By: Taylor Howard
The Bible says in Proverbs 18:21 , “ What you say can preserve life or destroy it; so you must accept the consequence of your words.”; this means that the words you speak over life can manifest. My name is Taylor Howard and I grew up in the South suburbs of Chicago in a home rooted in Christian foundations. I firmly believe that the lessons instilled in me have been applicable not only to my faith life, but within my professional development as well. I have always been a dreamer and take on any task with enthusiasm and a learning spirit. My optimism and drive have gotten me through my collegiate career, and with my final semester coming to an end, I have learned so much about myself as a professional, student, journalist and a young adult.
My experience in college has been nothing short of amazing. I was afforded the opportunity to serve in leadership positions, obtain a respectable GPA, and have joined extracurriculars that helped me advance in my career, all while still allowing time to have fun and spend time with my friends as well. Before my final semester began, despite the challenges of classes, I wrote these words on a Post-It Note to say every day until graduation, “ This will be your most pivotal semester, but your best semester yet!”
Little did I know how drastic and unpredictable this semester would play out…
FINAL SEMESTER; NEW LESSONS
The experiences from the College of Media and the Journalism department have created a platform for me to be more versed in multimedia and understand the dynamics and ethical standards of this profession, however TV1 and TV2 taught me how to be an effective reporter and to never sell myself short. I’d like to consider myself an optimistic person, so I would handle the pressure of the newsroom with ease right? Uh…. maybe not!
Initially, I was discouraged, because I felt like many of my peers were more advanced with Adobe, broadcasting writing and editing; not to mention I was not learning as fast as others. I’m sure you all know at this point that the news waits for NO ONE( if you do not know this yet, by the end of taking this course you will) . However, Dr. Collins and my classmates challenged me to optimize my strengths and work on my weaknesses. I quickly remembered that if I keep speaking on the things I am not good at, rather than embracing what I am good at, I will continue to lack confidence and never succeed in these goals. As I recalled the Bible verse as aforementioned, I changed my language from “ I can’t” to “ In due time, with hard work and determination, I will”.
… And that is exactly what I did. I knew that I had Leadership experience and was organized, so for our first news cast, I agreed to be the assignment manager, the position that handles the logistics of each newscast and ensuring all content is done by the deadline. Boy what this crazy! It was already challenging to manage all the reporter’s individual work, but the morning of our first newscast, our 30 minute segment was extended to 45 minutes! Myself and the producer of the week had to quickly assemble a game plan on how to add content to the show and I was able to get a live guest and still ensure that everyone still met their deadlines. Yes, there were many issues that arrayed, but for our first show and for the position I was in helped me realize that I have the flexibility, leadership and tenacity that it takes to work in media. My classmates and I had a unique relationship, as we were not just peers, but each other’s biggest supporters. Everyone was very supportive and assisted one another with their packages and assignments, which helped me catch up and learn how to edit faster and more effectively. Though there were mistakes, I successfully did my first news update, was the weatherwoman (1:21) and my package ran in our newscast (12:32) ! Myself and my classmates were getting in the swing of the routine of things… until March 13, 2020, when we began to receive information via email about closing University buildings and modifying face- to- face interaction to online learning.
THE NEW “NORMAL”
Hold up… this was not how I planned to end my college career!
When I received the initial emails, I was confused, yet was not concerned about the virus. As it was to many citizens in the United States, no one knew what was going on regarding the virus, other than how fast- spreading it is. I was not expecting that within a span of five days would mean my commencement and graduations would be cancelled, my internship opportunities have either been halted or cancelled, and had to say goodbye to my colleagues prematurely. Like many students, I am in a state of devastation and saddened by the current circumstance of how the duration of the semester will pan out.
Just as quickly as college was changing, the community and campus town that were my homes, did not seem so familiar. The Chicagoland area, known as the “City that Never Sleeps”, was now empty. The small interactions I encounter with strangers throughout my day- whether at a grocery store or at a local restaurant, people barely made eye contact. The joy and pleasure I had attending church services and shopping centers, I now have to go online. This is the normacely of life.
What hit me the most however, is that reality began to set in that due to the abrupt interruption, I was unable to prepare for my post graduate plans like I anticipated. I did construct my reel yet, I wanted to put more content out, I wanted to continue working on my tone and practice at Richmond Studios after classes, etc. However, I was not afforded with the resources such as camera equipment and a Mac computer to work with Adobe applications. Imposter syndrome set in quickly and I began to get discouraged once again. For the first few weeks after spring break, I was extremely unmotivated and did not know I was able to finish strong in my classes.However, It is no coincidence that I was reassured by the verse that changed my mindset throughout my life! I did not realize at the time; how applicable this quote would be in many situations throughout my life.
RESETTING AND RE-ADJUSTING
On Thursday, March 19, I began to “reset” and prepare for alternative ways to achieve academic and professional success by utilizing an unfamiliar learning platform. While adjusting to online classes, I am also challenging myself to find creative ways to ensure that my organizations are remaining compliant and diversifying program planning. As I began to change my mindset, I realized that the lessons I have learned in TV1 and especially TV2, that as journalists, our careers have prepared us to deal with the unpredictable! As I have stated, the news does not stop for anyone…. And neither should we( journalists). Sure, I experienced some difficulties navigating online classes and staying on top of my school work, but I had to adapt to the changes and spend extra time familiarizing myself with it. Additionally, I faced a lot of technical problems as well. I did not have a Mac computer, but the computer I did have broke; because of that, I was not able to get on my zoom calls and it was setting me back on my homework assignments. Rather than giving up, I called into my classes, got additional office hours and borrowed a computer from the media center.
I began thinking as a journalist, and not as a regular citizen. Journalists embrace change and find alternative ways to inform the public. Journalists are flexible and move with urgency. Journalists put their all into their content. Journalists never give up on their purpose and platform. I can confidently say this, as I gained this through quarantining. Most importantly, I learned how to be a critical and independent thinker. The Journalism department at the U of I challenges their students to use autonomy and express oneself. TV2, however, introduced me to a new way of thinking about the content in which I put out. As this class operates as a student- produced show, our peers are tested to help us make more reasonable and sound decision making when it comes to the quality of our work. Dr. Collins encouraged healthy disagreements and taught us how to balance challenging, yet respecting one’s way of thinking; we collaboratively helped each other be better decision makers. I cannot stress the importance of trying to master this, as we will make bigger, more impactful decisions in our future.
During the pandemic, the logic of critical thinking has helped me analyze my issues at hand ( technology issues and lack of motivation) and come up with strategies of a plan of action on how to overcome these obstacles. I learned the value of planning ahead and celebrating “small victories” of completing homework assignments on time, etc. by treating myself to a treat. As my class is the producer of our own news article for our alternative final project, I have to make all the decisions for the betterment of my personal project. Utilizing the exercises from class, I weigh all the pros and cons of a story and question the “why” of my angle. Even though I wish that I was in the newsroom with my classmates, quarenting has helped me become a better journalist and adult.
MOVING FORWARD; PAYING IT FORWARD
As my time at the University of Illinois has come to an end, I cannot forget the lessons, experiences and privileges that I have had over these past four years. I am grateful that I was challenged in my TV2 class and I would be remiss if I did not share a few suggestions on how to navigate through this class. Yes, we know the obvious: to work hard, to not miss deadlines and to go to class, but here are some that are often overlooked and that I will carry on with me for the rest of my life:
- Never miss an opportunity- no matter how substantial, or small a position might be, ensure that you are making the most out of the class and gain as much holistic experience as you can; you never know if saying “yes”, might open a door for you.
- There is always room for you to get better- We are all students seeking media jobs after we graduate. Take the initiative to do the extra package, to stay later to learn the switch board, to be the producer more than a few times, ask your peers for help! The amount of effort you put in will reap wonderful results!
- In the words of Ken Erdey, “It’s just TV”- Public speaking is a difficult task! Although I have experience, anchoring is another ball game. Initially, I used to get down on myself when I made a mistake, but I quickly realized that I must not let it define me- I must move forward. I have learned, outside of journalism, no matter the obstacles I face, I can always prevail! This mindset is so crucial to become the best you can be. If you don’t believe in you, who will?
- Lastly- “pay it forward”, something I will take with me for the rest of my life. News is not a one an show and there are many moving parts. It is essential to work collaboratively with your peers and create content that is ethical, tasteful and relevant for the audience they are informing. It was inspiring for me to be in a class of students who were intelligent and brought different perspectives and promoted inclusivity. Help one another, as we all impact each other in some way.
I will miss the many memories of being in TV2. I will remember the hustle and bustle of Newscast days and the urgency we all had to meet deadlines, I will remember the laughs, encouraging conversations we had and the music breaks we did. Most importantly, I will remember the late nights before a newscast, how my class worked diligently to have the most perfect show the next day. As I reflect and conclude my final blog, I can genuinely say, I am proud of myself. I am proud that I am more intentional with my reporting and that I can convey a story more effectively. I am proud that I carried out my Post- It.
“ This will be your most pivotal semester, but your best semester yet!”
Sure, I have had more eventful semesters, but unlearning bad habits, prioritizing my mental and physical health, adapting to the normalcy of life and choosing joy in a time like this has undoubtedly made this the most provital, but best semester. My words that I speak are spirit.