Coming back to Advanced

Hello! Until August, this will be my blog for Advanced Reporting. (But most of the material here is on Morocco; just scroll down a bit.) I will share weekly updates on my work and what I’ve learned about journalism.

Last week, I was shocked back into Advanced with three stories about fun events in Columbia, another MU dean’s stepping down and the restoration of our iconic Ionic columns.  The columns story taught me the most while highlighting the flaws I need to overcome this semester.

My writing weaknesses are that I can’t seem to escape a formal writing voice (German mother) and that I lose a sense of structure with pieces past 500 words. This means my pieces can be super boring, as was the first draft of the columns story, which contained a description of how to waterproof columns and little else. Luckily, my editor directed me to the Missourian and university archives, and I found interesting folklore and vivid historical articles that showed how important the columns are to MU students. (The writings also showed how boring we students have become — no one has tried to paint the columns since 2000, when an unidentified person spray-painted the made-up term ¡Boño! on them, and no one has climbed to the top since the 1950s.) The research made my article way better.

Here is the article: Long-suffering MU columns to undergo preservation work this summer.

Back again!

What to do and what to learn: Since coming back to the States from an extended study abroad, my focus in every semester has been the Missourian: Missourian reporting, Missourian copyediting and now … Missourian advanced reporting, for my last semester. The first two semesters were a struggle as I learned to apply journalism basics, adapted to a sometimes-hectic schedule and became a team player (up until that point, most of my volunteer and paid work had been freelance).

I hope that having grasped the basic skills, my work this semester will be above adequate — that not only will it become more powerfully descriptive, but that it will also go beyond simple observation and toward deeper analysis. Any feedback from you guys on what to do outside of class to get to that point would be helpful!

Examples from other journalists: But, of course, there is power in pure description. Kayla McDowell just wrote a beautiful piece on Columbia women’s journey to the March on Washington. She gave vivid details and let sources speak for themselves. Ultimately, McDowell made her piece more powerful by leaving the heavy analysis for another article and making hers a pure vignette.

Islam at MU and Pop Culture References I Don’t Really Get

Two weeks ago, we at MU were lucky enough to have a talk by Suhaib Webb, a Muslim convert and religious scholar (yes, his Arabic is fantastic). He made Islamic scholarship pretty accessible to American and immigrant Muslims, as well as non-Muslims, with his many hip-hop references. This guy had it down, and, if interested in these topics, I suggest you read up on him.

Here’s the coverage, published in the Missourian March 15.

Making Shebbakiah in Tangier: Because during Ramadan, everything is zero calories

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About a month after finishing my year in Ifrane, I returned to Morocco for a Critical Languages Scholarship in Tangier. Dear readers, it is such an experience: I’m living with an impossibly wonderful host family and roommate now, and speaking Arabic all the time. I’m also taking part in an almost brutally intensive language program. Free time is therefore spent studying, talking to the family and, because of the recent Ramadan holiday (Eid Mubarak, dear readers!), eating.

So much.

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Leipzig, Germany: Graffiti, J-School and Drinking Chocolate

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The day before saying goodbye to one of the best countries in the world, I traveled to Leipzig to meet Mira at McDonald’s, the premier hangout spot for Americans abroad. (A la 90s, I had been forced by circumstance and stinginess adventurously decided to visit Germany without a working cellphone.)

This almost backfired when I failed to consider the possibility that Germans “just couldn’t even” with two separate McDonald’s within a few blocks of each other. No, they needed a third McDonald’s in the station to feed their gluttonous desires.

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The High Atlas Foundation in Marrakech: Work, fun and surprise publishing

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In March, I traveled south to report on the work of Abderrahim Ouarghidi, a High Atlas Foundation colleague and director of programs for Marrakech. Abderrahim and other members of HAF filled my days with interesting perspectives and visits to rural sites around Marrakech and Essaouira.

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