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.