Whatever happened to that kid?

The last week of the year is a challenge for anyone in the news business; there’s simply very little news going on.

So it’s a good time to waste time — cleaning out the e-mail, for example.

Today, I started chucking e-mails that I’ve saved in the “Stuff to Save” folder. There are e-mails from colleagues who are dead now, couples who are divorced, and the rare missive from someone who wrote something nice. There are passwords for sites that no longer exist. But some are e-mails I saved for reading later, and then never got around to.

There’s this one, for example, from November 2003 from a high school student at Jefferson High School in Bloomington, who attended a symposium MPR had offered for young people who might be interested in a career in journalism. I was managing editor for MPR’s online news division then (there were only two of us).

We do very few of these anymore, which is too bad because there’s nothing more invigorating for journalists than young people who are interested in the field.

Anyway, she wrote a thank-you note to the person who was my boss back then:

I can honestly say I enjoyed all the speakers, but I was especially intrigued by Mr. Collins’ speech about online journalism. I think it’s very interesting that radio as a news medium, in particular, has embraced online journalism to the degree that it has. I have heard quite often that online journalism means the end of journalistic reporting as we now know it. Of course, this is true, but Mr. Collins emphasized particularly how that is not a bad thing. He implied that it perhaps makes the job a bit more difficult, but it also allows the public access to more information. That, of course, is what journalism is all about. His speech made me realize that journalism is at a very exciting point right now, evolving and becoming something better than it was before. He also tied his speech in well with Mr. Skolar’s talk on Interactive Journalism. I also found this topic particularly interesting. I find that many people my age, myself sometimes included, tend to be quite apathetic about events that are happening around them. By allowing people to, in effect, become the news, it should increase interest. That’s simply human nature. What an absolutely ingenious idea.

I wondered whatever happened to that kid? So I “Googled” her and found her… at the Washington Post. She made it to the big time.

Good for you, Hayley Tsukayama!

I wonder what else is in this email folder?

  • essjayok

    I hope you sent her an email, Collins. Great story!

  • Fantastic! Thanks for sharing!

  • Jamie

    That’s a really nice story, Bob. She seemed like a surprisingly thoughtful and articulate high-schooler. Glad she’s doing well.

    About one thing she wrote:

    //”By allowing people to, in effect, become the news, it should increase interest.”//

    I don’t know if that is as ingenious as it is unfortunate.

  • Bob Collins

    //that is as ingenious as it is unfortunate

    You have to put it in the context of what the Public Insight Network is (it was originally called Interactive Journalism) in its initial conception. I would say what she meant was people becoming a part of the news.

    It doesn’t say that we take any old schmoe and make news out of them; it says that we include their expertise in stories and give people an avenue for informing the news media about what issues concern them, giving newsroom a less patriarchal role in the storytelling.

    The alternative is the “Golden Rolodex” style of journalism which is what has given us the same few people saying the same old things so often that newsrooms instinctively consider it news, while the real world goes on.

    Basically, it’s designed to give the out-of-touch people less influence and the people living their lives more influence in stories and tapping into their considerable expertise.

    For some reason, people look down their noses at those people, especially in traditional newsrooms. They shouldn’t.

    Everything she was told back then, is every reason that went into the creation of NewsCut.

  • Jamie

    Thanks for the explanantion. That IS smart. I understood what she wrote differently.

    You say “Public Insight Network … in its initial conception.” Has it become something very different?

  • Hayley Tsukayama

    Imagine my surprise when someone says this to me via Twitter. I actually owe you another thank you note. I still remember that symposium and think of it as one of the experiences that helped me turn a knack for writing into a passion for journalism.

    So thanks again: for the inspiration then, for the work you do now and for the trip down memory lane.

  • Tyler

    And here I was hoping this would be a followup to the Balloon Boy story.