The Finished Products

As I’ve discussed regularly, I have spent the past year working on a website focusing on food insecurity in Tuscaloosa, Ala. What I haven’t mentioned quite so often, though, is that while I was working on my site, six other people were also putting their hearts and souls into websites on different issues and subjects in Tuscaloosa.

I am still amazed sometimes at the well-rounded, intelligent, caring, and hard-working group that I am blessed to be surrounded by every weekday. In a week and a half, we all move to Anniston together to spend a summer chasing sources and writing hard-hitting leads. I cannot explain how thankful I am that I get to spend the summer with this group of people.

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Laura Monroe — Caregivers

Monroe has worked with five caregivers for Alzheimer’s patients for the past year. She filmed the caregivers in their natural elements and had them discuss the struggles and beauty in taking care of someone with the disease.

Ryan Phillips — Open Arms

Phillips meshed a workable tool with a caring heart in Open Arms, a job board for individuals in Tuscaloosa with disabilities. His site works as a resource for those who need a little extra help finding a job, as well as news and information for residents in Tuscaloosa with disabilities.

Elizabeth Lowder — Brew Crew

Lowder looked at a burgeoning trend in Tuscaloosa: craft brewing. Beer breweries are sprouting up all over the state with recent legislation, and Lowder captured the other sides of the people who care so much about doing what they love.

Zac Al-Khateeb — Fandom

Al-Khateeb got to the crux of the most important facet of the fall in the South: football and why it matters so much. Al-Khateeb focused in on the town of Gordo, and covered the residents of the town who had strong ties to the football culture there.

Taylor Manning — Oversupply

In April 2011, the tornado that swept through Tuscaloosa took out a large amount of housing for residents of Tuscaloosa. The University of Alabama’s unprecedented growth also led to a shortage of student housing. However, now, the city finds itself with an oversupply of mid-upscale housing, and not enough residents to fill it at the prices they need. Manning investigates.

Tim Steere — Backwaters

Our resident crunch-king, Steere explored life on the Black Warrior River in Tuscaloosa and its surrounding area. Steere documented stories from several individuals who were somehow tied to the river in one way or another.

At times, I think I speak for all of my classmates when I say we were unsure of whether the websites would exist come May, but the finished products my classmates created are outstanding and deserve all the attention in the world.

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The Weekly Roundup

elizabethlasso

As always, I’m busy. Life is good busy, though. My classmates and I (the girls anyway) finally found an apartment for May-July in Anniston, and it is so much cuter than anything we could have imagined. Good reminder that while there are some setbacks to not being able to start a permanent job this summer, there are good parts of it, too.

We will be learning a lot at an internship with The Anniston Star.

We will be living in the cutest loft apartment in downtown Anniston.

We will be working hard, and getting used to small town living for a little bit.

Anyway, my time with Food Insecurity Tuscaloosa is over as far as production of the site, which is quite a relief if we’re being honest. I have loved the process, but it is nice to see it come to fruition. I am currently working on analytics and assessment of the site and its purpose. Again, I welcome and invite you to check it out here.

Additionally, if you are interested in taking a short survey about how you feel about the site, click here. All comments are greatly appreciated, because I will continue to update and work on the site even though the major building of it is done.

Without further ado, here’s the Weekly Roundup, a couple weeks late.

ARTICLE//An editorial in the Huffington Post recently articulated one writer’s reasons behind abstaining from changing her name after getting married. Sign of changing times, and quite refreshing, if you ask me.

LISTICLE//I’m a huge fan of The Everygirl, and they’ve done it again with an article about the lessons learned from living alone. I’m aware of the site’s name, but this article is a good read for males and females alike.

INFOGRAPHIC//An article from the Take Part website shows the alarming suicide rates among American military veterans.

FREELANCING//I know I harp on Freelancers Union, but they are such a good source for information and advice for writers and freelancers. This time, the 4 levels of a perfectly balanced portfolio for freelancers, found here.

ORGANIZATION//One of my graduate professors (and undergraduate as well), Chip Brantley, is the founder and still heavily involved in an organization called Desert Island Supply Co. that works to foster creativity in children. The organization is one of many that are creating a new type of beneficial growth in Birmingham, Ala.

Roadtrip to Monroeville, Ala.

“Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” — Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird.

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I just returned from a weekend in Monroeville, Ala., the home of Harper Lee. Thanks to the trip-planning of Dr. Bragg, several of us were able to travel there to attend the annual play, located in the courthouse that inspired Atticus Finch’s great trial for Tom Robinson. The play was put on by amateur actors that all have day jobs–and they did a phenomenal job. I was amazed at the talent and am slightly embarrassed to find myself tearing up as Scout was saying her final lines. We followed the play with appetizers and drinks at Prop & Gavel, a restaurant across the street. As my time draws to an end in Tuscaloosa, I find myself more and more thankful for the professors who have played such a strong role in my becoming a journalist…and a good woman. Dr. Bragg is one of them. My journalism classmates have had a huge influence on me as well. 

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Without them, I would have spent a year of stress, hard work, and learning with a whole lot less laughter, fun, and wisdom. 

To Kill A Mockingbird was one of the first books my momma read to me in which I truly began to understand the gritty areas of life, especially growing up in the South. Also, it’s near and dear to me simply because when I think of it, I think of Momma curled up in bed beside us reading aloud, and talking through the parts we didn’t understand. So for me, this was a literary pilgrimage to one of the books that molded me and helped me fall in love with writing. 

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Beyond Monroeville, we (Laura, Becky, and I) took our time on the trip to and from the small town, stopping at any pig trail we were interested in and reveling in the beauty of spring in Alabama. I left my laptop, homework, and cares behind me in Tuscaloosa, and it was unbelievable how refreshing it was to get away from graduate school, job stress, and apartment hunting for one weekend. 

I’m used to an Easter filled with family, Jesus, and service, so it was strange venturing from the norm. In our own way, though, it was a tribute to the beautiful gift of life we have been blessed with. The weekend was a search for beautiful words, places, flowers, and companionship; I think we found just that. 

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“There are just some kind of men…who’re so busy worrying about the next world, they’ve never learned to live in this one.” — Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird

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Food Insecurity, Deadlines, and Master’s Projects

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The last few weeks have been busy ones. The next few weeks will most likely be busy, too.

I’ve been neglecting this blog, but it’s for a good reason. The website I have been working on, Food Insecurity Tuscaloosa, is finally live and only has a few kinks, which we are currently working out. The site is a result of weeks and weeks of work. I worked on all of the journalistic work, and Spencer Baer, a fellow student at Alabama, designed the site and wrote the code for it. It’s been a long ride, but we are finally putting the finishing touches on the site and I’m breathing a sigh of relief that it came together like it did.

So, now that I have my first website build under my belt, I thought I’d share a few things I’ve learned, and what I will do differently next time.

1. Start early, start early, start early. Those with more experience in web building laughed in my face (literally) when I told them I was building an entire site from the ground up in a matter of months. I can’t go back, but if I had the knowledge I do now, I would have come into graduate school with a detailed plan of what I wanted to do, and started on it long before Christmas 2013. In reality, we really began work on the site during Christmas break, and I keep thinking of elements I would love to add to the site that I don’t have time for now.

2. Set detailed goals and make a plan. Write it out. On paper. When I say detailed, I mean minutely detailed. Every small facet of the site should have its own point on your to-do list. That will make it easier to get things done, and easier to know what you still have to do. Also, make small goals for yourself for each day, week, or whatever time frame you are on.

3. Scour the web for sites dealing with your subject, or for web design that you could use. Better yet, have ideas of what you want to do in mind and constantly be on the lookout for stuff on the web that can help. I search Pinterest, Tumblr, StumbleUpon, Google, and magazines for different ideas. The site deals with food insecurity in Tuscaloosa, so I was constantly looking for news articles on the subject, too.

4. Learn code, or find a gem like Spencer who will program your site for you. I was the only one of my classmates who did not use a pre-made WordPress theme. Their sites are all phenomenal, don’t get me wrong. I am constantly amazed with the journalistic and design work that my classmates are doing. However, because Spencer wrote the theme for the site himself, we were able to fully customize the site to my exact preferences. On my to-do list for this year is to learn how to write code (wildin’ I know).

5. Don’t Wait. More than anything, what I have learned from this year is that building your own site is easy and anyone can do it with the right help and will power. There were days when I wanted to burn every mention of food insecurity or food desert within a 100 mile radius, days when I literally pulled my hair out, and days when I stayed in bed and binge-watched unenjoyable television simply because I was so tired of looking at a website in progress. I can’t tell you how proud I am of what we produced, though, and hopefully it will make a slight difference in food insecurity in the Tuscaloosa area. After working on this project, I am constantly thinking of new ideas for blogging and site production that I want to start…if only I can find the time.

It’s been a rocky journey, and I’m not quite finished yet, but I have grown and acquired so much skill throughout the process that it was entirely worth the late nights, bad moods, migraines, and criticism from professors. Feel free to take a look, find the site here.

The Weekly Roundup

elizabethlassoHappy Spring Break! This is most likely my last one as a college student, unless I decide to venture down the path of a doctoral candidate (that’s unlikely), and as such, this week is feeling a bit bittersweet. Anyway, because I’m on spring break, blogging was pushed to the back burner…my apologies.

Without further ado, here’s the weekly roundup–enjoy!

AUDIO/The folks at RadioLab delved into bonobo chimps for this series, specifically a bonobo named Kanzi and his human traits for this episode.

ADVICE/The Freelancers Union is at it again with this blog post by Glory Edim, “10 Great Apps for Busy Freelancers.” I am all about organization, so this post was right up my alley.

COLLABORATION/While you’re over at the union, take a look at the newest tool the organization has made available for freelancers: a map that provides “groupthink” resources. The map shows different locations in the U.S. in which freelancers are getting together and working, relaxing, discussing, and acting.

INFOGRAPHIC/You might have seen this already, but Population Action International released a great infographic on “The Economics of Birth Control.” Widely-accessible birth control is one of the simplest solutions to solving a myriad of issues plaguing us presently, this infographic is worth a look.

WRITING/Pulled from the NY Times archives, 2001 to be specific, is an article from writer Elmore Leonard on (what else?) producing good writing. One of my favorite tips: “Try to leave out the part readers tend to skip.” I personally do not think about it when I’m writing, editing, or even rereading it often…but we all skip over certain passages…why not just leave those out altogether?

 

 

 

Shameless plugs…

Sorry I haven’t been around lately, but I have a good reason for it. I’m currently getting down to the wire on a website I’ve been working on, http://www.foodinsecurity.ua.edu. The site is part of a Master’s project I have to finish as part of my program, community journalism at the University of Alabama. The site isn’t quite live yet, but I’d like to invite you all to visit after Friday, April 4th. The site will be live then and I would love to see what you think.

Secondly: For those of you, like me, that obsessively read your specific blogs on the daily, there’s this wonderful site called Bloglovin’ that lets you add your blogs to lists. When bloggers update the blogs you follow, they are added to a daily email newsletter that is sent to your email address. This blog, Food for Thought with Elizabeth, is now on the site, in case you want to follow.

Thanks so much, and as always, feel free to comment!

Elizabeth

The Thought Behind The Humans of New York

Recently, the Poynter Institute released an article featuring advice from the mastermind behind cult sensation Humans of New York. The blog has turned into a best-selling book, and the author, Brandon Stanton, has learned a few things along the way. He shared them at SXSW to a large crowd.

Stanton adamantly defended the fact that everyone has a story, and it’s the story that matters.

As a graduate student, our studies are not focused so much on the mechanics of writing, but rather the current trends in journalism and the theory behind it all. The past year seems to be a constant stream of worrying news about the state of the industry. The one uplifting thing we keep hearing over and over again, though, is that a place for compelling writing will always remain.

The good storytellers will always have a place in the world of journalism. Maybe, all this time, the only thing that’s really wrong with journalism is our mindset. Rather than whining about the decline of print media, why not embrace the move to all-digital media and get on board, fast. The smartest career move I can make write now is exactly what Stanton has done: find a niche, and be good at it.

Journalists aren’t going anywhere, we just might look a little different. That’s a comforting thought. Find the full article here.

The Weekly Roundup

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Hello lovelies! Last week was a whirlwind of deadlines, work, and travel, and I didn’t get around to compiling a weekly roundup, so here it is, albeit a few days late. Better late than never, right?

Hope you all are having a great week. As always, please comment on the post if you have thoughts; I love hearing from you!

1. FOR FREELANCERS/The Freelancers Union site recently featured a post titled “What to do when your client is slow to respond”…The post is mostly common sense, but it’s a nice reminder and affirmation of the proper and professional course to take. We’ve all dealt with it, but it doesn’t have to ruin your day! Read it here.

2. INFOGRAPHIC/This graphic, from Time, shows how to completely erase your identity from the internet. It’s quite a bit more complicated than one would think.

3. BLOG POST/Huffington Post provides witty insight into “the therapeutic value of dropping an f-bomb.” Read up here.

4. MAGAZINE/Click here to be linked to one of my personal favorite digital magazines, Matchbook Mag. The link will send you to the March issue of the ‘zine, which features tidbits of knowledge about photographer and influencer Lee Miller. I’m looking for a good biography on Miller to add to my reading list currently, let me know if you’ve got one in mind.

5. ARTICLE/The New York Times TMagazine blog provides us with yet another awesome story – this time a look at a father/son world-traveler duo. The article features a short documentary made by the father, Casey Neistat.