Archive | September 2013

Q & A with Julie Andrews Activity

She’s entertained millions on Broadway and the big screen. Now, we’re welcoming her into our homes again through the pages of children’s books and her memoir “Home.” Vanity Fair’s Q & A article of Julie Andrews emphasizes what is new in Andrews’ life.  If the author had to write the story in a different format, she could have interviewed Andrews’ daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton, who collaborates with Andrews on children’s books. Hamilton’s interview would give you a close-up on Andrews’ life as award-winning actress, published writer and mother. The author could also interview Andrews’ parents if they are still alive. Their interview would give an interesting perspective on Andrews’ development into writer and actress today.

The Q & A article of Julie Andrews is a photograph of the famed entertainer. The questions focus on current events in her life and leave out many of the details from her acting years. The article also excludes any perspective on Andrews apart from her own. A profile would explore the woman everyone knows from the movies with other voices than Andrews’ filling in the story. If an author were to write a profile on Andrews, she would want to offer a new angle or perspective on the renown actress as Andrews has been undoubtedly been profiled before.

If the Q &A article of Julie Andrews in Vanity Fair had run too long for the space allotted it and the author had had to delete two Q&A questions, the author should consider deleting the last question: “Do you anticipate your two careers intersecting at some point in the future?” Andrews answers this question in the above question. The author could also edit out the question regarding authority between mother and daughter in the book-writing business. Though this question wins a laugh from Andrews, the question is answered in the preceding question about Andrews got her start writing children’s books. Some may argue that the question about Andrews’ advise to parents could be cut, but I would say that the majority of people who love Andrews’ “talking” to them on the big screen would like to hear her talking to them in real life.


Reflection on ‘The Men and Women in Uniform’

Writing the first out-of-class feature story reminded me why I love writing. The story pushed me to learn about the military and the ROTC program, which is something I knew nothing about at the beginning of this story. I hope now that I can say I know a little about the program. What I really loved about writing this story was meeting and interviewing ROTC cadets and commanders. When I began researching for the story, I thought no one would want to talk to me. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Everyone I talked to answered my questions to the best of their ability, which made it easier when I finally sat down and wrote the story. All I had to do was link direct and indirect quotations with transitions.

Earlier on in the writing process, I did come across some snags. I had trouble contacting sources and setting up interviews. The battalion’s website had not been updated for several years and the command had changed so the contact information was outdated, something I found out about after the fact. When I finally found someone to meet with me, it was hard to find a time when they were free. The life of a cadet is busy, with early morning workouts, classes and labs on top of college classes and other activities. Another challenge was coming across as comfortable during interviews when even after my research, I felt ill-informed and intimidated by the uniform and rank. My saving grace was having questions prepared for the interview. I also felt uncomfortable asking questions about the conflict in Syria and the two anniversary of the end of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell this week. I eventually decided to drop those issues from the article because two of my sources were hesitant about answering those questions. I also decided that the conflict in Syria and the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell had little to nothing to do with the Blackwolves Battalion, which was the focus of my story.

If I could back to the beginning of the process, I would change two things right off the bat. Had I known I would have trouble contacting sources, I would’ve begun contacting sources as soon as I had my story idea. I would have also joined the battalion for physical training at 6 a.m. and took pictures. I think it would have set the scene for my article and made a great photo slideshow. Overall, my view on feature writing has not changed. If anything, my love for feature writing is reaffirmed.


The Uniform


Each cadet is issued two ACUs, the green digital camouflage fatigues, with boots and hat when they first join the program. The cadets wear ACUs for labs, which they have Tuesday afternoons at Kellom Field.

Cindy Brinkley greets me with a big smile when I wander into the supply shop trying to find my way back to campus after my interview in the Ensign John Parle Building, where the Creighton ROTC program is housed.

The lithe 60 year-old supply technician has a shock of red hair and a maternal warmth about her. She is quick to give me a tour of her domain, the supply shop for the Blackwolves Battalion.

Hanging from racks on the far wall are the green digital camouflage fatigues (known as ACUs) students will recognize from seeing cadets walking around on Tuesdays.

Brinkley issues each cadet two ACUs with boots and hat when they enter the ROTC program.

Once they have officially signed on to the program, each cadet receives another ACU  and an Army Service Uniform (ASU), the dress commonly worn by color guards at sporting events.

The uniform makes the commitment real, Brinkley said.

“Once I put them in an uniform, they have so much pride in what they’re going to do in life,” Brinkley, who served 19 years in the Army, said.

Like the fitting of a wedding party, Brinkley fits the cadets so they can train hard and look good.

As the matron of the supply shop, she has the final say in cadets’ military dress.

“I want them to look good,” Brinkley said. “They don’t leave the office until I give the OK.”


On what it means to wear the uniform:

When I put on the uniform, I feel part of something bigger than myself.

– Luke Goldsmith, junior cadet

It makes you mindful of the lineage you take up in defense of the nation and Constitution. Feeling that you have those around you who subscribe to a higher caller, you’re proud.

– Captain Sean Miller, Assistant Professor of Military Science

On when people thank cadets in uniform for service:

When people thank us for our service, we sometimes are hesistant because we’re not in the Army yet. But someone put it in perspective for me once: it’s not what you are right now, but it’s what you’re going to be, it’s what you’re going to do.

 – Jillian Boesch, battalion commander and nursing cadet

Grace: Journalism not for the faint of heart, for the passionate

This photo was taken from

You can tell Erin Grace writes a weekly human-interest column before she tells about how she often interviews grieving parents and the terminally ill. Her sweeping hand gestures and ear-to-ear smile communicate warmth and empathy, which helps in tough interviews. The rings under her eyes speak of late hours spent writing to make deadline or worrying about threats of libel suits. She spells it out when she speaks to journalism students: journalism is not an easy 8 to 5 job.

Grace knows what it is like to work a normal hours for a normal job. She taught English in Lousianna with Teach for America after she graduated form Marquette University with her English degree. The teaching experience was incredible, but she wanted to write. When she returned home to Omaha, her mother encouraged her to send her resume to the Omaha World Herald. She thought they wouldn’t accept her, an English teacher with no clips. They did. Grace shares this story to show that there are many paths to writing for a newspaper. A hunger for reading and writing are prerequisites.

After working her way up the ladder, she began writing feature stories, which turned into a feature column earlier this year. Grace said she loves her job, though she often works on little sleep for equally little pay telling tough stories. She likes the curveballs sources and editors throw at her. Writing her column never bores her. An efficacious smile speaks volumes as she talks about covering Amish buggy accidents and a terminally-ill pizza shop owner.

Grace is quick to admit that the world of journalism is changing. Journalists are asked to wear many different. She applauded the integration of iPad minis into the feature writing class. Nevertheless, she said she believes newspapers are not going away anytime soon. According to Grace, the Omaha World Herald is so sure of the longevity of newspapers that newspaper just built itself a printer. However, I am unconvinced of the permanence of newspapers in news digestion. Many people have (at least one) tablets and smartphones, for which there are free news apps. Digesting news from these sources offers a cheaper, greener and more convenient option for the consumer.  I think the Omaha World Herald may be behind the times, but with writers like Erin Grace on staff, the newspaper leads the field in reporting and coverage.

Vladimir Putin: The man, the myth, the nesting doll


Vladimir Putin (Image Credit: AP)

He’s the most interesting man in Eurasia. He meets with world leaders at the G20 summit. He defuses international incidences, while causing a few of his own. He saves television crews from wild animal attacks. During his free time, he enjoys riding bareback and shirtless on his horse. Entering his thirteenth year in one of the two top positions in the Russian government, President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation is well-known for his eccentricities, but little known for his governance and policies. If I were to interview him, I would ask the following questions:

1. Within the past 48 hours, you have had an influential hand in changing U.S. action against Syria from strategic military action to disarmament of Syria’s chemical weapons. Why is this a better option? Why does your government support a government that has been accused of using chemical weapons against its own people?

2. Photos of President Obama and you at the G20 summit show you two talking and laughing. Obama says that while you do not always agree, he is always able to talk to you constructively. How would you describe your relationship with President Obama?

3.In your official biographical website, you admit you never wanted to be president. You allude to a belief that this mentality propelled you into your position as president today. What do you enjoy about leading the Russian Federation? What would you do if you were not the president?

4. This year marks the second year of your six year term as president. This term is your third non-consecutive term in that office. Will you run for a fourth term in 2018, or will you pass the torch onto another?

5. Entering your thirteenth year in one of the two top leadership positions of the Russian Federation, what new programs or policies to you plan to implement? How will these next five years be different from the previous 13 under your administration?

6. As a member of the KGB (Russian intelligence agency) for 16 years, would you say some of those Cold War hostilities between the United States and Russia have carried over into the twenty-first century?

7. Critics say that you are doing little to combat corruption in Russia. What is your response to this criticism?

8. What is your reaction to calls to protesting the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi over Russia’s anti-gay legislation? What is your own position on homosexuality?

9. According to Politico, you fought forest fires by dumping water from a firefighting plane and saved a television crew from a tiger attack at a national park. You have been photographed shirtless riding a horse bareback and you are featured in a comic as “Superputin,” a superhero who fights terror and public protest. What kind of image as the president of Russia are you trying to convey to the world?

10. Some say you are not serious enough to be president. What is your response to that criticism?

To further fill out my profile on Putin, I would most likely interview his wife, Lyudmila, who recently divorced him. I would also talk to former President Dimitri Medyedev, who appointed Putin prime minister. I would also get some critical perspective on him from one of his many critics.

A well-done photostory could accompany the story very well. A photographer could follow Putin around for an extended period of time to capture his dichotomous nature: the president and the piper.

Eureka!: How to form and nuture new ideas

ImageAt the end of another day in the lab, a bacteriologist at a London hospital went home with no new breakthroughs into the newly-discovered bacterial world. Perhaps in his frustration in another day of unyielding results, he forgot to wash his petri dishes, which were covered with the infectious bacteria he studied. When he returned to his lab, he found a blue-green mold growing in the dish. Astonishingly, wherever this mold grew, the bacteria disappeared. By accident, bacteriologist Alexander Flemming had discovered Penicillin–a substance that kills disease-causing bacteria. Today, Penicillin is the most widely-used antibiotic, or bacteria-killing substance. Without Flemming’s unintentional discovery, the world would be a very different place, where one could die of an infected cut. World-changing discoveries come from the humblest of beginnings–ideas.

Though Flemming’s discovery was accidental, his exploration of the bacterial world was purposeful. In the years preceding his discovery, humanity had been broadsided by influenza, a mysterious illness that took millions of people worldwide. Like many in the scientific community, Flemming had a haunch that influenza was connected to the newly-discovered world of bacteria. He formed and nurtured his idea through extensive research into the bacterial world, collaboration with other scientists, and trial-and-error experimentation.

As an aspiring journalist and a scientist, I come up with ideas following Flemming’s model. The most important step to brainstorming an idea is building a solid base of knowledge about a specific topic, and the best way to become knowledgeable is to read. When brainstorming an idea for an article, I always start by reading the headlines from major news outlets, like The New York Times, The Washington Post, and NPR. I also look at what pops up in my Twitterfeed and my newsfeed on Facebook. I read everything I can get my hands on. When I find something that may make a good article, I check library resources to make sure I understand the topic and can write about it. Truth be told, I write a lot about science because I have background knowledge from my science classes. However, my curiosity propels me to reach out of my comfort area and write about what I don’t know. When outside of my comfort zone, I look to others who are knowledgeable.

Once I have done the research, I collaborate with others. If the article has a scientific angle, I reach out to my sources who are scientifically knowledgeable. If the article has another angle, I reach out to other, possibly new sources. Hopefully, my research is informing my questions to my sources, the answers to which should be strengthening my understanding and my idea. One should always talk to more than one source for different perspectives. Never stop asking questions. Ask if you do not understand something that was said. At this point, I decide whether or not I should go ahead with the story idea.

If I continue with the idea, I enter the experimentation phase, where I continue to research the topic and interview sources with greater depth and detail. At this point, I begin to outline the story idea incorporating my research and my interviews. By beginning to actually write the story, I can get a feel for what other research and interviews I need to do. During this phase, I am constantly asking myself to step back and look at the story from the reader’s perspective.  What questions would I have if I were the reader? Would I understand the story? Most importantly, I check to make sure that I am still focused on the theme of the story. In the book Feature and Magazine Writing: Action, Angle, and Anecdotes, the authors tell of a writer in the midst of writing who keeps the theme of her story scrawled on an index card. Forming and writing about one idea challenges one to stay focused and narrowed in on one topic. If one is willing to work, as Flemming showed, then one can make a big discovery from the smallest of ideas.