Monday, April 27, 2009

Spic and Span: A Journey to Clean

BNW--One topic not often discussed before you move in with a roommate is who will clean and what they will clean. Listen as 25-year-old Heather Clausen, of Howard County, recounts what it was like for her and her roommates to decide who would clean.

Monday, April 13, 2009

When you must go back to go forward

(Image courtesy of Facebook)

For Vince Barracchini, a twenty-something, life was great. He lived in an apartment with one roommate, partied hard, and ate taco-bell for his fourth meal. That time seems like a distant memory for him now as he decided to move back into his parent’s home.

For my slideshow presentation, I want to do a profile as he re-acclimates himself to his parent’s household and a new full time job. I know that it is hard once you have had all the freedom in the world to go back to the rules of the land at home. I want to explore how Vince is handling the changes in his life style.

Growing Up and Out

(Image Courtesy of The Washington Post)
BNW—I recently read an online article on the Washington Post web site and found a column by an author, which was fresh and witty. I found the posting of a Ms. Sarah Z. Wexler to evoke in me emotions I feel when I sit at home alone some nights when my own roommate is at work or out with her boyfriend. While the article did not use any source other than Wexler’s own happenings, it did stimulate within me thoughts of how I would feel alone in an apartment with no one around to hang out with me. My only problem with the article is that it ends much too quickly. Wexler goes into detail about her new neighborhood and her awesome bedroom but all too quickly summarizes how she turns into her completely independent self in one paragraph. I would have liked to read a bit more about the month long process she went through. I do realize though that the issue might not be in her writing the information, but how much space she was given to write. My favorite quote from Wexler’s article is, “Tonight I'm trying to remind myself that though change is scary, these on-my-own digs are a step to being the kind of grown-up I want to be: an independent, boss-of-myself superhero.” I love this sentence because I get the image of super woman with her hands on her hips and the wind blowing her cape. While I live in my own apartment with one roommate, I feel the image of my independence is of my underwear on the outside of my costume and the wind haphazardly whipping my cape in every direction so that I do not look cool or graceful at all.

Great White Odyssey

(Image courtesy of

Never before when I watched a television show or newscast did I think about the amount of work that goes into creating the package. Recently, I received my new Netflix in the mail. Settling down to watch the movie, I popped some pop corn and pulled my blue blanket down so I could properly enjoy the show.

After going online to find the show’s website, I found a video clip provided by National Geographic about one shark, “Nicole,” who has crossed the Indian Ocean in search of better resources and a place to give birth.

When I originally watched the documentary, I did not think about what angles were being used to create the wide array of emotions throughout the show. I found that many shots were wide to show the vastness of the ocean. The wide shots made me feel in awe of how sharks can navigate under water and maintain a specified course. Other shots were tight around “Nicole” as she moved through the water. Being so close to her, I could feel her power and presence.

The camera angles that National Geographic used in the documentary brought me closer to a shark that I will probably never get close to for any number of reasons, one of which being a paralyzing fear of what lies beneath the surface of the ocean.

Nickel and Diming

As a continuation of my reporter’s beat, “Brave New World,” I recently interviewed two current Towson University students and one alumnus. Their perspectives helped me to get a better understanding of what it is like for students to learn to budget more effectively when it comes to the grocery bill. I was interested in finding out what students are doing now to lower their out of pocket spending when they went grocery shopping. Of the three individuals I spoke with, each told me a different technique to save money and get the biggest bang for their buck at the register. Click here to listen to the full audio story about how you can save some of your nickels and dimes.

Of Mice, Men and an Apartment

BRAVE NEW WORLD—When its cold outside, I like to find the warmest and coziest place possible to relax. Normally, I would welcome this belief to all—unless you are a critter. One of the biggest problems I find in my own apartment is that sometimes I get critters in my apartment. Of these critters, I find the biggest and scariest pest of all—mice. In this feature story, I interview both Towson students and David Shumaker of Shumaker Animal Control in Baltimore, Maryland. Click here to find out how you can rid your home of mice.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Racking my brain!

It has been a truly choatic few weeks of my life! I'm trying to get back into the swing of things and catch up on on the assignments and midterms. Below are some of my ideas for the audio assignment:
  • Budgeting money in a tight economy for the single off-campus student. (Natural sound could be of a calculator)
  • Grocery shopping for a week on $20 or less. (Natural sound could be the sound of the checker at the grocery store)
  • Dealing with the stress of living on your own. (Natural sound could be the television and radio on and people talking in the background).

Monday, March 9, 2009

Lights, Camera, Action--Broadcast News

As my mass communications class moves forward, we begin to learn about the many different styles of writing for media. The most recent style is the "broadcast". The assignment for this blog post is to take three recent summary leads to real news stories published by either The New York Times or The Baltimore Sun and turn them into a broadcast lead.

(Photo courtesy of Sustainable Design Update / March 8, 2009)

My first summary lead is from The New York Times. The article is headlined, "A Rising Dollar Lifts the U.S. but Adds to the Crisis Abroad," and written by Peter S. Goodman (Published March 8, 2009)
  • Summary Lead: "As the world is seized with anxiety in the face of a spreading financial crisis, the one place having a considerably easier time attracting money is, perversely enough, the same place that started much of the trouble: the United States."
  • NEW Broadcast Lead: Today the United States is having a considerably easier time attracting money compared to the rest of the world since the financial crisis bega

(Photo courtesy of / March 8, 2009)

My second summary lead is from The Baltimore Sun. The article is headlined, "Debate smolders over coal ash safety," and written by Timothy B. Wheeler (Published March 8, 2009)

  • Summary Lead: "FROSTBURG - The state fined Constellation Energy $1 million for contaminating wells in Gambrills by dumping millions of tons of ash from its power plants in old gravel mines there."
  • NEW Broadcast Lead: Gambrills residents are angry after Constellation Energy Group dumped millions of tons of ash from local power plants into old gravel mines.

(Photo courtesy of / March 8, 2009)

My final summary lead is from The New York Times. The article is headlined, "Obama Is Leaving Some Stem Cell Issues to Congress" and written by Sheryl Gay Stolberg. (Published March 8, 2009).

  • Summary Lead: "WASHINGTON — While lifting the Bush administration’s restrictions on federally financed human embryonic stem cell research, President Obama intends to avoid the thorniest question in the debate: whether taxpayer dollars should be used to experiment on embryos themselves, two senior administration officials said Sunday."

  • NEW Broadcast Lead: Officials say President Obama intends to avoid the thorniest question in the human embryonic stem cell research debate by letting congress decide if taxpayers should foot the bill.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Unlocking a new lease

(Photo courtesty of Google)

The article I chose to review for this blog assignment is from The Washington Post. "What Every Renter Should Know," by Stacy Gilliam, is about, in short, how to find an apartment or home to move into. The article discusses topics from finding residences within a particular budget to making your home uniquely yours through splashes of color on the walls. One quote that was interesting to me was "Your quality of life is really far more about who you live next to, then how much square footage you have in your apartment" (Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan). I only have two real objections to the article:

  1. No topic is covered in detail longer than two sentences and

  2. The excluesively online article only provides one link (a reference to a source) to help readers find more information about the topics she discusses.

I would add these pieces of information for readers to the article. I would also include more sources of information. The only source included was that of an interior designer. I would most likely speak with leasing agents or possibly a lawyer to talk about common issues with leases.

Overall, the article was informative but as a reader, I wanted more. The article stopped short of telling me beyond one sentence on each subject, everything I need to know about moving out.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

EEK! My story of mice and men

As a student living in my own apartment, I deal with rodents--mice in particular. When my roommate and I first moved in we were at a total loss on how to deal with the critters. This is the point that I come to with my first multi-media project. I want to present a how-to feature on removing mice from a residence. I think to be fair I should include both humane and traditional ways to remove mice.

  1. I found a few local pest removal experts from the phone book and I am currently contacting them to see if I can interview and shadow them.
  2. Sandra Clausen- My roommate. She is the one who handles the "disposal" of the mice.
  3. Timothy Dadourian- A junior TU student who deals with mice problems in his home.
  4. I want to go to the Off Campus Housing Fair tomorrow (2/25) at TU. While there, I want to get the contact information for apartments in the area. I will also ask representatives there about mouse issues and how their complex/ residents handle rodents.
  5. I am looking for other students who live on their own who have mice. If you know of anyone, please leave a comment and I will be glad to get in touch with them.
  6. Myself- Since I live with mice, I am a good source. I usually try not to include myself in the story but if putting myself in will advance the story that much more, why not?

Photo Possibilities:

  1. If I shadow the pest control specialist, I could get shots of them setting a trap or removing one.
  2. I know it will be a hard one to capture but I would like to get a live shot of a mouse.
  3. I could get the reactions of students after they have seen a mouse.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Pleasure Really is in the Pain!

(Photo courtesy of Google Images/ Compiled on February 23, 2009 By Amber Gillette)

While searching online at the Washington Post, I found many articles did follow "The Wall Street Journal Formula." It is suprising because I didn't think so many follow this format in putting together a more creative feature news piece.

One article that I found to be a particularly good example of the format was published on February 18, 2009. Andreas Viestad's article, "The Pleasure is in the Pain," presents the reasoning for why people love to eat spicy food, even though it brings can bring us to our knees.

Reasons why this article follows "The Wall Street Journal Formula":

  • The article begins with Viestad telling readers that a lot of people eat hot foods no matter what their personal tastes tend to be. The author also tells about the history behind the pepper. She begins to discuss the different tastes of different peppers.

  • In the nut graf, Viestad talks about her own experiences with pepper spray. She also talks about how with the pain can actually bring pleasure through the release of endorphins.

  • A few facts used to support the story are: a personality study published in 2008, a sensory study done in Naples, Italy and the use of capsaicin as a topical cream.

  • The article concludes with a story about what "Piri-piri" means in Swahili. The story brings humor to the idea of not being able to breath after taking a "pepper pepper."

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Put out the 'Welcome' mat: Your furry friends are here.

“There’s Oliver!” said Towson University junior Timothy Dadourian as he watched a tiny, furry field mouse scurry across his apartment living room.

Since he moved out on his own to finish his under graduate degree last year, Dadourian, like thousands of college students across the nation, has made many new friends. Some of them even happen to have whiskers, claws and a reputation for scaring little girls.

“The problem is that the buildings are old and the mice are in the walls,” says Towson senior Sandra Clausen. A commuter student from Baltimore City, Clausen also deals with mice in her apartment. She found that she sees more mice during the winter when it’s cold outside.

“I put out glue traps with peanut butter to catch the mice. It works a lot of the time,” said Dadourian about how he remedies his mouse troubles. Other solutions include ultra sonic wave producers. The tiny device plugs into any regular wall outlet and emits a sound that when the mouse comes near, it creates an uncomfortable loud buzz in their ears. If you think you might have mice in your apartment, there are some very simple solutions that a stop to the local home improvement store will fix.

While many apartment buildings in the Towson area are a shelter for all sorts of creatures, humans are less likely to embrace mice into their homes.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Don't mess with the Jazz!

In high school, when I first learned about journalism, my teacher taught me about feature stories and what makes them different from news in a way that I will never forget. He said a feature story is like jazz music. It is smooth and beautiful. It tells a story unlike a news article would. In teaching me about a feature lead, he told my class that it is more artistic and free-forming (when compared to a summary lead). The feature lead can ask a question or tell a story while a summary lead must get straight to the point of the important information. A feature lead, like jazz, has the freedom to move around and eventually make its point.

My first example of a feature lead came from "The Washington Post" on Sunday, February, 15, 2009. Headlined, "Coloring Perception" author Blake Gopnik, a Washington Post staff writer, begins his story with the following lead:

CHICAGO -- Can an artist get much more successful than Kerry James Marshall? Museums everywhere own his work. (The Corcoran was one of his first buyers. And the Baltimore Museum of Art is displaying his "Ladder of Success," a recent purchase.) In 1997, he won the $500,000 MacArthur "genius" award, an ultra-prestigious invitation to Germany's twice-a-decade Documenta show and a place in the Whitney Museum's biennial.

Gopnik begins his feature story with question. The book suggests that it is almost never necessary to use a question lead because as a reporter you should be giving information not quizzing the reader. However, I think in the case of this story the lead works. When I first read the lead, I asked myself why I didn't know who he was. I think this was the authors main intention to pull in the reader.

My second lead came from "The Washington Post" on Monday, February 16, 2009. Headlined, "Venice Dresses Up for Carnevale" author Mathias Wildt wrote the following lead:

On a foggy February morning a few years ago, my wife and I were walking down an alley in Venice when we turned a corner and were confronted by an amazing sight: a procession of 30 human figures seeming to glide on the stone pavement in complete silence, like aliens.

This is a good example of an anecdotal feature lead. In this case, the lead works well as the author tells a story about his own experience at Carnevale, a huge celebration.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I don't mean to put a wrench in your plan...but, isn't there a better way?

I found the first article about living on your own in the Pokono Record from April 2008. Written by the Carey Brothers, the article took a different look at giving tips to young people about to move out on their own. The article focused on solving common household issues like stopping a leaky toilet which “can be the cause of many a night sleep and a shameful waste of water.” I found the article interesting because it looks from the perspective of how to fix things when they break. Many of the issues they bring up are simple to fix but could cost a young person hundreds of dollars to have a professional complete. In this sense, the Carey brothers not only help the young person to live independently but to keep money in their pockets during our current recession.

I do agree with the writers that the perspective of house maintenance is extremely important to living on your own for the first time. While my blog does not cover this topic at this point, it would be interesting to interview a plumber or an electrician to get their simple fixes for problems. I would also be interested in making a how to video for viewers so they could see exactly what they need to do. One part of the article I did not agree with was the ending (or lack thereof). The article came to its final point and simply ended with no warning to the reader. I half expected to find a second page or a continuation of some sort. If I could add anything to the article, I would explain what each tool does so that the reader knows why they are carrying around a shiny red toolbox.
The second article I found was from, a database of ezine articles that are shared amongst a community of writers. This article, written by Steve C. Boulden, discusses some of the hidden traps that come with living on your own at college. Boulden’s main points are to choose your friends wisely, save your money, and take care of your body’s health. He brings up the issue of choosing college friends and how the wrong friend can spell disaster for a student’s grades because suddenly they are not studying as they should, skipping class and failing exams. This is a good point because I don’t believe many students do realize the impact their friendships have on school. Boulden’s article, while short, provides insightful information and tips that might be helpful to college students.

In general, I agree with the points that Boulden brings up. He maintains that you can be friends with anyone you want and spend money as you wish as long as you keep your eyes on the proverbial prize and learn to control urges to spend excessively and outside of your budget. In no way does the author limit the student but rather warns of the consequence that could come from not taking care of your self from all aspects. To add to this story, I would probably interview a few students to get their perspective on how they manage these issues. I would also open up a forum for readers to comment and suggest their own tips to success in school and in their social life.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Journey with me as we enter this Brave New World

The hardest thing for a young person (and their parents too) is to make the move out onto their own whether it be to go to college or just to spread their wings. When some students go to college, lets face it, they get a sort of restricted practice run of truly living on their own. I do give these students kudos because they do in some respects have to balance a budget and time but they never have to go beyond this point. Their meals are generally chosen for them and they don't have to worry about getting to campus early to find parking. A fact I will readily admit is that eventually everyone will have to live on their own. This blog is created for the individual whom is interested in learning more about living on their own or for the person who is making plans to move. My blog beat, called, "Brave New World" is for all the people out there just like me who need the information gathered together. It would have been so much easier had I had a resource that told me how to select a roommate, create and maintain a budget and how to resolve issues involving the community, housemates and school.

One year ago, I moved away from home. For the first time in my life the decisions made had real consequences. The choices I made influenced not only my own life but my roommate's life as well. We spent six months making plans and figuring out how to start out away from home. All of what we learned came from advice from family, friends and not uncommonly, the Internet. We took from all these sources a mish-mash of information others have used and together we found the things we needed and even some things we didn't know we would need (like spatulas and extension cords). The planning we did over the months before move-in day truly helped to relieve some of the stress (although stress is inevitable).

Monday, January 26, 2009

Mmmm...the smell of exhaust is hearty in the winter air.

It is good to be back to Towson after a long winter's "break". I say so because a co-worker of mine went on maternity leave just as finals ended and I have been trapped behind a desk that is taller than my short stature and found myself frequently needing to find someone to "cover" me long enough to go to the restroom. I think I am in better spirits than I thought I would be. I am anxious to get back into the swing of things. (Although my clever weekly e-mails to the entire office reminding people to toss their trash before leaving work on Friday afternoons has managed to keep me on my toes.) I learned a lot last semester about my own ability to work in this brave new world of media convergence. I am excited to learn more and have taken it upon myself to learn new ways to maneuver on the internet. I am experimenting more and more with my website and I appreciate any comments and/or suggestions anyone might have!

I think my idol in media, at least in broadcast, is Robin Roberts on ABC's Good Morning America. She is able to dig deep to complete a lot of hard hitting journalism, while she is still able to connect to people. I found her the person on the news I could most relate to as I prepared myself in the early morning hours before work. Roberts, I was stunned to find out, had cancer a few years ago. Through her chemotherapy sessions, she wore a wig to mask her shaved head. Even though I watched her during her struggle, I could not imagine the personal fear and anguish she felt as she literally lived through cancer on television. Her story is remarkable. One of my favorite recent stories of hers is when she met with artist India Arie for a recording session after a job profiling piece suggests she would be best suited in the music industry. On the fly she made the tune and lyrics to a beautiful song I can still hear in my head today. I will try to find a mp3 of the song and post it to my blog (and probably my website too).

As I sat in my car this morning and made myself ready for cold air and exhaust fumes in the garage, I wonder what possibilities lie ahead this semester. I wonder about the people I will meet and the stories I will tell. The possibilities truly are only limited to my own desire. With this in mind, I say "what's up?" to my old friends and a warm "hello" to my new classmates. Each of these people will bring with them a new and fresh perspective on life and journalism.

~Amber :)