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How are we supposed to feel safe anymore?

How are we supposed to feel safe anymore?

When we go see a movie. When we go to school. When we go shopping. When we go to work. When we go to sporting events. When we’re in our own homes.

How did we get here?

Gun regulations, or lack thereof. Treatment for mental illness, or lack thereof. Racial tensions. Gang violence. Hate.

Homicide numbers go up daily. Hourly.

Another shooting for the front page. Another murder to lead the newscast.

We’ve become numb to the crime.

What are we supposed to do?

Not see a movie? Not go to school? Not go shopping? Not go to work? Not go to sporting events? Not stay in our own homes?

I want to have the answers.

I don’t.

We can try to answer these questions. We can ask all the experts. We can go through all the documents. We can write all the stories. We can analyze all the data.

Maybe through that, we can start, and continue, a conversation. Keep pushing the issue forward. Keep pressing the Powers That Be. Keep paving a path toward change.

Refuse to back down.

And as we do that, we may not always feel safe. We may not always know how we got here. We may not always know what it is we are supposed to do.

What I do know is that we have to do something.

All of us.

Because the world we live in right now is unacceptable.

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Dear Jayhawk

I cannot begin to express how lucky you are to be a Jayhawk. Always keep in mind how wonderful of a place KU is, even on the days when it feels like it’s not.

You are in a magical place. (It would have to be magical to have a mascot that’s a mythical bird). What you choose to do on Mount Oread will help you grow into the person you are meant to become. Who will that person be? Is it the person you always imagined you would be? Or someone entirely different? In the end, those last two questions don’t really matter. What matters is you cherish your time as a Jayhawk and leave Lawrence a little better than you found it.

Here are my wishes for you, as you begin another year of school:

I hope you find people who will support you, encourage you, challenge you and walk through college with you. You may have already met some of these people, or they may be passing you on Jayhawk Boulevard, and you don’t even know it yet. Make time to hang out, explore and talk about life with them. You are in college to get an education and be prepared for post-college life, but none of it matters if you’re not also making memories with people you care about.

I hope you go to class, but also don’t. I probably attended more than 95 percent of my classes over my four years. After all, you’re spending the tuition money either way. But I also don’t regret not going to class. The extracurriculars involved in college are, in many ways, just as important as getting that degree. To put it another way, I remember when the Dole Institute gathered dozens of its former Fellows on campus for a reunion in October of my junior year, as I attended that event instead of my Biology 101 class. I could not, however, tell you much of what I learned in that class that semester.

I hope you find a place that makes you feel like you belong on this huge campus. For me, that place sophomore year was the Dole Institute. It was my own little corner of the world, and there, I grew into more of myself, while meeting some cool people along the way. It’s easy to get lost at a big university. Finding a place like the Dole Institute will make you feel more at home.

I hope you develop a passion that keeps you busy during the day and up at night. I spent so many days in the newsroom and so many nights not being able to sleep because I was thinking about what to do with a newscast or story. It’s a passion I carry with me today, and something I wish on everyone.

I hope you meet a mentor who you continue to talk to even after you walk down the hill. Whether you meet that person in the classroom, at an activity or at a job, I hope you learn from them, are torn down by them and are built up by them. You can – and will – learn a lot in the classroom, but you won’t learn everything there.

Do as much as you can in your next few years at KU, because college is about more than a GPA. Keep up with studying and homework and that GPA, but I want you to have the experiences that will make your time as a Jayhawk even more magical. Study abroad, go to sporting events, see speakers, stay out later than you should on a school night, do internships, get a job, go to Mass. St., join a club, find what it means to you to be a Jayhawk. You’ll be a Jayhawk for life, but those four years sure do fly by.

Thanks, Kansas

I never wanted to be a Kansan. When my family was looking at possible new homes in 2008, I never thought the Land of Oz would actually be our next state. Nearly seven years later, I’m glad to call myself a Kansan.

Because if I had never become a Kansan, I surely never would have become a Jayhawk – something else I was never really sure I wanted to be.

I thought I wanted to be a bulldog… or a tiger… or a wildcat (not that one). Definitely not this mythical bird. But four years ago, I moved to Lawrence anyway, and I will always be thankful for that.

In looking back at the four years between moving into Ellsworth and walking through the Campanile, I find six decisions that defined my time at the University of Kansas.

Living on E6

Living on the sixth floor of Ellsworth Residence Hall freshman year gave me a KU family during that pivotal first year away from home. It gave me friendships that carried me throughout those four years at KU. I don’t know if I would have met my closest friends from college if we hadn’t all lived on E6 that year, but after we moved away from the floor and lived in different parts of town, we continued to be there for each other and walk through college together. I’ve enjoyed watching them grow, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Going to my first KU volleyball match

I’ve never cheered for a team so much or so hard. I’ll miss this outlet.

Studying abroad in Florence, Italy

I hope there is never a time in my life when I can’t picture the hills of Tuscany or return to the streets of Florence in my mind. Studying abroad led to my Italian major, friendships that gave me new perspectives, a different way to live and an appreciation for another culture. Studying abroad in Florence allows you to live like an Italian if you want to. And for that reason, a piece of my heart will always reside in Italia.

Working at the Dole Institute of Politics

While study groups will always be special to me, the Dole Institute did much more than just provide speakers and discussions. It was my second home at KU. It introduced me to people who care about what happens in the world and are working to change it. There’s a true sense of belonging when I enter that building, and I know no matter how far away I go or how much time passes between visits, that feeling will remain.

Agreeing to produce 2014 KU Student Senate Debate Coverage

I worked with KUJH before March 2014, but it was this live event that adjusted the trajectory of my life. I agreed to produce debate coverage, which led to me asking to produce election night coverage. Throwing out the rundown during 2014 Student Senate Election Night confirmed for me that producing was the right career path. The adrenaline I had running from the newsroom to control room and back was something I longed to feel again. I continue to feel it every time my newsroom goes live, whether it’s a newscast or a big event.

Interning/Working at 6News

If KUJH News confirmed I wanted to be a producer, interning at 6News confirmed I could be a producer. But I got so much more from 6News than just journalism skills, opportunities to produce newscasts, the chance to produce President Obama visit coverage and the foundation for a job at WIBW. It was my first professional newsroom family, complete with challenges, successes, mentors, awkward moments, celebrations and even a hospital visit. I will forever advocate for interning at the smaller stations.

To 15-year-old Allison, being a Kansan isn’t so bad. And no, you won’t get swept away by a tornado. Or meet Toto. But you may find a brick road or two.

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To my newsroom…

Dear KUJH News,

Every so often, you make a decision that will change your life. Deciding to get involved in KUJH News my junior year marked one of those decisions.

But it didn’t only change my life.

It made it.

I didn’t want to go to KU. Other schools have more prestigious journalism programs, and I was accepted to those schools four years ago. I ended up here because of the in-state tuition. But if I had to do it all again, I’d still choose KU’s School of Journalism.

For one reason: KUJH News.

We go to college to be prepared for the real world and, ideally, to have a job at the end of it. I secured both of those things, thanks to KUJH News.

Being involved in KUJH has been hard. Expectations are high. We fail. And we get coached up for not performing to our potential. But everything — every single thing — that happens or is said in that newsroom is meant to make us better broadcast journalists. Nothing else at KU even comes close to preparing us for the real world of broadcast journalism the way KUJH News does. Without it, I would not be the journalist I am today. I would not be ready to start a career as a broadcast journalist.

I’ve been a reporter, producer, assignment editor and crew member at KUJH. I’ve fallen down. I’ve gotten up. I’ve been challenged. I’ve been praised. I’ve produced weekly newscasts, live Student Senate and General Election specials, live coverage of Senator Bob Dole’s trip to Kansas and a live debate.

And those are just the highlights from student media.

Because of my hard work and dedication to KUJH News, I succeeded as well at WOW! 6News and WIBW-TV. I produced professionally before even getting my degree – before even starting my last semester. But under no circumstances would I have been ready for any of those opportunities had I not become involved in KUJH News and valued my time there.

And now, my time in that newsroom is over. Our last newscast has aired. I have no reason to reserve another camera or sit in an edit bay. I’m graduating and starting a job in less than three weeks.

But it doesn’t feel over.

I’ve thought about this a lot. Why am I not super emotional that this huge part of my life (KUJH News, not just college in general) is over? For one, it may be that it’s too soon. But besides that, I know it’s not really over because the lessons I’ve learned and the relationships I’ve built will stay with me long after I’ve exited that newsroom for the last time. My bond with KUJH News isn’t over; it’s changing.

I know my mentors and my friends will always have my back – to critique me, to build me up, to tear me down and to just be there for me. So many days, I’d find myself in the newsroom for no reason other than to just be around the newsroom with these people who cared about putting on the best possible product they could — even if no eyes but ours would ever see it.

I could list off many lessons I’ve learned from KUJH News and the staff and students who work there over the past two years. Explain why producing is like baking a cake or why I run up and down the hallway instead of walk. But I’ll never be able to fully articulate what my time at KUJH News has done for me.

It not only prepared me for my television news producing career in ways that nothing else in the School of Journalism did, but it also prepared me for life in ways nothing else at the University of Kansas did.

You saved me. You made me. And I would choose you again. And again. And again.

Thank you.

Love,

Allison

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President Obama visits KU

On Jan. 22, 2015, KU had its first visit by a sitting president in more than 100 years. I produced coverage of President Obama’s visit for WOW! 6News. Take a look.

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The Tale of the Signs

“Did you play volleyball?”

I’m 5’ 2.5”, but I get that question a lot. It’s the first thing people say to me when they find out I’m a big KU volleyball fan.

I know some volleyball players are under 5’ 3”, but I was not one of them. Instead, my KU volleyball fandom started as a happy accident – a very happy accident.

My friend freshman year played in the volleyball pep band, so I went to a match to support her the first weekend of September. And the next, and the next.

She ended her pep band career after freshman year, but my time as a Jayhawk volleyball fan had just ignited.

Over the next four years, I made signs, yelled ‘Point, KU,’ stood for set point and saw my ‘We Are Kansas’ sign (along with half my face) documented forever in Kansas volleyball history – in this year’s poster and magnet, on a wall in Horesji and on the sign outside the building.

The team my freshman year barely ended the season above .500 and had three conference wins. I watched them lose to Missouri at home in the last border war, but I was just impressed with the one set they won. Running to the match in the cold and rain was completely worth it.

Then, I saw them defeat Baylor on senior night to end the season. I watched that, and I knew I’d be back for more volleyball.

The next two years, I had the chance to see my team play in the NCAA tournament and watch one of the best senior classes in KU history play at the top of their game. And in a few days, I get to do it again.

I’ve been lucky these last four years. I fell in love with a team when it wasn’t great, then witnessed some of the best seasons in the school’s history.

People ask me why I’m such a big KU volleyball fan. I tell them it’s an outlet and just a fun sport to watch, but I can’t really articulate it. It’s just a team you want to root for, that’s proud to wear the crimson and blue (and yellow, on their shoes).

Going to those matches, holding up my sign and yelling… those are some of my favorite memories as a Jayhawk.

It’s a sport where the momentum can shift at any moment… where a team can be down 5-0 and come back to win the match. With no fouls, or plays under review, sets move fast. A team can go on a run, and in the next instant, hit 25 points. A single impressive dig or kill can change the match.

At KU, most attention goes to men’s basketball and football, but this week is the NCAA Volleyball Tournament. It’s survive and advance, lose and go home. KU is lucky enough to be a national seed and host the first and second rounds of the tournament.

It’s time to support the other sports in Jayhawk Nation. Friday at 6:30 p.m. at the ExpoCenter in Topeka. Let’s fill the Expo. Make it Horejsi West. Then, we can go back to basketball.

Plans for the year 5775

I’ve lost track of the last time I went to services. I think the last time Hebrew slipped from my mouth was Passover. I work on Shabbat every week. But Rosh Hashanah – the Jewish new year – begins on Wednesday, so I’m taking some time this week to reflect on the year and contemplate the one ahead.

Year 5774 was absolutely a year of growth. I learned more about journalism and the career I want from it. I started feeling more excited stomach-churning than nervous stomach-churning at the thought of graduation being so imminent. I did some highway driving in more states, and everyone survived, even the little adventure in which I drove away with the gas pump still in the car. I even started cooking! (rice).

Looking ahead, I’m not quite sure what’ll happen in 5775. I’m not sure where I’ll be on the cusp of 5776. But I have some ideas.

Intentions for the (Jewish) year 5775:

  1. Figure out how to commit myself to the task at hand (without being preoccupied with the next task).
  2. Stop eating Twizzlers for breakfast (or any meal).
  3. Never stop eating popcorn for dinner (or any meal).
  4. Expand my Mass. St. dinner choices beyond Noodles and Company (anywhere else have pasta fresca with parmesan cheese??).
  5. Get a car (I guess).
  6. Find the time to devote to working on Italian (besides just completing assignments.)
  7. On that note, go back to Italy (yes, before next September!)
  8. Don’t do anything badly just because it’s passable (or acceptable).
  9. Purge the people, things and activities that no longer fit in my life (or that just suck).
  10. Become the best-darned news producer the KU School of Journalism has ever seen (but stop falling asleep to images of ENPS in my brain).
  11. See another KU volleyball Sweet 16 berth in Allen Fieldhouse (I’ll live up to my end of the bargain if you end up to yours, Jayhawks).
  12. Tighter scripts, smarter writing, elimination of say-nothing phrases (what does “speak out” even mean?)
  13. Remember the most important things in life are the people in it, doing good, appreciating the moment and really living (everything else is olive oil).
  14. Don’t let the generally suckish people get me down (and don’t join them)!

L’Shanah tovah u’metukah! To a good and sweet new year!