Stepping out of the comfort zone

broadcast outtakes

Last week, I had a huge undertaking ahead of me. I had what’s called a package due for my broadcast journalism class. The package had to be a two-minute story that tackled a national issue at a local level. I changed my topic to the recent LAX airport shooting at the last minute. I was nervous and stressed. I’d only edited a couple of very rudimentary videos for homework, and I had no interviews lined up. (The airport police spokeswoman just about snorted when I asked for an on-camera interview. Needless to say, they’d been bombarded with media requests and weren’t anxious to help out a student with her homework.)

So I hustled. I ran out to LAX with John to get some b-roll footage and travelers’ reactions to heightened security. One very nice woman I interviewed turned out to be an actress. A man I spoke with made the dubious claim that he intended to become President of the United States. Sometimes cameras attract people like that. Often, they repel people, too.

Broadcast has been one of the biggest sources of my anxiety since starting school. Not only do we have to write the script and conduct the interviews, we have to shoot all the footage and edit the videos, too. That lovely collage of outtakes you see above? That was me trying to come up with a reporter stand-up that would be used in the script I hadn’t even written yet. I did 20-plus takes. I didn’t use any of ’em.

But it all started coming together when I did a little searching for one of the shooting victims, a high school teacher named Brian Ludmer, online. I contacted him, and a day or two later, he responded that he’d be happy to do an interview, and sorry it’d taken him so long to get back to me. (Seriously, the guy was just shot in the leg and undergoing multiple surgeries but apologizing to me for not responding immediately.) Suddenly, the gravity of this story hit me. I wanted to do it justice to honor this kind teacher, the other survivors, and the one man who was killed.

I was nervous going to the hospital. I felt awkward about shoving a camera in the face of someone confined to a hospital bed—someone I’d never even met. But once I had my shot set up, we pretended the camera wasn’t there and just talked. The next day, I went to the public memorial service for TSA agent Gerardo Hernandez, who was killed in the shooting. He had a wife and two kids. He would’ve turned 40 last week. I got teary-eyed when the chorus sang “I Believe I Can Fly.” If journalists are supposed to keep their emotions in check and be stone-faced in emotional moments like that, I don’t want to be a journalist.

After hours of editing and one sleepless night, I’d produced a story I was proud of. It’s not perfect. I’ve identified all its flaws, trust me. But it’s my first real try and success at a broadcast piece that pushed me way out of my comfort zone and showed me I was more capable than I’d originally thought:

Will I enter into a broadcast journalism career once I graduate? I’m not ruling anything out this early on, but let’s just say I’d rather stay on the print/digital side of things. Still, now that I’ve accomplished this, I realize I might very well continue to surprise myself with what I’m capable of. And the more any of us step outside the confines of our comfort zones, the more likely we are to surprise ourselves.


Information about the memorial fund for Gerardo Hernandez can be found here.

7 ways to be a decent, more evolved & just overall better person

How to be a better person

You’re a grown-up in a first-world country who’s self-aware enough to know you can always be improving. In case you need some inspiration, here are a handful of ways you can do just that.

Go out of your way to help someone. It takes so, so little to earn a few karma points by helping someone out. Whether it’s by holding the door extra long for a stranger overloaded with bags, patiently showing your co-worker how to do something on the computer (even if it’s so obviously simple to you), or making dinner for a friend or family member who’s having a hard time… you get the idea. It feels good—for you and them. Restore someone’s faith in humanity and feel their gratitude wash over you.

Get out of your comfort zone. Go to a yoga class alone. Figure out the public transportation system. Apply to a job you’re not confident about getting. Try cooking a vegetarian dish. The worst that can happen is you burn perfectly good tempeh or end up on the wrong side of town. Most likely, though, you’ll have new talent, knowledge, or experiences you’ll be proud of—and one less thing to be afraid of.

Show up when you say you’re going to show up. I have been soooo guilty of doing just the exact opposite on multiple occasions. It happens. Things come up, situations change, or you just plain don’t feel like doing something. But really, if you say you’re going to be somewhere, for the love of cheesecake, be there. It ruins your credibility when you don’t, and it’s irritating to everyone else. (Even those nice folks who say, “Don’t worry about it!”) If you know you’re likely to flake and bail, don’t say you’ll go in the first place. It’s not that hard to say no, and you won’t have that icky, guilty feeling you get when you hide behind the “sorrrryyyy” text message.

Call people out on their shit…nicely. It might seem to go against the message behind this post, but it’s especially important to speak up if someone else is causing harm to something or someone else. Have you ever witnessed a group of people not helping an elderly person who’s struggling to cross the street with bags of groceries? It’s similarly bad when no one points out that someone’s being a brat. Don’t let someone be a bully just because everyone else in their life is afraid to tell them off. It’s likely others who aren’t speaking up will be thankful for it.

Keep learning. Back when I was sending out applications for grad school, I promised myself that if I didn’t get in anywhere, I’d take some online courses or pick up a new hobby instead. I got into grad school, so now I’m working on perfecting my craft in a structured environment. But even after I’m done with school for good, I won’t consider my education finished—ever. There are just too many good books waiting to be read. Ask more questions. Do more listening. It’s amazing what you’ll learn when you’re receptive to new information and ideas.

Take better care of yourself. You get one life in one body. So make it a long one. Running on fumes or living a sedentary lifestyle ain’t healthy, and if you don’t take care of your body, how can you expect to excel in other ways? Get plenty of exercise, fresh air, and sleep on a regular basis. Make the extra effort to eat well, too. Respect yourself enough not to make any excuses on this one.

Learn to let go. You ever meet a sad, bitter, angry old person? They didn’t become that way overnight. They spent their whole life a sad, bitter, angry person, and they let it consume and define them. If you don’t want to be like that in 40 years, don’t be like that now. Let go of the things that have hurt you. Some people will treat you unfairly. Some people will never apologize for it. And sometimes life will just be a big old bitch to really good people. Life is random that way. It’s up to you how you handle it. Your aura will be a pretty color if you handle it gracefully.

What have you done lately to be a better person? Go on. Talk yourself up in the comments.