“Minor” earthquake can’t disrupt first day of Portland sessions

Written by Jared Burgess

For the second time in the last three days, I overslept this morning. Our adviser had urged us all that we wake up by 8:15, so that we could get ready, eat breakfast, and leave by 9:15, for our 10:00 session. So you can imagine the look on my face when I got out of bed, and saw “8:46” flashing on my phone. Uh-oh.

Apparently, a minor earthquake had caused a power outage during the night, rendering our alarm clocks useless. So I grabbed my roommate, rushed to the cafeteria, ate another one of those delicious muffins and we were off to our session.

I selected my first session, “Going Online on the Cheap,” because our newspaper has definite plans for eventually going online. Although I’ll be graduating this year, I hope to have an efficient website up and running by the time school lets out. I want to get the “hard part” done before I leave, so that all my young staffers will have to do the next few years is maintain and update the website. I’d have to say, I feel a lot more prepared now. We learned about everything from RSS feeds to CMS’s to widgets. We also were given some tips about how to keep our readers interested and engaged in the website, by posting polls and quizzes for example, along with various multimedia.

Another interesting session was called “Maggots, rat guts, and feeling good about throwing up.” Its main objective was to explain how to get the most out of our interviews, but I think its crazy title alone would have been enough to persuade me to attend. Honestly, I already knew and practiced most of the tips that were presented, but what really intrigued me were the lead samples our teacher, Rhonda Moore, showed us. That’s where the title tied in; one sample story was about a few teenagers who found a dead body filled with “maggots.”

Another story was simply about a high school anatomy class, in which students dissected “rats.” And another was about teenage drinking, which featured a students who enjoyed “throwing up” after getting wasted. The samples were so attention-grabbing that I approached Ms. Moore afterward and gave her my email address, so that she could send the PowerPoint.

Speaking of throwing up, I was pretty nervous before my write-off competition at 4 p.m. I’ve been to three JEA conventions before, but never have I won any awards for my write-offs. I don’t think it’s because I’m not a good writer; I just don’t work well under pressure! Last year, I spent way too much time writing my rough draft for my news piece, and only left myself with about 15 minutes to rewrite my final copy!

I went into room A105 today knowing that I would not make the same mistake again at this year’s feature contest. And I didn’t! I felt good about my story, which was about raising awareness for the conditions that Greyhound dogs suffer after they are no longer able to race. Thousands are left homeless, and many of them die. What most people don’t know is that these 45 mile per hour canines do indeed serve as great pets. I can honestly say that I really did enjoy writing my story, so if I don’t win, at least I got something out of it!

Can’t wait for tomorrow.

Jared Burgess