It’s strange to think I’ll be technically starting a new year in a completely different place. 

My trip through Israel begins in earnest tomorrow. Right now, I’m sitting in a hotel overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. I can hear the waves crashing down on the beach. The city sprawls out next to it. I normally hate hotels, but it’s hard to hate one with a view as gorgeous as this. 

One minute until midnight. 

Normally at this time, I am at a family friend’s house, surrounded by people I know and love. Right now, I sit alone in a hotel suite, writing.

It feels right. 

I am here in Israel for a journalism seminar. We will tour, interview, and write.  At the end, we will publish. Hundreds of students are on this trip, but only a handful are here for the journalism track. We are the first group to try it. We are all excited and terrified. 

At least, I am. 

I can’t promise how much I’ll post. I can’t promise anyone will even hear from me. But here’s to 10 days in Israel and the opportunity of a lifetime.

Happy new year. 

The Inside Scoop

In Iowa, the smell of manure hangs in the air and the highway is sandwiched between two empty fields that disappear over the horizon. I’m a midwest girl, but spending two weeks in drizzling rain in what seems like one endless cornfield was a little too much, even for me.

But when you get the opportunity to work with some of the best Christian journalists in the country, you go anywhere, including the cornfields.

World Journalism Institute is a program for young Christian journalists (like me). This year’s program focused on “backpack journalism” and was essentially a crash course in print, audio, video, and photo journalism.

And although getting to work with experienced writers was amazing, one of my favorite parts of the trip was something much less grandeur.

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These girls are as sweet as the dessert

It turns out that just a few towns over from Sioux Center, Iowa, is Le Mars, the ice cream capital of the world. The program director had promised to take us there to visit the Blue Bunny parlor. So, we put a pause on our finals presentations and stuffed ourselves into vans. The Blue Bunny store was cute, with a penny press and a little gift shop.

But this story isn’t about ice cream.

After a cone and a quick photo-op, we piled back into the vans. With 26 students to get back to Sioux Center, each van was packed tight.

As the van rocked back and forth past the dark cornfields, I realized I had fallen in love with these people.

I listened to the row of girls behind me scream-singing to pop music and watched a boy marvel at the country stars. One girl had fallen asleep with her head rested against the seat in front of her and her blond hair was spilling over her shoulders. The guy next to me saved space by sitting on the floor, wedged between the seat and the van wall. It was a mix of chaos and joy and exhaustion and maybe a little too much sugar.

And I loved every second of it.

Two weeks is not very long to fall in love with someone, let alone 25 other someones. Yet that was somehow what had happened.

Perhaps it’s the fact that we are all connected by our love of stories. We all take some form of solace in words. We all want to be better Christians, people, and writers. We all want the same thing.

I’m trying not to paint this as a profound moment. This wasn’t a life-changing van ride through the country or the first step on some sort of journey.

It was a small slice of community, a taste of joy.

And, sometimes, that is the only story that needs telling.