Saturday, December 31, 2016

Let's See How Far We've Come 2016: The Year in Review

Here we've come to my annual tradition here, the year in review as marked by old Matchbox 20 lyrics. I did something similar, but with a lot more links, last year. This marks my fourth year in review post. The trouble with this year was that I didn't write all that much. On record, this is my weakest year since I began blogging in 2009: This is post number 8. Among my resolutions for the new year is to blog more.

So why did I miss so much this year? I was working like crazy in radio, television, print and online. My resume on my shiny new website is incredibly full and I did more work for my career than I did myself. That said I hope to work on some more passion projects moving forward: longforms for NewsNight, work with the Globe, and keeping some semblance of regularity here. So anyway, here goes nothing!

I rang in the new year with some friends and continued to work at the Post-Gazette until school started back midway through the month. I began a rather strange semester that included an art class (taught by an artist who refused to use anything except her own 35mm slide projector) and the dawn of my favorite radio project, On the Horizon. We also started airing Globe Live as a show co-hosted by then-Editor-in-Chief Josh Croup and I wherein we talked about what went in the paper.

February brought upgrades and changes. I interviewed and was subsequently selected as the Editor-Elect for the Globe. I also interviewed for a position as a Resident Educator (and yes it was the same day as the Editor-Elect interview). Later that month I had the opportunity to interview the one and only Rick Sebak after a screening at Point Park. I wrote a blog post about meeting Sebak and explaining the Editor Elect position back in February.

March brought with it a heck of a lot of meetings organizing my life according to my calendar. It also brought the celebration of Pittsburgh's bicentennial - which I am proud to say I covered as a one man band as one of the only college media there. March also began my foray into political coverage when Bernie Sanders came to Pittsburgh March 31. Sanders held a press conference prior to the rally, which I was able to attend. And that was pretty neat. To say that my first political coverage was thrilling is an understatement - for the first time I felt like real live reporter, and for once felt like I was impacting people's everyday.

When it rains, it pours. In April, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump came to Pittsburgh to rally prior to the April 26th primary. Those, too were interesting events - neither held a press conference. Clinton held her event in a gym and Trump held his in the Convention Center. Clinton's felt more like a fight against Donald Trump than Sanders (which was warranted to a degree, seeing as Clinton beat out Sanders in both Pennsylvania and nationwide) while Trump's felt like an odd pep rally. I turned 19 on the 15th in a very quiet weekend spent up north out of cellphone range because frankly that's the way to do it. April also brought along with it my (I think third?) trip to New York City. I rode a train up and wrote while I went. This time it was with Josh Croup for a conference held at the Harvard Club. Impressive, whirlwind tour and I loved most of it other than the Greyhound back in the sleet. And for once I have pictures up on my Flickr account.

May brought with it the end of my first year of college and the start of my first summer job - working as an intern at the Trib's digital trendy website thingy venture upgruv. May was, with little exception, boring. I drove to work, did work, returned. I got paid for what I did - scour the internet for what was #trending and occasionally build some cool dodads. It was too repetitive for my taste, but hey, that's how the "real world" works.

June was much the same as May. I got to go to a Pirates game with Lexus club seats (best seats I've probably ever had... except I prefer section 20. June also brought the Pens' fourth Stanley Cup title and our coverage of the parade. That win forged my miniature legacy at upgruv: the Stanley Cup tracker. I also got my first glimpse of the Center for Media Innovation.
Oh, and this:
I call it the prom picture

July was uneventful with exception to my trip to Westfield New York with family. It was a glorious adventure that involved lighthouses, treks through the woods, beaches, side trips, and some Tim Hortons doughnuts because why not. 

August began my sophomore year adventure. Unrelated to that, I finally got to see Coldplay live at the Consol Energy Center with my mother, aunt, and - strangely enough - Josh Croup. Shortly thereafter I began training to become a Resident Educator, and I took on a wild courseload. It also brought my two-cent clarification in defense of the Carlynton School District. I'm immensely proud of that argument and how it's held up. I'll continue to fight for education with perspective moving forward. Because it's important.

September is, as it usually is, when things started getting crazy. I went in search of the giant rubber duck, found it, watched it deflate and was sad about it. September brought with it also the start of what became Point Park NewsNight and the longform story we did on the Slippery Rock University/APSCUF strike. I have to say I'm immensely proud of the journalistic work we did. We had no guide or rule, we just made it happen. September also held the opening of the Point Park Center for Media Innovation, and I was able to interview Sarah Koenig. 

In October I went to a Penguins game, continued what became the semester from hell, and we debuted Point Park NewsNight. I changed my major from journalism to broadcast production and media management (one major) and declared journalism as my minor. I took a trip to Washington D.C. with some friends who head up Point Park media in an attempt to scope out places for the Inauguration. My October was incredibly busy for no particular reason. In one day I was able to interview both Attorney-General-Elect Josh Shapiro and his then-challenger John Rafferty for WPPJ. The feelings from April covering the election rallies all rushed back. 

November was dedicated to building the Election Show and its aftermath. I hosted what ended up being like 6 hours of live radio and appeared on television when I took a radio break. I did some voiceover work for Josh Croup that ended up being the main theme and intro to U-View's election coverage. So that was fun. I also started interviewing people for positions for the Spring staff of the Globe. November was also when it finally began to hit me just what I was taking on the Globe as its chief executive. November also brought with it an interview with Diane Rehm, perhaps my favorite high-profile conversation to date. 

In December we learned our interview with Sarah Koenig made us finalists for an award from the Intercollegiate Broadcast Service. It brought the end to the semester from hell, a semester I somehow managed a 3.79 GPA. Cumulatively I have a 3.84 - but who's counting? I ever so quietly attended a wonderful Straight No Chaser concert at the Benedum with my mother. December brought some work with the Post-Gazette rounding out the year's basketball tournaments. December was when things started to quiet down and the transition at the Globe began to take its full effect. In December I slowed my 120 miles per hour year to a more manageable 60 or so...

I didn't write a Christmas letter this year - I stayed a week longer than I had last year and this year I had to close down the dorms. It got me thinking a lot about what's next - frankly this whole break has got me thinking about what's next. I know it's kind of ridiculous, even with the body of work and speed with which I've approached everything, but I can't help but look even further. I graduate in two years (which is honestly quite terrifying). 

I'm excited for the future honestly and truly, and what 2017 will bring. It will bring a whole new start to some things (like my reign of terror on the Globe and the start of working towards a new major) and the evolution of others (we're rebooting NewsNight and reinventing On the Horizon as a podcast). Things are exciting and weird and uncomfortable and all at once wonderful. 

People have been complaining that 2016  was a horrid year. And yes, if you only look at political leaders and celebrity deaths it hasn't been the best - but in so many ways it's been a wonderful year. There's a great (albeit corny and sappy) quote floating out there that states an arrow can only be launched by first pulling back. So yeah, this has been a 5 steps forward 3 steps back kind of year. But progress still happens and I can't wait to see what this new year brings. 

So here's to you and yours - have a happy, peaceful and pleasant new year! Go fight win!

Friday, December 30, 2016


[I realized shortly after posting this that I had a prime opportunity to call this To Everything: Turn, Turn... but apparently my memory for using songs as blog titles is not as spry as I thought]

It's been a while since I last posted. To be completely frank, I'm not sure who I'm writing to here. Not that I was writing to anyone in the first place, but for a while there I had a fairly consistent gig going.

I've been thinking a lot about transitions. Naturally so, I guess: come January we'll have a new president, come June my brother will graduate high school, and on a hyperlocal note, January 1st I begin my term as editor-in-chief of the Point Park Globe.

With the passage of time go, sometimes unnoticed but other times not, smaller, minute changes. For example, this being the first Christmas in memory that we not only left our house for family up north, but also that Christmas felt a bit more sentimental and a bit less - dare I say - magical.

Here's what I mean by this: we had to plan out our 25th. My brother had decided to work early on Boxing Day, so out outing had to be brief. Our aunt and uncle didn't come over because, well, reasons. Here's what I'm getting at: This is the first Christmas in which I truly felt like a full on adult. Not that I personally did anything (in fact I royally messed up and forgot to get anyone anything for Christmas. I only sent out my annual Christmas cards.).

I'm coming to grips with the world fully treating me like an adult, and frankly I don't like it. It's almost as if in the past year a switch flipped and people started taking me seriously. And I know I've been wanting exactly this for some number of years now, but I felt comfortable resigning myself as someone who has had to, for lack of a better way of putting it, prove themselves time and time again.

Let me be clear on something: I still feel that need to prove myself as an Editor and as someone attempting to "do it all," but I feel like for the first time in a long time I've met less resistance on the other side on that.

I'm not sure how I feel about it. Usually here I just rant about things I dislike, but this is something I'm quietly trying to sort out for myself. I say quietly because if I do it too loud, the folks around me look to help. Not that I don't like that, but it's this weird balance where if I ask for help, I'm cashing in one of those hint things to get ahead. It's not entirely logical but it's my dumb up-by-the-bootstraps mentality - mixed with a heck of a lot of stubborn Serbian blood.

Today I embarked on one of our quiet, annual traditions - I meet up with three guys I was in scouts with and we wander through the woods of Settlers Cabin Park. The hike today trekked for about 5 miles, and we realized just how out of shape #collegelife has left us. We've changed since we first did this last year (and since we were last all in scouts together), but honestly it's always good to catch up with folks who share a unique experience - and are willing to organize.

I've always found a warped solace in wicked winter weather. I don't like bundling up in some ridiculous amount of layers, but I do enjoy (and that may be my own twisted self view) just how quiet it is out there. With 27 degree and snowing, we were the only ones in the park other than some wayward deer.

The wind whistled through the barren trees with whispers unlike anything I've heard, making the branches clank against one another. We saw a frozen lake barren but for some cattails on the shoreline. It was nice, it was quiet, and I couldn't shake the feeling of not only how small I was but also how this wilderness (surrounded by formless subdivisions and office complexes) was owned by us in that moment. And how for once, this world was ours.

I like the outdoors for that reason: there's at once a freeing feeling, at another point a superiority all the while a humility overwhelms you. The woods aren't alive in a traditional sense - life flocks to it. I enjoyed catching up and for once (for the first time since August) becoming one with nature. And yeah that's hokey but it's true.

I have to then say that for as much uncertainty that lies ahead - there was always uncertainty. We write our own futures and shall continue to do so. We transition always, for we are alive. Without seasons giving way there is no turning and without catalysts there is no progress.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Hello World. It's me, Alex.

So last time I posted here it got, well, heavy. I can't say I was told to post what I had posted, but I can say that I felt severely judged in the wake of the original post so I was motivated to write something to counter it. The original narrative was that I was trying to save a job but to be frank, other than some individuals the district didn't bat an eye. But I still wrote a piece I completely stand behind. That piece just happened to end up being ridiculously long.

That aside, I stand behind what I say. But I do have to say, I spent a week writing that and have been incredibly hesitant to post here since. Being careful about every written word is draining when all you started with was a hobby. Frankly, I haven't done that for that reason exactly. That and the fact that I haven't had a lot of free time.

I don't want too much of a following. I write this stuff for the 3 or 5 people who care what I personally have to think, and I've let some stupidity get in the way of that. So here's what the past several months have been like:

It's been nearly half a year. In that time, I began a job as an RE, resumed my job at the Globe, visited Washington D.C., hosted a radio election night show, interviewed Sarah Koenig, John Rafferty, Josh Shapiro and Diane Rehm, and no doubt have done some other things I'm forgetting.

I feel like it's my senior year again, you know? Running a thousand miles and hour and everything at once feels like it's on fire. And if I've learned anything this semester, it's that it's completely okay to have everything be on fire, as long as you yourself are not actively on fire.

What I mean by that: your grades don't have to be stellar, you don't have to be producing the best journalistic work of your life, you don't have to be producing a lot of journalistic work at once as long as you can keep yourself going. As long as you can keep yourself able to do that work.

I've also been in the process of transitioning myself and the Globe around me for the new semester. I have an incredibly tough act to follow in Josh Croup. He's made a good person to shadow but the expectations with an all-star staff have produced something unlike anything I've hoped to see.

This past Monday was the last layout meeting of the Chief Josh Croup era. And sure, people were sad and moping but I was sitting in the corner uneasy for what this next year holds.

You see, I'm an incredibly nervous person - not for any particular reason, it's just within my countenance to be so. I'm incredibly confident in the staff I've assembled and I think they're going to do a bang-up job bringing enthusiasm and grace to this paper. But there are unspoken pressures that we work through: in 50 years we've never once unintentionally missed an issue. More than half of my section editing team have not been section editors before.

That all said, I need only look a year back - there was no way in hell I should have been a news editor. A freshman? Come on. Let alone Editor-Elect. But I got there because I decided to take on a challenge. And I feel like if nothing else, that's what I can bring to the table here: don't psych yourself out because of a challenge looming ahead.

Reading that back it sounds awfully prophetic and deep, but the universality of the statement holds. Either that, or the fact I'm running on like 4 hours of sleep is getting to me.

I have no business being here, but honestly who ever does? I presented my relatively finalized portfolio - (yes that is a thing) - to my class and I surprised myself at the sheer volume and variety of work that I've done. I think the best thing to do in a situation is to not think too much about the perspective of that data point - what do I mean? Here:

Imagine you're afraid of heights. You're on a vacation with your family and they want to go to, I don't know, some mountain somewhere. You want to tell them no because of the whole heights thing, but at the same time you can't easily get out of this one. So what do you do? You just start driving. If you think too much about where you are in relation to the top of the mountain you may lose focus driving or you may stop - all bad ideas climbing a mountain. And eventually you make it to the top or some stopping point and you look around and it's beautiful - just don't think about the height it took to get you there.

I'm at a stopping point here - I'm not at the top of the mountain by any means and I hope I never am. I am, however, required every semester to take a break and look around.

Before me is an amazingly steep climb. I look forward to it with a slight weariness but an abundant amount of optimism, enthusiasm and excitement for what lay beyond the top.

And so this is finals week. I'm running on an average of 4 hours of sleep per night. My regrets are named procrastination and lack of published Globe work. Amongst others, my new semesters' resolution is to write more, take care of myself more and keep moving forward.

So we'll see. If I'm lazy, the next post will be either the year in review or my first letter from the editor as Editor-in-Chief. That's incredibly strange to say, by the way. Considering the amount of editors before me, that I get to do the 50th anniversary year and that I get to wear the title "Chief." I'm going to up the ante on writing simply to keep outside my own head.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

My two cent clarification: In defense of Carlynton High School and Small Education

Hang on, this is going to be a long one.

A warning: the following is an opinion. As a journalist, I don’t like having those. Understand that opinions change and evolve as time does, and please respect the place I was coming from whilst writing this. Also I use Oxford commas, don’t judge me. I do not advocate for any candidate or particular legislation or anything beyond dialogue. Want that to be clear before I proceed.

So last week I shared a post from a Carlynton alum that I attached some comments to. I was under the impression that the commentary was an assessment of the district I graduated from in the aim of opening a dialogue on the faults in the education system as a whole.

Boy was I wrong.

I completely own up to sharing it, and further to misrepresenting a blanket approval from me of this statement with added commentary. I thought it was (and, full disclosure, I didn’t read the whole thing that late at night) an attempt to open dialogue and I shared to push further the reach of that dialogue. I also did it as a way to promote someone I felt at the time should be heard by my reach. I recognize that the alum can stand behind what was said as an opinion, but I want to make it clear: that opinion expressed in the piece isn’t mine.

The fact of the matter is when you share across your stage or your platforms, the assumption is that anything you further share you agree with. I need to add the whole “RTs do not equal endorsements” bit to my Twitter for this reason, but I’m not here to preach about social media, I’m here to preach about what my views are on the education system and what I meant to say originally.

I graduated two years ago from the Carlynton School District. If you’re fairly new to my adventures, the Carlynton School District is a tiny (and I mean tiny – my graduating class was 92 strong) school district five miles outside Downtown Pittsburgh. I’m currently pursuing a B.A. Journalism degree at Point Park University, a subject I consider a passion and a school I consider the best decision I’ve made.

The original alum commented on apathy at my alma mater and said quite bluntly (and quoting an unnamed source) that “this place is a disease.” I won’t argue that apathy exists within the education system but I have to argue that the source misidentified the problem. This place – being Carlynton High School – is not the disease. It has the disease that comes along with being (against its own will) a part of a governmental system that puts numbers ahead of people and tests ahead of education.

I’ve said for years privately that the strength of the Carlynton School District lies in its faculty and students. Teachers (and I’m dear friends with some education majors, I count them here also) don’t get into such a cutthroat business without a passion or a drive to accomplish something greater. It’s a drive to change what they experienced, or to provide something greater than themselves to their students. If you don’t have a drive to change it or to affect some sort of change, you’re not going to last in education long. You. Burn. Out.

I want to challenge the original poster to think about what honestly was said: was the lack of challenge you described you had experienced your senior year a result of climbing an academic pinnacle as I had, or was it because of a chosen apathy on the part of the participant? You said you chose against taking Advanced Placement yet expected the same level challenge at a general level class, what did you expect? I am genuinely curious.

I’m not going to lie, by my senior year I wanted to get out of Carlynton but that was because by that point I felt I had outgrown it and I had a taste of the real world and college life and wanted to move forward beyond the K-12 system. It’s a system that I strongly believe is designed that way for a reason so you can make a clean cut when you walk across that stage and be ready mentally to take on the next step, whatever you determined that to be.

If I didn’t feel challenged in the classroom, I did this potentially self-destructive thing I do in college where I get CRAZY involved with stuff to challenge me further in a way outside the classroom and to challenge the ways I think and the means by which I communicate. I’m not saying it’s the best way of doing things, but I will say that the challenges I didn’t find in a classroom I found elsewhere through in-class resources.

I want to step back for a moment and talk about resources. Carlynton doesn’t have many because, well, it’s tiny and is not the wealthiest district. But isn’t that a shame to say? I mean, seriously. Should size even matter when you talk about resources for students? Why does the per-student cost to educate vary from district to district and why should resources be tied to standardized testing?

Further, why are we allocating resources with preference to certain groups? It’s a television trope to have schools buy new equipment every year for a football team while the band uses decades-old instruments. I’m not saying that is true within Carlynton, but I have heard stories along these lines at other schools.

Also, why is the education system still structured in the way it was during the Enlightenment where local government meant something? It makes NO sense to penalize a district’s funding because of standardized test results, frankly those that struggle should be given MORE resources to bring them up to speed in my humble opinion.

Single A designation should not be a death sentence, nor should it inspire any sort of victim situation. It doesn’t at Carlynton (with the only exception I can think of being an oddly specific school board meeting in 2013 or 2014 where the justification by the superintendent for class scheduling problems was “well, we’re a single-A school, you’re lucky you get to have electives) but I know it’s true in some other districts. Being small means more individualized and community-based education.

Parents pick a school for its resources, and I’m proud to say my family found a district whose nonphysical resources (teachers, programs, etc.) are incredibly abundant. We have fall plays and spring musicals and 19 sports. How could a school of less than a thousand do it except by having people who care and others who can stretch a dollar?

Am I saying Carlynton fell behind? No.

What I am saying is that as a whole the education system has fallen behind. Money that could have gone towards offering unique electives and challenging students’ ways of thinking is instead going toward mandated remediation on testing, diagnostic programs, and compliance with further regulated yet seemingly innumerable and indistinguishable revenue-sucking mandates. It’s not the Carlynton School Board or the principal deciding this, it’s someone at the federal and state level telling these people they have to.

Do you know how often I was given diagnostic testing ahead of the Keystone or PSSA exams? Nearly monthly. Imagine, that’s at least 10 days outside of the classroom every year. Don’t forget, several of these tests were multi-day, and you had to do some sort of buildup prep to the diagnostics, and then the build up to those tests...

This testing obsession is classroom time spent chasing your tail in an effort to save the school that you’re being set aside from. It’s circular and so, so wrong. And let’s not forget those diagnostic tests are expensive to use, and could go to, I don’t know, journalism books, or psychology books?

So where am I going with this? It’s no myth that the education system is broken (at least by my assessment) but it is a myth that the individual district is to blame. Do you feel trapped? Good, it’s the system that got you to the point where you can realize it. Challenge that system.

I was reminded recently that the successes I’ve had and the career I’ve chosen didn’t come from the classroom. I never once took a journalism class, and it wasn’t for lack of trying either. The teacher of the journalism course did pull me aside at one point and told me I wouldn’t have benefitted from the curriculum. Why? In part, it was out of date books and a lack of resources to do real journalism. But at the end of the day, it’s important to remember this positive: my love of radio stemmed from a gifted education teacher passing along the information for a program at WYEP.

Yeah, Carlynton didn’t teach me a lede from a nut graph but can you seriously blame the high school for that? There should be no reasonable expectation that every profession should have an offered elective that prepares you for that individual, specialized profession. It’s unreasonable.

What Carlynton did offer me was the access to that gifted teacher who shared the WYEP project, or to that band director who let me try my hand at announcing, or that English teacher who (and I still don’t understand how this happened) let me run a newspaper as a high school senior or the drama teacher who rescued me from hating theater after a bad experience and let me anchor the TV morning announcements after being a technical director there, and I could go on but hopefully you get the point.

Was I saying to myself junior year “dang I wish I could drop out and move on to college”? Of course. What teenager wants to be a cog in a politicized state-level machine that hasn’t been working well?

But why do you stick around? Two key reasons in my case: because your end goal is a diploma so you can keep moving on to that liberal arts school in the city, and you stay out of respect for how you came to that conclusion.

The reason you want to leave high school in the first place is because you discovered the ‘real world’ a teacher on the inside helped share with you. In other words, you can’t realistically wish to be a part of a different world if you had never heard of that other world in the first place.

So what was draining about Carlynton? The public school system. The helplessness you feel on a daily basis where the decisions are made for you in either a board meeting or some faraway marble castle in Harrisburg. It’s not some sort of deeply engrained lackadaisical work ethic in the teachers or administrative support staff, it’s an apathy at the extreme top that trickles its way down to resources at the feet of those who truly care.

If Carlynton didn’t challenge you, it’s you that failed. Not because it was supposed to consistently hit you with ridiculous workloads or whatever effort you expected of it but because you didn’t seek more. In the real world, people don’t work with you or for you. You have to seek out your own challenges or support for what it is you’re trying to do.

It’s a lesson I feel this alum missed. By choosing to enter and remain in this supposedly toxic environment (read: it isn’t) then complaining afterwards it didn’t help you, apparently you hadn’t sought those challenges out through the system? I don’t know, I can only guess your position, but from mine I feel like there is some action on the participant’s part that is missing here.

I know this much, however: the reason I got where I am is I sought out and sucked up every opportunity I could inside and outside the classroom. There isn’t any professor who asks you to become Editor-in-Chief of your campus newspaper your freshman year. It’s Josh Croup and your friends who you’ve surrounded yourself with who convince you to take that leap. It’s the professor who tells you you shouldn’t be doing it.

This is probably the longest post I’ve written in a long while but I wanted to make this incredibly clear: I can’t endorse the notion that Carlynton is some sort of wretched wasteland where dreams go to die or whatever yarn that you want to spin. It’s a wonderful place where teachers do the best they can with what they have. It’s a place where you have to find your own path because that’s how the real world works. It’s a place where you have to seek a challenge, you can’t expect it to be served to you because that’s not how the world works.

If there’s a problem, it’s the lack of resources allotted to these base-level programs because of a flawed administrative/governmental system. I’m not endorsing anarchy, I just want to start a responsible dialogue. Comment if you’d like, I only delete straight profanity.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Land of the free...

...because of the brave. Thank you to all who serve or have served, and to those who gave their all from a grateful American. Have a safe Memorial Day

Washington DC 2015-2076.jpg

Image Copyright 2015 Alexander Popichak Photography. All rights reserved.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

When we were younger oh, oh, we did enough

As I write this I'm somewhere in east-central Pennsylvania travelling to New York City for some sort of college newspaper conference. We somehow convinced the university (who is handling the bill for this venture) to let us [being my editor and I] travel to NYC by train, My guess is that it was comparable pricing, plus a professor recommended it. 

So, I'm writing this from the relative comfort of the 42 Pennsylvanian. Taking a nearly 9 hour train ride leaves a lot of time for window-watching and reflecting. So often in life we're given opportunities to do amazing things - cover a presidential rally, head to New York City, cover the bicentennial of your city - that we focus on those things. The accomplishments, the clips, the resume lines, all that fancy jazz that we're trained to give value to. And there's something to be said for that, but still, and it's cliche to say but it'd be nice to not focus on the destination.

I've always been fascinated with road trips, and trains in particular. I don't particularly understand why, but I've begun to realize some things through this venture. 

Railways are continuous by design. They don't turn and wind as much as roadways can afford to, and that can be a good thing or a bad thing. Towns aren't built around railways anymore, they're built around exits, creating that uniform artificiality that surrounds a stop - that gas station that serves the food, that hotel that's there, and some sort of attraction. 

Railways are unblinking - you see the shiny and new bastions of industry, the windmills, the rolling hills, the Civil War era Main Streets, and, most fascinating to me, the dilapidated and the abandoned. 

Graphs are made by connecting points. Individual, dotted, unmoving points. The same applies to railways - the stops are little burgs and villes and sometimes larger cities, but for some reason someone decided to connect them directly. 

The train I'm taking, the 42 Pennsylvanian, is the most direct route from Pittsburgh to New York. It goes via Greensburg, Latrobe, Altoona, Harrisburg, Elizabethtown, Philly, and some places I'm no doubt forgetting. Those are the points - large and small - that are connected. The stations are placed by necessity - sometimes in an offbeat place with a small shelter and other times a block from the Pennsylvania State Capitol building

It's rare anymore that people have the time to talk extensively about the things they work on, but more specifically how they got there. You hear the story about a presidential candidate speaking but what you're missing is the story of how your press credentials were sent to a spam folder or how you followed a random camera guy and next thing you know you're in a private tour given by the mayor and the CEO of the history center. 

Those stories - those anecdotes on how you got the story - are fascinating in their own rite but you don't hear them because all to often you only have time to tell the one, largest story. So you do it and you move on.

I covered a Bernie Sanders rally last week, and it was amazing. Who ever thought that this freshman would get press credentials to cover a major political candidate? That deserves its own post, but the short of it is, I asked and was granted. 

I'm living this wild and crazy life I never expected to be able to be living this early on, but here I am doing it. It's an exhausting and exhilarating life to lead. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to resume staring out at the world now. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Sheets are swaying from an old clothesline

The title comes from a song by Radical Face called, quite appropriately, "Welcome Home." I say appropriately for the point in my life right now, not necessarily the song, though I'm fairly sure that's probably appropriate too. I'm just looking for how that is.

Last year around this time I was talking about that dreaded in between place - where stuff was ending like crazy and I was, in a word, unsatisfied. I was longing for something - I guess I wasn't sure exactly what that something was, but I knew it wasn't where I was at that point. I realize now, looking back, that I was sick and tired of living my life in this mock-reality. I guess I'd liken it to when you get something shiny and metallic and they always have that cellophane wrap on it. It's pointless outside of preserving the underneath from dust, and it looks dumb and tempts you to rip it off.

You know full well the implications of ripping that cellophane layer: the shiny outside dulls after a while and that newness can never fully be recaptured. But frankly, you didn't buy that fancy stainless steel refrigerator to look at - you bought it to put your leftovers in. You bought it to be used.

I can't say that fits perfectly to my whole graduation thing, but I feel like so many people are so afraid to rip off that cellophane layer - to cut their ties and such - that they stay there in that general orbit. It's not because they want to or intend to, it's because they're afraid to loose that protected shine. I'm here to tell you that's a load of nonsense.

A few weeks back I covered the bicentennial of the incorporation of the City of Pittsburgh, and felt like a real live journalist for the first time. I was asked the question "are you with the media?" and after a moments' confusion (hey, I'm still new at this guys. I can write well, I'm still working out the gathering part...) I responded affirmatively and was promptly handed a press kit. I interviewed councilman Corey O'Connor and President/CEO of the Heinz History Center Andy Masich, and I stood throughout the press conference, listening to the Mayor and other dignitaries. If you're interested in the story it all resulted in, check it out here: UPDATED LINK:

Maybe someday I'll tell you about what happened after the official celebration and how I ended up in the right place at a wrong time...

Life is fantastic where I'm at. I'm in the midst of a bunch of things: this Saturday is the United Student Government (USG)'s Pioneer Community Day (PCD). I've been working alongside some USG members in some capacity since January coordinating volunteers and such for this event. I'm exhausted but SO PUMPED to get this going!
I'm sitting in the basement of the University Center on campus hiding from life to focus on some personal admin work I've been meaning to do: write this blog, stare into oblivion, deep stuff like that. I'm sitting in a nondescript corner having just gotten off the phone with an organizer in Maine for the Bernie Sanders Campaign trying to get media credentials for the Globe for the Sanders rally Thursday. (Fingers Crossed!) This Saturday is PCD. We put together a Globe yesterday, I'll be delivering an issue tomorrow. A week from Thursday I'm headed with the Editor of the Globe (Josh Croup) to New York City for a Newspaper Editors' conference.

Sure it's weird to be at the end of so many things as I was last year. It's so much better to be on the other side, exhausted from being in the midst of so many things. 

So what have I been up to in the meantime?
  • I went to see Point Park's version of The Drowsy Chaperone
  • Visited my house for once.
  • I covered the Pittsburgh Incorporation Bicentennial Celebration
  • I was tonsured a Reader in the Orthodox Church by His Grace, Bishop Daniel when he visited Slickville a week and a half ago
  • I saw the Spring Standards again because when the Spring Standards come to town you go. period.
  • Played radio. WANNA HEAR ON THE HORIZON?? We now have a YOUTUBE page:

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

It's a Different Kind of Danger

It's February 24th, 2016. I last posted here quite a bit ago - it was the massive "Let's See How Far We've Come" update on my life and the year that was. Since I started school in August, I've met amazing people and have done some absolutely amazing things. That all being said, my life has been moving at high speed and things I should be doing (like keeping track of what is going on here) has fallen by the wayside.

Since starting a new semester, I've found quite a few things that I identify with, and quite a few things I cannot wrap my mind around. Contemporary Christianity still confuses my old-school self and the craft of journalism has taken on a new meaning to me. I have this crazy passionate broadcast professor who drilled into us day one the importance of journalism: to inform the electorate is the job of journalism and if you don't get that right and don't understand the importance of it you're not going to get along in this industry.

I haven't talked much about my journalistic fanaticism on here because it's more or less something I thought went without saying: I think what I'm doing is important because I feel it's going to help people. I'm not giving blankets to the homeless or anything (well, at least not professionally) but if I can bring attention to issues that impact people directly or can work to inform citizens what their elected officials are doing, in that way I can affect social change. One of the keys to this, as my professor has said, is going where people cannot and giving them information and experience.

Overall, the semester has been flying by, and I'm still loving every minute of it. I'm a host on two radio shows and I produce/write/created one (The Globe Live and On the Horizon respectively), I wandered into the world of television, and I am still involved in as many ways as possible with the newspaper. In other words, I value news and productivity over sleep because I can make a difference.

Speaking of newspapers, I'm happy to announce that I have been chosen to be the Globe's Editor Elect. What this means is for the calendar year 2016 I will be the assistant to the Editor-in-Chief, Josh Croup. Together we'll do editing stuff (like final proofs of the paper and other fun administrative work) but Croup handles all of the important high-up stuff whereas I follow his lead and provide support and such. In January of 2017, God willing, I will become Editor-in-Chief of the Globe, handling and shouldering the day-to-day operations of our humble campus newspaper.

Needless to say, this has been an involved application and approval process that I've been working on as early as November, but I'm proud to be able to announce it finally.

In completely unrelated news, I met Rick Sebak. He came to our campus yesterday for a screening of his most recent documentary, Return to Downtown Pittsburgh, complete with a Q&A session and reception. I was there as a Sebak fan, but also to cover it for the Globe. So stay tuned to the Globe website/newsstands for that whenever I write it, but bottom line he's just as awesome and fun as I had hoped.

L-R: My roommate Vince, Beth, Me, and Rick Sebak himself

He graciously let me interview him and talked about his documentaries, how this is only the second time there has been a screening, and how he didn't know how awesome Point Park was until he shot it and talked to our illustrious P. Henni (University President Dr. Paul Hennigan). In other words, I was geeking out the whole time because RICK FRICKIN SEBAK.

Does this man sound familiar? Like in this blog? Because if you've been reading for a while, you remember the 2014 Rick Sebak sighting in the South Side. If you don't you can read it here: TL;DR: I saw him on the street waiting for a bus after a WYEP excursion.

Speaking of WYEP, Reimagine media and I crossed paths yet again, but this time I was covering the Reimagination project for the Globe because, you guessed it, WYEP has teamed up with Point Park to do the project. So effectively it's 2014 all over again but with a newspaper and college and stuff.

So basically I'm living the life I've wanted to live for a while and it's quite fantastic - it's exhausting and stressful but I absolutely love it, and the people that surround me. When I posted my Editor-Elect announcement to Facebook, my phone exploded with notifications. I frankly didn't know that many people cared, but as of the time I write this post, 96 people have liked the status. That just doesn't happen. Meh, I digress.

I'm so glad to have these amazing people in my life and to be doing what I love in a place that's just awesome. Yeah, it's too expensive but that's another rant for another time. I'm living this crazy life that I'm excited to be a part of. I don't hate my roommate, I'm involved with stuff on campus, people (somehow) actually like me, and I met Rick Sebak. What more could I ask for right this second? Maybe a bit more sleep, but that's my own fault.

So to past me - somehow you've made it this far, and just continue to be your crazy big dreamer self. I'd give that same advice to my future self - don't stop dreaming and stay crazy.

I think I'll shut up now.