Prompt #8 – News

I was surprised by the high quality of the articles from this week, considering that they all came from high school and college publications. In most ways, they blend in well with stories that one would see in professional publications. I suppose the biggest difference would be the scale of the stories: professional publications would focus on much broader subjects that apply to a larger audience.

‘In the Dark” from the College Heights Herald seems to have required the most reporting to produce. It’s filled with an impressive array of well-researched information that works well to build a compelling story. On the flip side, I think “Feminine Products Kept Hidden” required the least amount of research. That being said, the feminine products story was one of my favorite from this week’s set. The intensiveness of reporting doesn’t always directly correlate with the quality of a story.

“In the Dark” was ultimately my favorite story from this week. What first caught my eye was the impressive design of the article. The high-quality design was followed up with an equally impressive story, full of well-research statistics, quotes, screenshots, and infographics.

Any of these stories could be written with a focus on Piedmont College (although hopefully less information would be found on sexual assault.) In pretty much any case, it would be important to interview people on both ends of the hierarchy: President Mellichamp and members of the general student body.

Twin Titans Part Ways

Tariq and Malik Abdulgader are hard to miss. For the last three years, the six-and-a-half foot twins have played on the Piedmont men’s basketball team as forwards. At a distance, the pair may seem menacing: two titans, one sporting fluffy curls and a dark goatee, the other with a clean-shaven head and bushy beard. Up close, however, their wholesome charm and brotherly love shine nearly as brightly as their persistent smiles.

“We do everything together,” Tariq said. “It’s like the saying, ‘from the womb to the tomb.’ We’ve been through so much together, and we’re always there for each other when we need help. He’s been there with me for my whole life.”

Their bond began in Roswell, G.A., where the twins were born in 1997. They grew up doing everything together, and even discovered their passion for basketball at the same time.

“Most people start playing basketball at a really young age, but we didn’t start playing until the eighth grade,” Malik said. “We had to do a lot of extra work to catch up to other players, and having Tariq there always helped me stay motivated. I would see him doing drills in the driveway, and it would push me to keep practicing too.”

Starting at such an old age gave the Abdulgader twins a disadvantage on the court, but what they lacked in experience they made up for in communication.

“When two people play together for a long time, they’re going to build chemistry,” Tariq said. “Me and Malik had that from the beginning. As soon as we started playing basketball together, we were already synched up. I could always tell where he was going to be and what he was going to do, and vice versa. We didn’t have to build that connection on the court, we came into the game with it.”

The brothers’ bond has grown even stronger during their time at Piedmont, serving as one another’s support, both on and off the court.

“Malik’s that one person in my life who always keeps me in check,” Tariq said. “He’s somebody who I can always go to talk to if there’s something on my mind.”

Their support system was tested this season when Tariq fractured his ankle during practice the day before a game. While he healed, he couldn’t play for the Lions and the brothers’ on-court connection was put on pause.

“I could see how frustrated he was because of how much he loves to play,” Malik said. “Seeing him come out onto the court after being out for so long – seeing him smiling during that game – that was a really proud moment for me.”

Soon, Tariq and Malik will be parting ways for the first time in 20 years. Tariq will be staying at Piedmont to finish his degree in accounting, while Malik transfers to Georgia Tech to complete his degrees in engineering and math.

“We’ve always been around for each other,” Malik said. “It’ll be weird not having someone there to talk to all the time. We’ll keep in touch though, and I’ll come to visit his games.”

As Tariq continues playing basketball throughout his final year at Piedmont, Malik will be finding his place within the athletic department at Georgia Tech.

“I’m not sure if I’ll play for Georgia Tech, but I definitely don’t want to become uninvolved in sports,” Malik said. “I want to get involved with their basketball team or football team, even if it’s on the management side.”

As the twins prepare to part ways, they continue to leave their mark on Piedmont College. Despite Tariq’s injury, the pair managed to bring in a total of 34 points for the Lions this season, helping steer the team towards their record of 15-11 and 10-6 in conference play.

One of their closest friends, Zach Obie, has watched the brothers grow since their start at Piedmont three years ago.

“Knowing Malik and Tariq has been a treat,” he said. “Watching them struggle and watching them succeed has really showed me who they are now and who they’re trying to be. Whenever they lose a game, whenever they get a bad grade on a test, they come back twice as hard. They’re hard working, they’re nice, they’re just all around good guys. I think that they’ll do well wherever they go… my checking account is kind of banking on them succeeding.”

The twin titans continue to support each other through the end of their joint college careers, and as summer fast approaches, their bond is stronger than ever.

Diane Roberts Speaks at Piedmont College

On the evening of March 29, award-winning journalist Dr. Diane Roberts lectured to a small crowd of Piedmont students, faculty and community members at the Swanson Center Main Stage. Roberts spoke about the role of literature in social justice, focusing intensely on the work of Lillian E. Smith, a local author and civil rights advocate from the mid-1900s.

“Lillian Smith attended Piedmont College and now she’s one of the most important parts of college life,” Roberts said. “I think her sensibility really fits Piedmont.”

Roberts is the author of four books and a long-time political columnist, having written for the New York Times, the Guardian, the Washington Post, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and now the St. Petersburg Times. Roberts has researched extensively on the life of Lillian E. Smith, publishing an article about her, titled “Stay and Resist,” in the Fall 2016 issue of Oxford American.

The lecture stayed focused on the life and literature of Smith, emphasizing the importance of her controversial novel, Strange Fruit.

“In 1944 [Smith] published a book called Strange Fruit, which exploded on the American scene like a roman candle,” Roberts said. “This was a genuine dirty book, according to the U.S. Postal Service. They wouldn’t mail it. It was banned in Boston and Detroit. A Massachusetts district judge declared it obscene and likely to corrupt the morals of youth. What on earth could this book be about? Well, it was about an interracial relationship.”

Roberts described Strange Fruit, along with the rest of Smith’s writing, as a glimpse into a portion of America’s past that’s often overlooked: southern progressivism.

“Lillian Smith’s books are a testament to the southern progressivism that I think we forgot even existed,” Roberts said. “We think that the Civil Rights Movement went poof-up with the Montgomery Bus Boycott, but there was a long lead-up to that. This southern progressivism was fed and nurtured by Lillian Smith. She advocated for it, she worked for it, she attacked the things she felt needed attacking.”

What Smith felt needed attacking, Roberts explained, was the “big house” of white supremacy.

“This big house is splendidly furnished with myth and nonsense,” she said. “It’s haunted by rape, lynching, war, poverty and ignorance. In the kitchen you have black women working. In the parlor you have white women sitting there, being ‘good.’ Lillian E. Smith was born in raised in this big house, but she refused to be a part of it. If she was to talk about the big house, it would be to reveal that it was rotting. And she didn’t want to fix it up, she wanted to burn the whole thing down…. She was a white lady who went wrong in all the right ways.”

Roberts’ speech was insightful to many in the audience, introducing a side of Lillian Smith that often goes unknown to Piedmont members.

“I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Diane Roberts talk about Lillian Smith,” said Nathan Galloway, a sophomore exercise science major. “I had never known all of the contributions that Smith had made to the big civil and social rights movements of the 20th century. It was really cool to hear that one of our Alumni was a respective civil rights champion, and to hear that all these years later, there is still truth in the words that she wrote.”

Some students were less impressed by the lecture, wishing that Piedmont would take things even further to foster insightful discussions about social justice.

“I think the true insights offered from [Roberts] were on how much we’ve developed inclusiveness in modern years,” said Kadence Cole, a junior theatre arts administration major. “Her language was dated, and after she insulted multiple historical figured who committed suicide by calling them ‘crazy,’ I realized she was truly mediocre. I hope Piedmont can bring actual people of color onto campus to discuss race issues next time. I feel that would be a much more appropriate and insightful event.”

Prompt #7 – Event Coverage

Event coverage, at its most basic core, communicates the “five Ws and the H”: who, what, where, when, why and how. All of the stories that we read this week, however, do a whole lot more than that. In addition to explaining the vital information of events, they carefully scoop pockets of detailed information that breath importance into the story. Taking minutes at a meeting may serve the same basic purpose as writing event coverage, but the journalistic story should take it a step further by walking the reader through why the event was important to them.

Additional reporting is also necessary for event coverage. This unlocked background information can be used to build a strong base for your story and give rich context to the happenings of the event.

On the surface, I think these stories come across more as news stories than features. (They are, after all, explaining a newsworthy event.) Looking at them a bit closer, though, they tend to focus on rich pockets of information that remind me a lot of features stories.

Prompt #6 – Sports

As I’ve probably made frustratingly clear in my time writing for The Roar, my lack of knowledge and interest in the world of athletics is my worst trait as an aspiring journalist. I recognize that sports are incredibly important to many, especially in the United States. Because it’s important to readers, it must be valued, to a certain extent, by writers. This is something that I definitely struggle with.

Reading the stories from this week’s prompt gave me a bit of hope in this subject. Many of the stories showed that sports-focused journalism can go so far beyond a play-by-play report of a basketball match. Instead of focusing on the performance of athletes or teams, these stories focused on the human elements: the struggles of certain players, what they’re feeling, what they’re thinking and how they’re changing in life.

The story that I think did this the best was the feature on James Washington written by Nathan Ruiz. I was immediately gripped by the lead and stayed enthralled until the incredibly satisfying ending. It read much more like a novel than what I would predict from a “sports story,” which was as impressive as it was surprising to me.

I didn’t feel like the details were over-dramatized in the stories that we read this week. I’ve seen examples of this in the past, but these stories all seemed to stay honest.

Without a doubt, some sports-knowledge helps when piecing together a sports story. That being said, these examples all proved that a “human story” can be just as good (much better, in my eyes) than a “sports story.”

The Importance of Black Panther

“I have never seen a movie so intense and liberating before. There wasn’t a single part of it that I didn’t like.”

Chandler Allen’s remarks about Black Panther are powerful, and they don’t stand alone. The newest addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has been met with wild success, receiving a score of 97 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and sprinting its way to the top of the list of Marvel’s most lucrative films.

The movie is loved by many, but it’s played an especially important role to its black audiences. It’s the first film in the MCU to focus on a black hero, and it proudly bears a cast of color. In the world of pop culture, this is a rarity at best.

“I’ve never seen a movie that embraced African culture as much as Black Panther,” said Allen, a freshman musical theatre major. “I’m African, and it made me feel so in-tune with the culture. There were a lot of genuine African elements, like lip plates and the garments that some characters wore. It’s really important that we’re diverse in culture, and I think Black Panther adds to that.”

The majority of Black Panther is set in Wakanda, a fictional African nation untouched by European civilization and kept a secret from the rest of the world.

“I was really impacted by the value that Wakandans held in their country,” Allen said. “Any one of them would literally die for their people, and I really took that with me. It was inspirational to see how dedicated they all were, how in-tune with one other they were and how much they trusted each other.”

Wakanda also holds a special place in the heart of Jacson Moody, a senior educational studies major at Piedmont College and a lifetime comic book super-fan.

“Wakanda shows what Africa could have been without European colonization,” he said. “That’s something that I really connect to and has always drawn me to Black Panther. Wakanda shows us what we can accomplish without other people getting in our way. It makes us go back to our roots, and it gives us hope.”

Straying away from the format of Marvel’s typical flick, Black Panther discusses an array of difficult topics that are seldom seen on the big screen. This resonated especially with Dashawn Crawford, a junior theatre for youth and technical theatre double major.

“Black Panther addresses some issues that really aren’t being talking about in other films,” Crawford said. “A large part of the movie focuses on the huge disconnect between Africans and African Americans, and that’s something that a lot of people don’t know about. We should be talking about these things and educating ourselves so that we can work on them. Black Panther handles this conversation so well. This is the first movie that I’ve ever seen twice while it was still in theaters, and I’m probably going to see it a third time.”

Luna Cox, a junior theatre arts and technical theatre double major, has also gone to see the film several times since its release. It’s quickly become her favorite film in the MCU.

“On the basic level, it was empowering to see so many people on screen that look the way I do,” she said. “I think we’ve come to a point in our society where we’ve realized the importance of black representation in the media. What we have yet to really discuss, though, is whether that representation is positive. Sure, I might see a lot more black movies now than when I was young, but the fact of the matter is, half of them are either exploitative Tyler Perry movies or straight-to-DVD films that get no traction. Finally seeing a positive representation of black people – seeing people living proud black lives –  that was powerful.”

With the vast level of success that Black Panther has reached, many see the film as a hopeful illustration of what’s possible in the realm of superheroes and the world of filmmaking.

“We’ve been telling ourselves that we need to give things a chance for so long,” Cox said. “Black Panther was a real chance. It was black written, black directed, black produced, black starred. In such a politically tumultuous time, this movie really stands out as a beacon that we are ready for change. That change can be done right. Change can be done honestly, and change can start a conversation that resonates in our daily lives.”

Speaking of Success

Graduating a year ahead of schedule, Raymundo Hernandez is already applying to law schools across the state. Before he knows it, he’ll be studying for his last set of final exams at Piedmont College. Only this time, he’ll be doing it in the wee hours of the morning at the University of Wisconsin.

Hernandez is the co-president of the Piedmont Debate and Speech Team, which competed at the Georgia Intercollegiate Forensic Association Tournament on Feb. 17. Piedmont left the tournament with several awards, Hernandez taking third place in the extemporaneous speaking category. For this feat, along with his performance in the impromptu category at a competition earlier in the year, Hernandez will be the only contestant to represent the state of Georgia at the National Forensics Association (NFA) National Tournament, held at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh from Apr. 18-23.

“This is definitely the biggest accomplishment in speech and debate that I’ve gotten so far,” Hernandez said. “In high school, I did go to the state tournament, which to me at the time was the equivalent of the national tournament that I’m going to be going to now. Getting to state was a great accomplishment for a high schooler, but as of right now this is the highest achievement in speech and debate that I’ve gotten. It’s a blessing, if you will.”

The NFA nationals will be the final bang of Hernandez’s speech and debate career, which started four years ago.

“In high school, I quit my football team right around my sophomore year and started to dabble with speech and debate,” he said. “I didn’t fully commit to it until my senior year in high school, though. Then, at Piedmont, I jumped straight into speech and debate as a freshman.”

As the co-president of Piedmont’s debate and speech team, Hernandez manages the debate side of the team. Both categories that he will be competing in, however, are speech.

The first category he’ll be competing in, which he placed for at the Autumn in the Mountains Tournament at Berry College, is impromptu. Impromptu is one of the most difficult categories to compete in and requires the ability to think extremely quickly.

“You go into the room that you’re going to be speaking in and you sit down in front of a turned over piece of paper,” Hernandez said. “The judge gives you five seconds to turn the paper over and read the prompt. Usually it’s a quote, a proverb or even a political cartoon. As soon as those five seconds are up, you have two minutes to put a five-minute speech together. In that time, you have to make your speech as organized as possible, you have to find the right words to give yourself confidence and you have to fill it with enough content, from memory, to make it sound intelligent. Going to nationals for something as difficult as impromptu… I mean, it makes me proud of myself. It’s a pretty great honor.”

Hernandez will also be competing in the extemporaneous category, which is a larger-scale format of speaking, focusing on heavier topics that require more research.

“Extemporaneous is a bit different than impromptu,” Hernandez said. “You get 30 minutes to prepare a five to seven-minute speech, but it’s always a very politically-heavy topic. I’d say that extemporaneous is a bit easier than impromptu, because instead of being given a single proverb or quote to base a speech off of, you’re given three questions to choose from. Sometimes you’ll get lucky and find a topic that you already know quite a lot about. The first topic that I had at the state tournament was, ‘Who is winning the battle over confederate monuments in Georgia?’ This one was pretty easy for me, because I had already done a lot of research on the topic in my own time. The second topic that I had, however, was, “Is U.S. financial disengagement impeding Iraq economic recovery?’ Of the options I had to choose from, this was the one that I knew the most about, which is really saying something.”

Dakota Stockton, co-president of the team, manages the speech side of things. He’s proud of Hernandez’s accomplishments as a leader and is supremely confident in his abilities as a speaker.

“[Hernandez] has played such an integral role, not only as a leader but as a speaker for our team,” Stockton said. “He has put his own life to the side to make sure that we have the best possibility for success. For the last three weeks of practice, he didn’t practice his own speech a single time. I don’t say this to brag on his speaking skills, but his people skills. He didn’t practice because he spent his time helping another team member prepare for her own speech, hoping that his efforts would help place her in the finals of the state tournament, which they did.”

“He helped me by listening to me and working with me on my speech about ending the stigma against mental illnesses,” said Nicole Thomas, a member of the Debate and Speech Team. “Ray as always been very encouraging to all the members of the team.”

Hernandez’s peers aren’t alone in their pride for him – Dr. Janice Moss is the adviser to Piedmont’s Debate and Speech team, and she has been watching him grow from the start of his higher education.

“It is an honor teaching and coaching such an extremely talented student,” she said. “His compassion and kindness for others is simply amazing. I am proud of him.”

While he’s honored and eager to compete at the NFA nationals, Hernandez is also nervous about performing at such a high-stakes competition.

“Going to nationals is a huge honor for me, but it is kind of a double-edged sword,” he said. “Everyone is going to be watching me, and if I do badly, everyone will want to know what happened. I honestly don’t know how I’m going to do, because I’ll be up against the best of the best in the entire country. All I can say is that I’m practicing as much as I can.”

Regardless of how he fairs at the tournament, Hernandez is grateful to have experienced his role on Piedmont’s debate and speech team. As he prepares to leave Piedmont and embark on a new adventure at law school, he’s excited to use his skills as an aspiring lawyer.

“I’ve wanted to be a lawyer since I was 16,” he said. “I’m applying for different law schools in Georgia now. Hopefully after I leave Piedmont, I’ll be doing lots of mock trials. The speech and debate skills that I’ve learned here will definitely help me there, where I’ll be able to apply them to a more realistic courtroom setting.”

Geared with his experience as a debater and speaker, Hernandez is ready to take on the NFA nationals, law school and whatever may come after. Above all, though, he’s ready to have fun.

“I’ve done this so much that at this point it’s just fun for me,” he said. “I really enjoy having conversations with people who are passionate about the things that I am. The experience has genuinely helped me see things from the opposite perspective of my own political identity, and I think it’s made me more open minded. I like arguing, I like finding out different points of view and I really like winning.”

Prompt #5 – Entertainment

The five entertainment stories that we read this week all contain very strong news elements, which surprised me. They’re not simply critical analyses of entertainment pieces – they each focus on a larger story that surrounds the art itself. In (nearly) every story, there’s also a presence of some sort of struggle or dilemma – there are always two sides that are combating against each other in actions or opinions, creating friction in the story.

I found the “casting controversy” story by Sopan Deb to be the most interesting piece of the bunch. The focus on a social struggle is gripping as is, but the added unique setting of a New York high school seals the deal for me. I found it super interesting that such a struggle was taking place on such a small-scale level, and it was fascinating to see how intense of a response the students got from internet trolls. While all of the stories were interesting, this one resonated with me the most.

In every entertainment example that we read, not much opinion was given on the works themselves. This totally took me by surprise (as my first reaction to “entertainment story” is always “review”) but I completely understand why the writers chose to avoid the subjectivity. By focusing on the news elements of each story, their message came across clearly without stepping on any readers’ toes.

Prompt #4 – Feature Profiles

Feature profiles are a great way to give non-intrusive insight into another person’s life. Because of the intimacy that often comes along with this type of story, they have a lot of potential to communicate strong and impactful emotions to the reader. They’re even more powerful, I think, when the subject of the story focuses on something foreign to the reader.

Nicolás Romero’s profile piece about Jorge Garcia, the Michigan father who was deported to Mexico, is a perfect example of a journalist bringing a foreign story right to the noses of the readers. The story covers a dreary subject – a man unwillingly separated from his family – and addresses the topic quite appropriately. Enhanced by the soft lighting and gloomy emotion of Mandi Wright’s photos, Romero’s story carries a very muted tone.

It’d be hard to find someone who would walk away from Romero’s story without a feeling of sadness or anger. Garcia doesn’t stand alone in his situation, but by focusing on his ordeal, the story acts as a beacon, spreading awareness on behalf of everyone else who is facing similar circumstances. Of the examples that we read this week, I think this story took the most amount of effort to report and write. For this type of story, a lot of effort is required to make a change.

I didn’t dislike Brittany Spanos’ story about Camila Cabello, but I don’t think it took a huge amount of effort to produce. The story is about a simple topic and doesn’t contain much of any controversy or social commentary. Most (if not all) of the quotes were pulled from a single short interview, I would guess. The story about pop culture, so it’s written as a pop culture story.

As Joe is undoubtedly aware of at this point: sports… not my forte. I don’t have any particular interest in the world of athletics – I did watch the Super Bowl this year (while writing my review story) but I wouldn’t have been able to tell you that Nick Foles was on that field before reading Benjamin Hoffman’s story.

I know that I’m probably supposed to have liked the story even though I’m not into the topic, but it just didn’t catch my attention at all. I felt like I was being told an in-depth story about someone’s trip to the grocery store. I’m miles outside of the target audience, and I wouldn’t have gotten past the second paragraph it I wasn’t reading it for an assignment.

I think half the battle in writing feature profiles is finding a good subject to focus on, and on a campus as tiny as Piedmont’s, it takes extra vigilance to find an interesting topic. (Let’s be honest, nobody wants to read a story about why some random student chose the major that they did.) I really want to find a story that’s fascinating and powerful for this next project, and I hope I’m able to. I also really liked the use of photos in Romero’s story about the deported father and Pincus’ story about LGBTQI+ students. They added a huge amount of intimacy and sincerity to the stories, and I’d like to bring that same quality to more of my writing.

The Disaster Artist: Short-Form Review

“The Disaster Artist” is a feel-good take on the story behind the endearingly horrible movie, “The Room.” The film gives audiences a unique look at the production of “The Room,” which is universally considered the world’s best bad movie. Brothers James and Dave Franco shine onscreen, displaying a touching chemistry that’s seldom seen in this genre of comedic biopics. James Franco’s depiction of Tommy Wiseau, the mysterious mastermind behind “The Room,” is spot on and wildly entertaining. Although the film certainly could have taken more risks, it leaves a good taste in the audience’s mouth and works well as a fun, lighthearted story. 6.5/10