Journalism is a lifestyle. Everywhere I go, I see a story. The greatest journalists find stories everyday by simply observing. I enjoy walking along the asphalt pathway beside the river of downtown Reno when I’m feeling overwhelmed and find myself overthinking a project or story.
My best friend Megan and I walked down from our dorm rooms and met at our bikes just outside the building. As we unlocked our bikes we both agreed to ride along the river just through downtown. Once we reached the park area beside the river we dropped our bikes and looked for a place to sit. All of the picnic tables were occupied with families, except for one, where a homeless man was sitting. There was plenty of room for us too, so we took a seat beside him. After introducing ourselves we started chatting. His name was Robert Basham.
One of the first questions I asked was how he became about his situation. He was an honest man who admitted that he had been struggling with alcoholism for a long time. When I asked him what his next step for his future was he explained that everyday he is able to remain sober is a win (at this time he had been sober for two years now). Homeless or not, I understand anything anyone says that might seem out there should be taken with a grain of salt, but in this case, I believed him. In addition to staying sober, Basham also hoped to find work, and soon.
After discussing potential job opportunities and discussing his previous work experience, we started brainstorming potential jobs he could go for.
Now let's rewind real quick and look at this picture. Two blonde college girls and a mid forty year old recovering alcoholic homeless man sit at a picnic table laughing and enjoying each others conversations, learning and appreciating one another from our different experiences and backgrounds. At first glance, this may look or sound concerning, but it’s the exact opposite, infact i’d say it’s quite beautiful.
I never feel comfortable really “looking” for a story because I feel throughout life stories find me and I find them. If I go out looking for a story it feels rushed, and when you look for a story, chances are you and 10 other journalists will stumble across the same one and produce 10 different versions of it. This is why out-of-the-box-thinking is truly a concept worth practicing. I feel these stories find me for a reason, so I can show audiences that the walls and judgments we make on people are often times over exaggerated and blown out of proportion (at the same time I am aware of dangers, I understand we do not live in a perfect world and there are indeed terrible things that happen everyday and as a journalist I too need to be careful). With that, everytime I find myself with a great story in my hands, I write it down so I can go back to it when school or future careers need me to produce work. That way, I can compile great stories that I’m passionate about and still give the boss what they are asking for.
At first glance I'm sure you wouldn't expect this man to have copies of his resume on him along with an impressive education background. After talking for a while, Basham pulled out his resume, I still have it today (This summer I plan to make a short documentary series called ‘Breaking Stereotypes’ and I will be using his resume from three years ago to get back in touch with him along with other contacts that I have written down throughout time).
In 1985 Robert graduated from the University of Missouri with a Bachelors Degree in electrical engineering and according to his resume has only been out of work since 2013 (I met him in 2013).
"You don't learn an idea in college and make a million dollars off of it. You go to college to learn how to learn," Basham said that day.
Here I am. Learning how to learn, observing the classroom beyond the textbooks. I observe the conversation, the reactions, the words that work in persuading, the ones that don’t. Advice given to me by a homeless man.
Robert was very well informed with issues going on in our country as well as the judgments people in his situation have to face everyday. "I can't help what other people think of me, I'm working my own life," He said.
I'm sure you know of somebody that is currently dealing with or has suffered from alcoholism. Just because they may be in a better living situation does not mean their addiction is any less significant compared to his. Alcoholism is alcoholism. An addiction is addiction.Robert went to college, earned a degree, and even though he did everything right up until that point, he was still faced with a battle any of us could encounter throughout our lives. Never let society judge you off of your weakness. Instead, be like Robert and show society that when life brings you down, you can depend on yourself in taking the next step to fixing it. The people who change the world are the people who inspire us to get out there and embrace the path life has given us and do good with it.
Although the conversation with Basham was not intended to become a story, the idea of talking with him caught people off guard and caught the attention of many. Overtime, a simple conversation with a man on the street soon turned into a story people were interested in. Nico, who is a professor here who is continuously working on a project called, Our Town Reno, which focuses on Reno’s homeless community and their future, reached out to me and used this story, along with the other stories I had with homeless people overtime and published it on his site. I also had an opportunity in my Narrative course to revolve a story around the homeless and the Nevada caucus which was posted on The Nevada Media Alliance. If it weren’t for these conversations with the homeless and the connections I made throughout the past few years with them, the relatability and genuine components that come along in my work wouldn’t be as clear.
It is important to me as a journalist to do my “job” the best way I can and watch myself grow. To me journalism isn't a job, it’s an opportunity to inspire, express, and deliver impacting stories to my audience. I live it. Being a journalist involves documenting the world around you, living through the people who share their stories and being real with yourself on whether or not you're selling yourself out, or delivering the message you intended. I feel sometimes journalists tend to forget that their work literally depicts what reality is to the outside world. Our world runs on news. Our day starts and ends with information provided by journalists and storytellers. What we as journalists choose to focus and share to the world will determine what the world makes it’s reality to be.
Thanks for being here
I feel my purpose is to show readers and viewers different perspectives of the world through the eyes of others. Everyday I challenge myself to think of new theories and concepts, change-up my routine and viewpoints, and allow myself to be creative both mentally and physically. I feel knowledge is power and when we choose to evolve and understand ourselves, we choose to understand our world and the people in it.