The importance of diversity in the newsroom

The importance of diversity in the newsroom

Whiteness is often seen as the default in the newsroom.

Hear me out. How often is whiteness the defining characteristic used to describe someone? If I referred to someone as “that white guy from business,” no one would know which white guy I was talking about. Meanwhile, if you refer to me as “that Indian girl from production,” anyone who knows where the production team is would know who was being referred to.

You can argue that it’s a question of numbers. That there aren’t a lot of brown people in the newsroom, so it makes sense for that to be how I’m identified. Which is fair, but problematic in its own way. Years ago, I was searching for evidence to back up my claims that newsroom diversity is important, when I came across this column by then-New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan. “When a group is truly diverse, the nefarious groupthink that makes a publication predictable and, at times, unintentionally biased, is much more likely to be diminished,” Sullivan writes. “And that’s a good thing.”

If you want to see what unintentional bias looks like, take the example of a media outlet that uses a photo of a black victim of violence holding what looks like a gun. This actually happened in the case of Nia Wilson, an 18-year-old black woman who was murdered at a train station. (Not that it should change how you think about the situation if she was actually holding a gun, but it was a gun-shaped phone case.) The news station in this case, KTVU, apologized and said the photo would never go on air again.

The usage of that particular photo of Wilson is problematic because, as the Washington Post puts it, “Studies about race and media often arrive at the same conclusion: Black people are more likely to be shown in a negative light, compared with white people.” You might remember the NYT article that came out after Michael Brown’s death in a police shooting that called him “no angel.” The backlash to this description sparked a hashtag, #IfTheyGunnedMeDown, where people posted contrasting photos and asked which one would be used by media outlets if they were killed.

I’m not sure how diverse KTVU’s newsroom is, or what their vetting process for photos is. But in this case, as in many others, running the photo past people who have knowledge of unintentional bias could have led to a change in photo choice.

Yet people of color, and especially women of color, are scarce in the newsroom. In 2016, Hispanic, black and Asian women made up less than 5 percent of newsrooms at print and online news publications, a diversity survey from the American Society of News Editors found. Even more worrying to me (on both a newsroom and a personal level) is that women of color tend to be more impacted by layoffs in the news industry than other groups, according to research from Alex T. Williams, a doctoral candidate at the University of Pennsylvania who studies media trends. “Between 2009 and 2015, the number of black women in newsrooms dropped from 1,181 to 730; the number of Latinas in newsrooms dropped from 840 to 584; and the number of Asian American women dropped from 758 to 466,” NPR reported.

I’m not saying media bias would be solved if newsrooms were diverse. By virtue of being human, I don’t see bias as a thing we can completely eradicate. But I think we can eliminate much of it through hiring more people from diverse backgrounds — and through changing the way newsrooms operate altogether.

“The norms of journalism, and the routines of news organizations, are deeply ingrained,” Williams told NPR. “Expecting a handful (or often less) of non-white employees to improve news coverage places a lot of pressure on them — when it likely requires a larger commitment from the entire newsroom or organization. If we hope to see more widespread change, the commitment needs to be a lot deeper than ‘diversity hiring.'”

As a woman of color in a newsroom, I understand this deeply. I’ve been mistaken for the other women of color in the newsroom, even if we look nothing alike. (Even if we’ve both introduced ourselves to the person who mixed us up on multiple occasions.) While I’ve generally been treated fairly, it’s the microaggressions that get me. Whether it’s the white colleague who casually proclaimed that the newsroom will never be more diverse, or the editor who avoided greeting me when I joined the company, but was there instantly with each white coworker on my team who joined after me.

Being a person of color is like this: When coming back to France, where I was studying abroad, from a weekend in London, I was with three white/white-passing friends. All three of them entered the country without a problem, but I had to wait several extra minutes while the agent on duty took my fingerprints.

Imagine if you had to do that every day. A few minutes here or there doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it adds up.

The fact of the matter is that being a person of color (or an LGBTQ+ person, etc.) in the workplace is tiring. And while I appreciate the efforts that are being made to increase and retain diverse talent, such as through diversity committees, I often feel like we aren’t challenging the status quo as much as we could be.

So here’s my call to action for hiring managers, recruiters, and general people in the newsroom: Hire more people from diverse backgrounds, but also consider how you can take pressure off your colleagues and make the workplace more inclusive. Don’t just hire a brown person or a transgender person and consider your commitment to diversity fulfilled.

Image: WOCinTech Chat


I May Not Have Had Internet While I Was In India, But I Had Something Better

I May Not Have Had Internet While I Was In India, But I Had Something Better

Love is the grilled cheese sandwich my mother makes for me, sighing exasperatedly as she pulls the cheese out of the fridge for the third time this week.

Let me explain: when I think of my favorite foods, nothing on the list strikes me as particularly complicated to prepare. I’m passionate about grilled cheese sandwiches. I’ll make them for myself in a pinch, but I especially love when my mother or my grandmother make the sandwiches for me. It’s kind of cheesy (pun slightly intentional), but I feel like I can taste the love that went into making the sandwich.

I’ll get back to the “feeling love” thing later, but you may be wondering why I haven’t written for a while. I actually spent close to five weeks in India this holiday season; I was busy feeling love in all of the homemade food I ate at my relatives’ houses. (And yes, I did enjoy a few grilled cheeses, courtesy of my grandmother.) This India trip was unusual for a few reasons; less than a week after I got there, a cyclone ripped up cables all over the city and left us without electricity, internet, and running water for a few days. And more than a month later, my grandmother apparently still doesn’t have internet!

But there was a silver lining to this whole mess; I was able to accept not being constantly connected to social media. Of course, the lack of internet access made working as a news writer kind of difficult; it’s hard to let people know what’s going on when you don’t actually know. Thankfully my editors gave me the time off. And considering my father spent the first eight years of his life without electricity, and his entire childhood without running water, my “struggles” pale in comparison.

I spent my time in India with my family, as I always do. I consider moments with my family to be precious, especially since during the trip I was reminded that people do in fact die. While we were there, one of my father’s uncles died, and the following day, one of my mother’s uncles passed away as well. The two uncles were both in their eighties when they moved on, but my family is still dealing with the aftermath.

My grandfather recently fell down and broke a rib, and my grandmothers aren’t free of health problems either. Despite this, all three of them continue to live their lives, with my grandfather heading to the library he’s been helping run for decades instead of quietly resting at my cousins’ place. My maternal grandmother hasn’t given up on an independent life; she gets far more phone calls and visitors than I do, and she continues to attend singing classes and create beautiful art. My paternal grandmother takes care of her family, keeping everyone well-fed, and mastering her smartphone to call us (in my case, everyday through an app during the three weeks I lived alone this year).

But I still feel afraid from time to time. I don’t get to see my grandparents too often, considering I live half the world away from them. I worry that I might go home and never meet them again. When I find myself thinking like this, I remind myself that there’s no point dwelling on what-ifs. Instead, I choose to remind myself how it feels to be loved by my family.

I feel love when my grandmother shuffles over every half hour to make sure I’m not hungry, often brandishing half an orange or a colorful sweet. I feel love when she saves mangoes from the rest of the family for me, remembering how much I love them pickled. And how can I forget the time as a child I hung my pants over the bathroom door and my brother stole them? I didn’t expect my grandmother to so effectively chase down my brother, but she did, and she got my pants back to me after giving him quite the scolding.

I feel love when my grandfather offers me my pick from books that haven’t been added to the library yet. I feel love when he agrees, against his principles, to take an auto rickshaw home instead of the crowded city bus, just to reduce our worries. I feel love (and I also feel slightly ashamed of myself for not realizing) when I’m sitting where he’s planning on sleeping, but he’s too nice to tell me to move.

I feel love when my grandmother gets excited to see me try on clothes, and when she tells me to buy half the store. (I have to refuse, obviously, but I so rarely feel good about buying clothes that going with her is a treat.) I feel love when she tells me that my weight doesn’t matter, and that I should ignore judgmental people. I feel love when she tells me stories about my late grandfather, and my mother when she was growing up.

There are so many other moments that remind me of the love I constantly receive from my family members and my friends. I’m very grateful to be able to spend time with my extended family despite living across the world from them. There will likely always be times when I feel insecure and alone, but I plan on using memories of the love people have shown me to get myself over those bumps in the road, just as I always have.

Images: Partha Narasimhan, Maya Parthasarathy

Why You Should Subscribe To A Newspaper: Paywalls, Advertising & Investigative Journalism.

Why You Should Subscribe To A Newspaper: Paywalls, Advertising & Investigative Journalism.

People just aren’t willing to pay to get their news anymore. Sure, they might take out subscriptions to a few magazines, or even have a local newspaper delivered. But when it comes to reading articles online, people my age especially are resistant to spending money. Why throw down a few bucks a month for a subscription to a national newspaper when there are so many other news websites out there offering “free” access?

I’m not saying I haven’t been there too; I know a few ways to get around paywalls. But thankfully, newspaper paywalls only became more common around the time I headed off to college. For the past few years, my method of getting around the New York Times’ monthly article limit was getting paper copies and online student passes from my university. Many other newspapers offer free or reduced price access to their digital content to students as well; for example, the Washington Post offers free access to students with .edu email addresses.

Unfortunately, it costs money to create content, and it costs a LOT of money to fund good investigative journalism, as the nonprofit-run Mother Jones pointed out this year during a fundraising effort. Thankfully, my access to news sources during college wasn’t actually free by any means; Syracuse University was paying news organizations for its students to access content, and as students we were indirectly paying as well through our tuition fees. And even though I’m out of college, I’m in luck when it comes to subscriptions, since I live with my family. (I’d joke about being a millennial living in my parents’ basement, but we don’t have a basement.) We pick up several subscriptions by using our frequent flier miles, including an accidental double subscription to the Wall Street Journal. (Hopefully someone remembered to cancel the second one.)

Since becoming a content producer myself, I’ve realized that by not paying for content we’re contributing to a decrease in journalistic quality. You may wonder why this is. I mean, even if a website doesn’t have a paywall, it will get some amount of revenue from advertising, right?

Not necessarily. The problem is that print advertising makes newspapers a lot more money than online advertising does. Print ads cost advertisers more than online advertising, but they’re more likely to have an impact on readers. Unfortunately, newspapers are losing print subscribers, and thus print ad revenue. Before, newspapers made the bulk of their money by selling advertisements. But advertisers aren’t as willing to pay as much for online ads. So newspapers and traditional print media outlets have begun moving towards a circulation-based model, according to the American Journalism Review. Hence the paywalls: they’re annoying, and frequent readers in particular are often ready to pay to make them go away.

But for many others, paywalls are irrelevant, since they can head to sites that rely solely on online advertising to make money. And here’s where the problem begins. Not all content producers have enough resources to do their own reporting all the time. Many of these websites therefore use reliable traditional journalism outlets as sources, aggregating information from multiple sources and putting their own spins on the news. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; you may be interested in reading a simplified version of what you saw on the 9 o’clock news. Or you could want more background information, or a personal account.

aid1113913-900px-Play-the-Telephone-Game-Step-9.jpgStill, some of these news sources aren’t actually news sources at all. Some of them are partisan websites that have a specific conservative or liberal agenda they’re hoping to push you towards with biased writing. You’ve heard of the game “telephone,” right? What the first person originally whispered often ends up completely different once it reaches the end of the line.

You may be aware of the controversy surrounding Mark Zuckerberg right now; the Facebook CEO claimed it was “crazy” that fake news on Facebook could have influenced election results. Sadly, that’s a little far from the truth. Facebook eliminated the human editors who curated trending news; now an algorithm handles this. But the algorithm got it wrong sometimes, and stories from fake news websites that were making the rounds sometimes trended. Even if the fake news came from sources outside Facebook, the fact remains that false or inaccurate news is a serious problem. Some fake news websites are cleverly disguised as existing news websites, just with an extra .co or .com at the end. For example, check out this ridiculous story about President Obama banning the Pledge of Allegiance, which comes from a website designed to look like that of ABC News. (You’ll see what I mean by calling it “ridiculous” if you keep reading until the end.)

Even disregarding fake news sites, even reliable news outlets are being influenced by the fact that they have to increase readership to make money. This drives click-based content creation models. Outlets will only publish material that will draw the greatest number of unique visitors. Sponsored content is abundant; you may have heard of “native advertising.” Content paid for by an advertiser is presented similarly to regular editorial content; except this content exists to promote a product or a service. And it’s getting harder and harder to tell sponsored content apart from regular content. Our media are literally being bought by those with money. (Disclaimer: I’m not saying every single media outlet is like this, and the issue of financing journalism goes beyond what I discuss in this post.)

As a writer and journalist who was trained at a school where journalistic standards were extremely high, I am appalled by some of the content that has been pushed by mainstream media. I get why it’s happening; it’s not possible for an outlet to survive if someone isn’t funding it. If people want to read about Hillary Clinton’s emails, it makes sense to flood the internet with articles about that from a financial standpoint.

But from a moral or ethical standpoint, not so much. Journalism exists to give power to the people. As journalists, we should be informing the public about important issues, not distracting them in pursuit of page views. Still, this is hard to do if readers aren’t paying for journalists to report and create eye-opening content.

This is why I urge you to take out a subscription to a reliable news source (or several). What you consider a reliable and worthy news source is up to you, but I suggest you choose one that does its own reporting. For the cost of a few pumpkin spice lattes, you could help fund the great investigative reporting that changes peoples’ lives.

Images:, Wikivisual

Representation, Diversity & The Great Young Adult Novel

Representation, Diversity & The Great Young Adult Novel

Happy Halloween (a.k.a. my favorite holiday)! I was a “steampunk adventurer” this year at a festival, and it was great. Tonight I have work, but as my office is my house, I plan on dressing up and handing out candy during my breaks.

Halloween has a another special significance for many writers; it’s the day before NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. The goal of NaNoWriMo is to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. I attempted this feat every year in high school, but to this day I have yet to finish a story within the deadline.

This isn’t to say I’ve never written a book before; when I was in eighth grade I wrote a full-length novel as my “exit project” from middle school. As someone who is notoriously private about sharing my fiction, I almost threw up before school the day I had to read an excerpt out loud in front of my class. But I did it, and a copy of that story likely still sits on the shelf in my former classroom.

Of course, I never did much more with that book. My parents were constantly badgering me to get it published, but I wasn’t happy with my work. It was great for an eighth-grader, but by my third read-through I was already unsatisfied with the quality. I’m a closet perfectionist, and I wanted only something I was extremely proud of published under my name.

Here’s a sketch from my eighth-grade novel of one of my characters, Kindle. He was, of course, named before the Amazon Kindle made its debut.

And as the years went on I had more and more on my plate. In eighth grade, my extracurriculars consisted of thrice-weekly tae kwon do practice and accompanying my parents to grocery stores. I had a ridiculously large amount of time to spend reading and writing. But once I got into high school I joined speech & debate, water polo, and many other clubs. I had friends who lived within walking/biking distance. I still wrote fiction, but that took a back-seat to everything else.

But now that I’m out of school and have less of a social life, I feel the urge to once again write a full-length novel. I plan to participate in NaNoWriMo this year for the first time since my freshman year of college. And this time, I plan on winning.

But what am I planning on writing about? My last book was a work of fantasy. I’m still into that genre, but I was always captivated by the idea of the “Great American Novel.” Except I wanted to write the “Great Young Adult Novel.” I was tired of some of the stuff I picked up in the Young Adult (YA) section of the library. Don’t get me wrong, there are so many great YA books out there. Most of my favorite books are YA. (Harry Potter anyone?) But so many have the same basic storyline; the only difference is location and character names. And don’t even get me started on Twilight, which I read against my better instincts. Some friends told me it was amazing. (Spoiler alert: it wasn’t.)

Unoriginal YA aside, I’m also really into representation and diversity in books/media. I don’t think you have to be the same race or in the same situation as a character to relate to them. But let me be clear: that’s not an excuse to avoid featuring people of color as main characters in books or in movies. I spent years thinking I couldn’t be an actor because of my skin tone. After all, as a child, the only characters I saw on TV that looked like me tended to be guest stars with horrible fake accents who were made fun of by the main, white characters. I don’t want other brown and black kids to feel like they can’t be the main character because they aren’t white.

If you don’t believe me when I say representation matters, look at the case of Whoopi Goldberg. She was inspired to start her career by seeing Nichelle Nichols playing Uhura on Star Trek when she was young. Do you know how much we would’ve missed out on if Goldberg hadn’t been watching Nichols, a black woman, play an iconic character on Star Trek? She wouldn’t have been in The Color PurpleGhost, or Sister Act. (Let’s be real, my childhood would have been so much worse without Sister Act.) And Goldberg is just one example of a kid inspired by seeing someone who looked like them on TV.

These days, I see more brown people on TV. Not enough, but more. I’ve also exposed myself to writing by more great brown women writers (Randa Jarrar, Jhumpa Lahiri, Mohja Kahf, to name a few). But I’m tired of their books being part of a niche market.

People of color exist in books, but as main characters they’re not as mainstream as I would like. And books featuring characters from marginalized groups (LGBT+ characters, disabled characters, characters of color, etc.) tend to be all about how the main character is, for example, transgender, rather than having a storyline that incorporates the character’s identity into a larger storyline. Stories can be about more than a character’s so-called “defining” characteristic.

I don’t want every book about a teenage girl of Indian descent living in the United States to be about how she rebels against her parents wanting her to get good grades and have an arranged marriage. Because, sure, my parents wanted me to get good grades, but that wasn’t their main focus. And they’ve never, ever said they want me to get an arranged marriage.

These days I’ve grown out of the idea of there being one “Great YA Novel,” but I haven’t lost hope that one day white/straight won’t be the defaults. It shouldn’t be revolutionary that a main character can be brown/black, queer, and chronically ill, but that the story is about going on a quest and saving the world.

With that, I should really be going. This brown girl has her own quest to go on; there are 50,000 words she has to write, after all.

Images: Pexels, Maya Parthasarathy

Politicians’ false statements have real impacts & ‘ignorance’ is not an adequate excuse

Politicians’ false statements have real impacts & ‘ignorance’ is not an adequate excuse

I’m looking at you, Donald Trump.

When I know someone is blatantly lying to me, I’m understandably angry. I have an even lower tolerance for this nonsense when the person lying is a politician on the news. Unfortunately, our presidential candidates are not above making false statements. Fact-checkers have been having a field day with Donald Trump (and Hillary Clinton to a lesser extent); after a week of fact-checking, Politico found that Trump told an untruth every 3.25 minutes, while Clinton made a false statement every 12 minutes. While neither of these figures is good news for voters, it is telling that Trump lies almost four times as much as Clinton.

It’s understandable if someone gets a figure slightly wrong; we’re not robots after all, and politicians have to be well-versed in so many subject areas. But there’s no excuse for extreme exaggerations and unsupported statements. We elect politicians to represent and carry out the will of their constituents, the American people. This means politicians and political candidates have sway over large portions of the population; their supporters are likely to see them as credible figures. False statements can and do have real impacts on the beliefs and actions of real people.

Let’s take recent claims of the presidential election being run questionably. I’ve written about this several times, but the facts don’t back up claims of “rigging” and voter fraud. In fact, there is evidence to the contrary. A comprehensive study by Justin Levitt, a Loyola Law School professor, found that out of 1 billion ballots cast between 2000 and 2014, only 31 credible incidents of voter impersonation occurred. And no presidential election has ever been won by such a small margin.

Still, Trump has called the election rigged on multiple occasions. Basically, Trump is inciting voters to question the results of an election upon which our democracy is based; almost half of voters believe there will be widespread voter fraud, according to a Politico poll. It gets scary super quickly; just read what these Trump supporters told a Boston Globe reporter:

Jeannine Bell Smith, 65, schoolteacher: “We’re going to have a lot of election fraud. They are having illegals vote. In some states, you don’t need voter registration to vote.”

Steve Webb, 61, carpenter from Ohio: “Trump said to watch your precincts. I’m going to go, for sure. I’ll look for…well, it’s called racial profiling. Mexicans. Syrians. People who can’t speak American. I’m going to go right up behind them. I’ll do everything legally. I want to see if they are accountable. I’m not going to do anything illegal. I’m going to make them a little bit nervous.”

Dan Bowman, 50, contractor: “If [Hillary Clinton is] in office, I hope we can start a coup. She should be in prison or shot. That’s how I feel about it. We’re going to have a revolution and take them out of office if that’s what it takes. There’s going to be a lot of bloodshed. But that’s what it’s going to take…I would do whatever I can for my country.”

(For the record, the Trump campaign said in a statement that they “reject violence in any form and will not allow it to be a part of our campaign.”)

I don’t really understand how someone can proclaim an election that hasn’t happened yet is definitively “rigged,” but let’s unpack these quotes anyways:

  • Once again, there isn’t any reliable evidence to support Smith’s claim that there will be “a lot of election fraud.” And you definitely need voter registration to vote in all fifty states. Also, the most basic requirement of voter eligibility is U.S. citizenship, so no, “illegals” will not be voting in the election.
  • Webb said he will “racially profile” people and “go right up behind them.” While he claims he’ll be doing everything legally, Webb has described what is most likely a classic case of voter intimidation. And, yes, voter intimidation is illegal.
  • Bowman has taken it a step further. While he doesn’t actually say he’ll participate in the “bloodshed” he describes happening if Clinton is elected president, his claims that she should be “shot” are chilling.

As much as I wish these people and their words were figments of my imagination, they’re not. Trump should be taking responsibility for feeding his supporters falsehoods that very likely had something to do with how riled up some of them are about the “rigged” election. I mean, they’re literally describing committing crimes against Clinton supporters!

I get that when you see someone as a reliable source of information, it can be easy to become complacent. You might start accepting their words as truth. But we live in an age when fact-checking is ridiculously easy — as long as you have access to the internet and understand how to determine the reliability of sources, you too can be a fact-checker. And fact-checking Trump has become even easier, with many news sources dedicating resources to specifically verifying the candidates’ claims.

I wish candidates weren’t allowed to get away with blatant lies, but the fact of the matter is that many of them have extremely loyal fan bases. So all we can do in the meantime is not accept things at face value, and speak up when someone says something you know isn’t true.

I’ll leave you with this “The Daily Show” video, in which correspondent Jordan Klepper interviews people at a Trump rally and humorously uses their own logic against them. It’ll probably cause amusement and frustration in equal parts.

Image: Gage Skidmore

Reaching for the stars & other clichés

Reaching for the stars & other clichés

When I was in fifth grade, there was a period of time when I wouldn’t turn my homework in. Not because I hadn’t done it; I’d actually finished it far before most procrastinators would even decide to take a look at the assignment. No, my reason for not submitting my homework was that I didn’t think it was good enough.

In reading class, we were assigned a final essay. When I was passed the growing pile of essays, I self-consciously put a piece of scrap paper on the bottom of the stack and passed it on. Of course, the absence of my assignment from the pile did not go unnoticed. My mother got called in for a talk with my teacher, and I was eventually forced to surrender the essay.

Later on, the teacher told my mother that I would’ve gotten an A if I had turned in my essay on time. Instead I got a D+ since there was a policy penalizing late work. (In fifth grade! Apparently our fifth grade teachers were preparing us for life, but even college professors don’t usually lower the grades on late assignments that much.)

That’s me, a few months before all of this drama happened.

At the time I was definitely overthinking things. I’d worked hard on the essay, and I’d fulfilled and even exceeded the requirements of the assignment. The only part of the assignment I didn’t do was actually turning it in.

But sometimes you just have to go ahead and turn something in, even if you don’t think it’s perfect. Of course, it’s best to submit high-quality work. And there are definitely times when an extension on an assignment is warranted. But if you have a lot of performance-related anxiety like me, you’re probably being ridiculous when you decide your hard work isn’t good enough.

There were many times throughout my later school days when I didn’t turn in assignments I had done. But this didn’t help me do better work; instead, it negatively impacted my grades. In eleventh grade, I didn’t submit my math homework for two months straight. That’s a lot of points. Plus, I didn’t get feedback on my work that could have helped me improve. (Not to say my grades were all bad. I did well in most of my classes, and I went on to higher education.)

By the time I got to college, I had made a promise to myself: no matter what, turn something in for each assignment. And guess what? My grades were better than ever. I started to realize that what I thought wasn’t good enough could actually be above average. I was amazed first semester freshman year when my comparative government TA pulled me over and told me I was the top scorer on the midterm. Slowly my self-confidence increased. There were still times when I doubted that an essay I’d done well on was “A” material, but there were also times when I felt proud of myself for how far I’d come.

And that’s me at 17 after getting surprised with a birthday cake at a speech & debate tournament.

Of course, grades aren’t everything. What’s most important is what you learn from the work you do. And boy was I learning so much more. Since I was no longer so afraid of failing, I began raising my hand and participating in class discussions. I even went to see professors during their office hours, something I had been petrified of doing since a one-on-one meeting had the potential to end in embarrassment. I was no longer the quiet kid in the back of the classroom who might not turn in her homework; I was that kid who wasn’t afraid to ask a lab assistant for help when she needed a nudge in the right direction.

Now that I think about it, there is one more part of assignments that I frequently didn’t do: turning them in by the due date. In fifth grade I was offended by the strict rules surrounding late work. But now, I’m thankful. In college, one of my areas of study was journalism. For journalists, deadlines are extremely important; if you don’t turn your story in on time, you could affect the entire publication.

While some of my professors tended to be more laid back about due dates, my journalism professors were the opposite. If you didn’t make a deadline, your story earned an F grade, or in some cases, a zero. It was as if you hadn’t turned anything in at all. But guess what? I’m proud to say I made my deadlines, no matter what it took. And I avoided fact errors, which were also cause for an F grade.

And finally, a more current photo.

You’re probably wondering where I’m going with all of this. It might seem like I’m just taking the opportunity to brag about myself. And yeah, I am, kind of. (Can you blame me? I turned my academic life around. I rediscovered the joy of education! But I digress.) Still, there was a point to the story. I’ll express it through clichés: Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game. Reach for the moon — even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars. There is no such thing as failure, except for if you do not even try. (I could keep going, but you probably get the point.)

Despite everything I’ve gone through, I’m still a little afraid of starting new things. But I have a lot of things to say, and my journal is no longer enough of an audience for me. (Sorry, journal. It’s not you, it’s me.) My goal in college was to turn in every assignment; my new goal is to keep this blog updated. It took me a while to summon enough courage to write this post. But with each new piece of writing, it should get easier.

So I hope you’ll join me as I navigate the uncertainties of post-college life. I’ll be happy to have you along on the journey.