What I plan to do when these new robot journalists take my job…

I just received an email from my journalism professor that said we don’t have to come in to lab tomorrow. Seeing as I dropped Spanish class (I know. I’m Mexican, right? what the fuck?) and we don’t have any more 8 am lectures in J301, I really can’t think of anything that I have going on tomorrow.

So naturally, I got out of bed. The laundry machines are always open this late at night, but I really don’t want to commit two (or more) hours to doing my laundry. That doesn’t even include folding it, which is the worst part of the entire laundry experience.

I’m not sure what I’ll do with myself tomorrow, let alone what I’m going to do with myself after I get done writing this. I just felt like writing and I’m still trying to get through this writer’s block, mind you. I’ve got a massive story due next week and I’ve got some tweaks to give my final psychology paper, so now’s not the best time to struggle with words.

So I read some shit today…

According to an article in Wired, there’s an algorithmic system that computers are using to come up with news stories. Someone has to pump raw data into this system, from what I understand, and the computer will whip up a fresh story to be published wherever it needs to be. The stories that this thing is ‘writing’ right now are pretty basic and would probably drive every journalism teacher I’ve ever had nuts, but they’re pretty effective for people who don’t necessarily give a shit about substance — people who just want raw facts, like baseball fans.

Baseball fans don’t care about what they read. They just want numbers…except for this asshat reading a book in the Crown Seats at the K. Come on, dude, the Royals blow but show some KC pride!

The article continues with some blowhard talking about how he thinks the robot-journalist will be able to win Pulitzers and shit within five years. As far as I’m concerned, this guy can fuck off no matter if he’s right or wrong. This guy’s basically saying that I’ve been busting my balls since I was 14 for absolutely nothing because some souped up MacBook is going to make me look like a dyslexic, illiterate baffoon in like ten years.

I don’t know how I feel about this.

I’m usually all about technological innovation. I try to stay up on all the latest shit like this and I usually get somewhat excited when I read it in the middle of my psychology lecture. With a story like this, though, I feel like I’ve all of a sudden turned into an old man — not in the sense of feeling inferior to computers, because a computer will never beat a man with a hammer — because I don’t want this particular technology to develop. I really don’t feel bad about it, either. Theoretically, if the guy in the article’s right, I could be sitting in a newsroom ten years from now and get the good old cop-and-box because a god damn Dell Inspiron is going to be taking my desk.

While I’m not actually that worried about it, it gave me an interesting opportunity to think about what I would do if it were to happen.


So here’s what I’d do.


Note: I’m going to do this with pictures because A) I’m bored as fuck; B) I really don’t want to change the music I’m listening to right now and I can’t write my best and absorb good music at the same time; and C) I’m not stupid. I know people like pictures more than they like words. In a way, I’m the same.

(This is the song I’m talking about. Do yourself a favor.)

 


1. Teach high school kids…maybe even college classes.

Yeah, I realize they don’t make any money. Neither do journalists. If there’s a god, he didn’t bless me with medical-savvy or corrupt business ethics, so I’m fucked no matter what.

2. Go back to school and try to learn how to be a music producer.

3. Try to write books and subsequently develop an alcohol problem.


4. Try to do stand-up comedy and subsequently develop an alcohol problem.

5. (The most likely) Come back to Leawood and spend every night at the bar trying to woo a rich divorcee — and then marry her so I can do whatever I want.

Elin, if you’re reading this, I’d gladly give up my addiction to your ex-husband’s video game, and most of all, I promise I won’t fuck any porn stars. Hit me up, babe.

Thank god I’m decent at what I plan to do for the rest of my life, because if I wasn’t — or if robots take my fucking job — I’d obviously be pretty screwed.

I’m going to go eat a peanut butter and go to bed. I should also probably shave the beard I’ve suddenly acquired, but I don’t think I will.

All the best
AJ

An open letter to several (apparently) closed ears…

Apparently, when you take a nine-month break from updating something that many of your friends and family used to follow closely, your personality, voice, demeanor, character and intelligence can look pretty different when you restart.

To some — as I found out today — that’s a letdown.

Starting to write again yesterday was a bit strange; there were a lot of things that I struggled to verbalize. A lot of the people that used to follow me last summer read it. Some people that didn’t follow me last summer read it. A lot of people gave me feedback, which — to a writer — is always appreciated, whether negative or positive.

Unfortunately, something about either how I wrote it or what I wrote about seemed to worry and confuse a few people. A handful of people jumped to conclusions that aren’t necessarily true, worrying that I’m depressed (couldn’t be more wrong), violent (no?), angry (not really) or that I’m giving up (wrong).

I’m fine, I’m having the time of my life and I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m doing very well for myself; I’d even guess better than most.

A few people even went as far as saying that they I fell short of their expectations. That confuses and surprises me.

For some reason, I’ve loved reading my words on paper (or computer screen, now) since childhood. People could theoretically never read what I write, but I derive enough satisfaction by just being able to read them myself. I almost find it therapeutic. In a journalistic setting, you have to be careful about the way you phrase things and the words you use to paint ideas. I looked (and still look) at this as a relieving format where I never have to do that. I’m a naturally profane person that doesn’t like to hold back, and I don’t have to do that here. It’s my choice.

So that’s what I do. I tell things like they are to me. I say fuck, I say shit and I say cock (on occasion). I complain about things and I question things that sometimes shouldn’t be questioned. That’s what I do in everyday life, and while that may be unsettling to some, it’s how it is. It’s who I am.

Writing is a beautiful thing because, just as easily as it can be read, it can be ignored. There’s no shame in saving yourself some trouble by electing not to read something that unsettles you. If there’s anything that I say or do that unsettles you, don’t waste your time paying attention to it. Nobody is holding a gun to your head and forcing you to embrace my ideas.

In this setting, I don’t really understand how someone could have any expectations for what they’re about to read. I really don’t understand how I could be capable of falling short of those expectations. I sit down at this computer and I write whatever I feel like writing about, and that’s it. There’s no exhaustive editing process. It’s available to anyone who wants to read it, and just as easy, it’s dismissible to anyone who doesn’t.

That being said, I’m not at all sorry about falling short of anyone’s expectations. I’m not trying to meet your expectations, I’m just fucking writing. I’m really trying my hardest to not be a dick, but if you’re unhappy with what you’re reading, or if the words that I write are somehow tainting your perception of me as a person, I’d like to politely ask you to stop reading. Stop worrying. Stop jumping to uneducated conclusions. It appears as if you’ve been riled up, so save yourself the trouble.

 

If you’re happy with what you’re reading, feel free to continue. I’m not going to stop writing any time soon.

All the best
AJ

 

 

 

 

Just like Tupac, I’m back…but still working on becoming a hologram.

According to the traffic statistics at the top of my WordPress ‘Dashboard,’ this blog has been raking in an average of .01 visits per day for the last few months — most of them coming from the continental US, with a rare (and reluctantly appreciated) view from China.

Thanks? I guess the Midwesterner in me is a little creeped out by it, but whatever. I’m published and google-able now and shit, so somewhere down the road I’ll figure out how to deal with random people in Wyoming and China reading about my life. It’s still weird.

Sure, I’ve neglected this puppy for far too long. It’s not that I didn’t have anything to say (I always have something to say), I just kind of stopped. I don’t know why. I think my whole intention in starting this was to keep a running diary of my happenings in New York with the Huffington Post, and when that ended, I just went back to binge-drinking Keystone Light and coffee like a typical college student.

But…I got asked to return to the Huffington Post for another summer, so I guess that means I better start the ol’ blog back up.
(By the way, they just became Pulitzer winners last week. How fucking awesome is that? I work for a Pulitzer-winning publication at the age of 20!)

I actually found out about it last month and was planning on doing it, but I haven’t had the willpower. I’m so fucking drained from school. I’ve had two sub-par semesters that I’m going to have to bust balls to fix in the next two years and I’ve encountered some dumb decisions and their subsequent ‘lessons learned,’ too. It’s sophomore year, though. I feel like I was due for that and I needed it to keep moving forward.

I’ve also had writer’s block like a MOTHERFUCKER the last three weeks. I mean REAL bad. I haven’t been able to write anything. I started writing for The College Town Life and pumped out two funny articles that ended up as the page’s top stories each time (click here for both of them). Then, like a fucking day later, I started writing three different articles that I have no idea how to finish. Thank god I’m not getting paid because they’d have fired me by now. But this has always happened to me during this time of year, even back in my high school journalism days.  It’s never lasted more than a month, so hopefully starting to write on here again will kill it off.

On the bright side, I don’t have any finals. All my shit is due either this week or next, so I will have a full month at home in my bed before leaving for New York. It sounds sweet now, but I’m sure it’s going to bug the hell out of me after two days. I miss New York SO bad.

I’m going to try and write semi-regularly until I leave. It’s going to be hard, but I’ll do my best. I just wanted to get something on here so I actually have the motivation to continue.  If you were expecting to hear riveting, substantial and moving blog posts from me tonight, I’m sorry. I still have writer’s block. It will be better soon, I promise.

All the best
AJ

PS- Stop whatever the fuck you’re doing right now and go read Ben Jensen’s blog, Then Ben Said. I had no idea the dude kept one, but I showed him a music video for a Justice song and it landed me like two paragraphs of the most flattering shit I’ve heard in my life on his last entry. I love this kid and I’ve learned a ton just from being around him, not to mention having him as a close friend. Do yourself a favor and check him out.
If I have anyone to thank for getting me to sack up and end my 9-month blog silence, it’s him.

UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE!!!!!

So I went back and read pretty much everything I wrote on this blog in the past and I realized that I never wrote anything about the last few stories that I was talking about. If you’re friends of mine on Facebook, you’ve probably read/seen these before, but if not, let me give some closure to my previous cliffhangers.

Yeah, it’s 3:13 a.m. Yeah, I have only gotten about four hours of sleep in the last 48. Yeah, I should be working on my J301 homework. Fuck it.

Commercial Space Travel

Notice how I have a mugshot now (I got it literally the last day I was there) and how Saki’s mugshot is much, much different, haha.

Read This Story.

Notes: I absolutely LOVED covering this story. We came up with the idea the morning NASA finally shut down the Space Shuttle program. We kind of wanted to expand on the future of space travel and how commercial entities are taking the reins. My research generally consisted of looking at all the sweet pictures of space on the different companies’ websites and talking to people that are about a thousand times smarter than me. Saki wrote the first half of the story, I wrote the second half. All we had to do was put the two together and submit it. Probably the easiest story I wrote all summer.

Plus, I fucking fit in a simile about Bruce Willis in Armageddon. How often can you effectively do that in a news story? Answer: Once.

I also think that was the only headline that I suggested that Saki immediately loved. I’m not implying that he didn’t ever like my stuff — he did — but we’re both perfectionists when it comes to our writing and we’d usually have to spend a little bit of time finding common ground.

The ATF Firearms Scandal

Read This Story

Notes: This one was tough. This scandal had just occurred that morning and we both had to drop whatever we were working on to roll out a story. One of the trickiest things for journalists to effectively do is get government comment when shit like this goes down, and we had to run around all day trying to get someone to talk about it. I had call-backs from the FBI and CIA press liasons filling up my voicemail for a good two days after it because I couldn’t get through to anyone that day. We talked to some experts and wrote the story. Saki wrote the majority of it — he got a hold of most of his sources, I couldn’t get a hold of the majority of mine.

The Skatepark Foundations Story: My “Final Project” at Huffington Post(VIDEO)

My first solo byline for a national publication

Read This Story (VIDEO)

Notes: I am still so fucking proud of this story. I got a lot of editing help from Saki and Damon (the photographer) took so much time out of his schedule to help me get the shots that I wanted. I busted my balls so hard to get this story done. I had a lot of research to do for Saki’s stories and I had to find ways to get my interviews and field reporting down. It was a squeeze, but it was published on my last day working there — which also happened to be the opening day of the 2011 X-Games, which landed my story on the front page. It’s also my on-camera debut…I’m not sure I’ll have many more, but at least I got the first one out of the way.

Not to mention that I got to interview Tony Hawk and Rob Dyrdek for an hour each. That might have been the coolest thing I took away from the whole summer. I owe Tim and Saki a ton for letting me get this story done. What started as a failed coverage assignment of Go Skateboarding Day in Manhattan turned into my proudest piece.

“The Secret Story”

Read This Story.

That’s what it was. I was keeping so secret because, at the time, it looked as if the angle wouldn’t fall as easily as it apparently did and we didn’t want to give ourselves away. Anonymous is an entity that’s largely more powerful than the government; had they disagreed with anything they had found about our progress on the story at that point, they could have easily flattened our bank accounts and done god knows what else. Saki ended up finding new leads and took the story in a different direction than it was when I left, but it turned out to be absolutely brilliant. I’m glad I got to be a part of it, it’s a huge story and I’m glad that I was there to watch a skilled, experienced reporter track it down.

There, closure. Now I’m going to finish my paper, go to class, and sleep all day.