Newsy Project

The story I want to use for my Newsy project is a fun one, rather than breaking news: “Amazon Begs Big on ‘Lord of the Rings’ Series for Prime.”  The article explains how despite the massive fanbase that could support such a venture, the $250 million spent on production rights alone is a risk for the company. They’ve made a multi-season commitment for a series set before Fellowship, and each season could have a budget of $150 million, if they want to do it justice, according to Rolling Stone. Amazon is used to taking financial risks that eventually do pay off, reportedly spending $4.5 billion on Prime Video. I want to do this article because once I finally got into the LOtR trilogy, I fell in love with the books and mythos, so to see an attempt to revitalize the story with a TV series that doesn’t have the restraints of cable television was really interesting to me. I think if Amazon can pull it off, they’ll more than earn back their $250 million expenditure.



The major takeaway I got from Newsy was its simplicity. Each video is around a minute long and tells you just enough to keep you informed but doesn’t bog it down with details it doesn’t need to share, that’s what national news sites are for. In watching the video for the late Roy Halladay, all it contained was his cause and date of death, who he’s survived by, and two quotes from teams he played for in the MLB. Short, sweet, and concise.

The video featuring Syria joining the Paris Climate Agreement, making the US the only nation not participating, has much more facts and background to make a complete story, but still does so in 49 seconds with a complete transcript beneath it.

I also watched the video for Disney ending their ban of the LA Times, which I didn’t know was happening, and again got the gist of what the story was about in one minute and three seconds. It doesn’t feel like any of these miniature stories are skewed toward any opinions, they’re just reporting the news as it happens, and that’s refreshing to read, instead of publishers like Fox and CNN wanting to incite whatever anger they can in their readers about the next political drama, ‘good’ or ‘bad’.

The blog, all about Newsy’s direction and recent developments, is about as concise as its articles, but to be honest, I stopped reading each of the top three posts about three sentences in because I don’t follow Newsy and it didn’t interest me, especially since it was designed with strictly text, it read a bit like an official document.

Hyperlocal News

I’m actually very confused about what distinguishes hyperlocal news from local news, really where they draw the line between the two.  But, I’m going to try anyway and redo this post once I get some clarity. After scrolling through the list and clicking some links that didn’t work (based on the article, does that mean they were taken down so fast the database hasn’t been updated yet?), I looked through “Eye on Annapolis,” “Silicon Bayou News,” and “The Hechinger Report,” and… these sites feel like clickbait, honestly. There’s more ads than actual content, it feels like and if I click on any of them, I’m going to get a virus on my computer. It’s actually difficult to find these articles buried under all the advertisements, especially for “Eye on Annapolis.”

“Silicon Bayou” was very clean and looked a lot like a national news site, and “Hechinger Report” wasn’t infested either. For those two, I thought their articles were very well-written and wonder what dooms these articles to the monetary woes of hyperlocal news.


Photojournalism Project I

I did a photojournalism project my junior year of high school and really didn’t care about quality. I took pictures with my phone, made a convincing story, and turned it in for the grade. It was of my sister’s semi-finals softball game, her team lost something like 12-9. Three years later, and I want to try it again, but this time giving it the attention it deserves. I have my own camera now and know how to use it. I photographed her all-star opening day this summer and gave all my pictures to the team’s families for free. It felt good to do that for them, since that season didn’t end on a particularly high note. At least they’d have good moments captured to remind them they were still a solid team of all-star players that would make it far if they stuck with it. My sister’s second-to-last season started a few weeks ago, after spring she’ll be in  high school and hopefully playing for her school’s title. A real, metal trophy. But it won’t be just for fun anymore. Come high school, the wins and losses carry more weight, people are watching, important people, and a population of highly influential peers will know by the end of the game how she did and if she cost them the win.

I want to photograph one of her last Fall Ball games to remind her that no matter what happens come next year, she plays this sport because she loves to get down in the dirt as a catcher and slide like a rock star across the grass in the outfield to make a dramatic catch that ends a brutal inning. That it isn’t about snagging a scholarship just yet, that she’s on a team to rely on that team and have fun with that team. And, that one day, when she trail-blazes her way to the first professional women’s softball league, she’ll remember where she came from all those years ago.

Service Learning Story– “No Sugar” Challenge

For my service learning project, I thought I’d share a dieting technique that isn’t meant to help you lose weight, at least, not directly. The “No Sugar” Challenge from a couple years ago is designed to remove all the added sugars in the foods we eat from our diets for ten days, with the results for most being a shift in our pallets away from excess processed sweeteners. My project would focus on the process, rules, and health benefits of completing it. My father and I did the challenge when it first came out, myself for ten days and him for twenty, and we both agreed that something definitely changed.

I lived off oranges, Triscuits, and whatever other simple foods I could find as well as sparsely-seasoned meat. When we went grocery shopping for the first week, we were both surprised at just how many foods were off-limits. Ritz crackers, for one. Peanut butter, too. It may not say “sugar” in the ingredients, but fructose, corn syrup, and almost 50 other names no one can pronounce are hidden in almost every processed product on the shelves. Triscuits only have salt, wheat, and oil.

Naturally occurring sugars were fine, hence the oranges, milk/dairy, vegetables, so long as it wasn’t added in the process of making the product, it was fair game. After the first two days, I was already missing my favorite foods, the next six were even worse. Days nine and ten, though, started looking up for me. I was used to my oranges and Triscuits, I was used to not eating corn syrup, and when I had the opportunity to have a cupcake to celebrate making it through to the end, I scraped off all the icing and only ate half. It was horribly sweet and tasted very manufactured. A classic Publix chocolate cupcake.

I can’t say it removed added sugar from my diet completely, that’s impossible, but my sweet tooth had diminished greatly during those ten days and still remains that way. I still want the occasional Reese’s, but not an entire six-pack at once like I used to. So, in a way, it can help you lose weight, but the purpose of the challenge is solely to point out how much added sweetener we consume, and what it feels like to be free of it.

Interview Part IV

Prelude: I finally got my interview done and it was worth the wait, Kristen was a great source on the life of an IB student and I’m just happy it all worked out despite Nature literally against us. The opening paragraph, if it seems familiar, is taken straight from a previous post.


A Valrico teen took the academic plunge and made it out the other side; this is what she has to show for it.

Signing your soul away for four years of your life in a gamble for college applications isn’t everyone’s idea of a good bet. Kristen Gaertner, and hundreds like her in the Tampa suburbs, readily jumped at the chance to join Strawberry Crest’s IB magnet program, and made it out four years later with a shiny high school diploma. Now with a summer job and dream college shortly in her future, she’s taken the time to reflect on the past four years of all-nighters and cement-block backpacks.

“I decided to join the IB program because I thought it would be a lot of fun and a lot of work, but I thought the challenge would be good because I did well in Middle School and was top of my class,” Gaertner recalls with a smile. “I felt really excited when I got accepted, and I thought it meant that this was a program meant for me.”

Throughout four years of rigorous coursework and endless examinations, she still found time for extracurriculars in theatre and chorus, snagging spots in plays and musicals, and refused to quit dance after a ten-year streak. IB wasn’t going to stand in the way of her passions. “I thought the magnet program would be like a more intense version of high school… I was right. But I had also underestimated it.”

IB wasn’t to be brushed off, she says, complacency is your worst enemy. “The worst moment was when I failed my first chemistry test, it was a D. I was so upset with myself because I had never gotten a grade that low before. I thought I would fail chemistry.”

To her, there was no dropping out to traditional high school where so many of her colleagues had gone before her, some regretting it, some claiming it was the best decision of their adolescent lives. “This was it,” she said, “There was nothing to drop out to.”

For every low there was a high. “It would have to be when I found out I got a 7 on my IB biology exam, because I had studied so long for that test, and biology was my favorite subject.” A 7 is the highest score possible, she couldn’t have done better, and in her eyes, about to enter another long four years of education, it looks like it just might be worth it.

Looking back after walking across the stage to get her diploma, she summed it all up with one final remark: “I felt super excited because the four worst years of my life were behind me.” She had graduated with honors near the top of her class, a near-perfect unweighted GPA and the college credits to show for it. “I don’t have to take an English class for the next four years, I’m so excited.”

Boston College will be ready and waiting in the spring to add her to their ranks, an IB graduate with plans to use her experience and vows to continue her successes through higher education and, “Catapult myself into the CDC and become a virologist.”

Interview Part III

It seems in life that even the best laid plans can be laid to ruin. You can account for traffic, backup files on a computer, have an alternate speech if things go south. You cannot account for the weathermen telling you a Cat 4 hurricane will grind up the Gulf Coast and wash away your house after previously stating ‘it’ll be okay, we’re luckily not on the Atlantic.’ But, given those circumstances, I think I did the best with what I had.

My original plan was to interview a cook where I work, only for work to be shut down for three days and begin to smell like rotting queso on day four. “Interview Part II” was my backup plan, a different coworker a bit harder to reach, and everything was good to go. Then my family decides to spontaneously evacuate after being on the fence about it for three days and, ironically, the power still goes out there and cell service is shot.

So, my interviewee and I decided on a preliminary call first, before the dust settles, then a followup later to answer my questions in full. What I have as a result of that is a half-filled word document and even more questions without answers. But we’re making it work, improvising as we go to get this done, and that’s a huge part of why Kristen was my Plan B. She sticks with it, even with a not-so-metaphorical hurricane looming over her threatening to ruin everything she’s worked for, to wash away that secure house at any second and leave her stranded on a mattress raft with a shoddy ore up one flooded street of a creek.

And that’s why, when this interview finally, eventually happens, it will have definitely been worth the wait.

Interview Part II


A Valrico teen took the academic plunge and made it out the other side; this is what she has to show for it. Signing your soul away for four years of your life in a gamble for college applications isn’t everyone’s idea of a good bet. Kristen Gaertner, and hundreds like her in the Tampa suburbs, readily jumped at the chance to join Strawberry Crest’s IB magnet program, and made it out four years later with a shiny high school diploma. Now with a summer job and dream college shortly in her future, she’s taken the time to reflect on the past four years of all-nighters and cement-block backpacks.

My questions for Kristen:
1. What was your initial reaction to hearing about the program?
2. How did you feel when you got accepted?
3. What did you think the magnet program would be like?
4. Best and worst moments from those four years?
5. Did you ever miss traditional high school?
6. Did you ever consider dropping out and why/why not?
7. How did you feel walking across the stage on graduation day?
8. Would you recommend it for your siblings/younger friends?
9. Was the magnet program worth it for what you want to do in life?
10. What are your plans for the future with this experience?


I try to live by the philosophy of ‘go big or go home.’ Usually falling in the latter of the two, if I’m going to take time to do something, I’m going to do it well. So, if I could interview anyone in the world, just sit across from them with a notebook of questions and tape recorder regardless of all circumstances that brought me there, I’d have to say Pope Francis.

I’m sure the assumption is that I’m a devout catholic. I was just in Italy, actually. I saw Vatican City and the square (circle) they hold Mass in and Tervis tumblers with naked angels on them, and it was very moving… architecture. I’d want to interview Pope Francis because I’m a devout atheist.

I want to know why the most religious man in the Catholic faith believes what he believes and how he came to believe it. I want to know his views on everything from homosexuality to capital punishment. I want to know what he thinks of people like me and if he’s different than my imagination portrays him. I want to know from the source, from three feet in front of him, because if I’m ever going to understand and appreciate a belief system I’ve never been a part of, Pope Francis will be the man to explain it.

But, if I had to settle for the attainable, then I’d pick someone much closer to home, someone most people never consider their entire lives unless they feel like complaining to get a free meal. I hate to admit it, but there’s the entire kitchen staff at my job, and I only know one of their names. The restaurant appreciates what they do, but the customers don’t care. Not at this level, at least. One cook I have in mind, I’d like to ask how she came to be where she is. What choices led her there and what did she dream to be? Does she still want that dream? Perhaps it’s horribly uninteresting, but maybe it’ll be some fascinating story no one ever bothered to hear before.


In all my life, I have never stayed more than three years at a single school, and never will. From kindergarten through my senior year of college, I will have earned credits from nine different institutions, and will do so by the time I’m twenty-one. I’m not a military brat, nor an exchange student, I’m just one of millions living with the consequences of having a slightly-less boring life than the average Centennial.

Being the New Kid is always rough, repetitive to the point where telling your new peers and teachers, “No, my name is spelled like this,” plays on a loop in your dreams. It’s the nausea that comes when the lunch bell rings and you realize you’ll have to sit alone in the corner and hope some kind-hearted mind-reader arrives to bail you out. It’s the maze of hallways and false advertisements that lead you to slaughter if you walk into the class that isn’t yours halfway through the foreign language lecture you can’t understand. It’s all the big issues and inconsequential nuances of being New, and it’s stagnant in its formula like a pre-algebra textbook.

But every place is different, and it’s those differences you have to focus on. That’s what making it as the New Kid is all about.