Walking into that sterile meeting room flooded with fluorescent lights and empty seats, I couldn’t help but a feel a sense of deflation. After 20 minutes of tension filled with Emilia scurrying back and forth from the bureaucratically unresponsive front desk and her student group who decided to fill its time with selfies and facebook, I expected us to walk late into a meeting that was already buzzing with ideas and a days work to be had. We were greeted by Ashley Wood who welcomed us to fill the empty seats and two writers who only briefly looked up from their notes. “How old are they? Are we allowed to swear in front of them?” a writer asked to Wood as we filed into the room.
The meeting soon commenced with another writer joining a few minutes later. Wood reviewed the performance of previously published stories, with the conversation soon shifting to the work to be done in following days. We watched and took notes from afar.
As the meeting wound down, Wood continued to play mediator, asking us if we had any questions. As questions of the journalism industry started to punctuate into the conversation, tensions eased and dialogue began to flow. They were journalists at the end of the day and were upfront about their passion for their work and the frustrations of not having those passions fulfilled by previous position.
As the Freep staff members began to express their hopes for the future of their profession, the 25-44 bubble burst and we began to express our hopes and fears in return. Our group wasn’t shy to express our generational habits of news and media consumptions, nor thoughts on how the journalists, themselves could better accommodate for an audience they weren’t targeting. Balancing this, one staff member commented how even though the students were soon to grow into the demographic with the power and money to pay the writers’ bills, they lacked an identity. College students are flighty — intensely proud of who they are, and changing year to year on beliefs and values, seldom with a wavering in that confidence filled with a bubble of ignorance. Even so, Wood found optimism in a shared vision: “I’m excited for your generation because, frankly, you see through the bullshit.And when you become part of that 25-44 demographic, you’re going to have a sophisticated view of news and require that out of us.”
It was a good note to end on and made me feel more connected to them as people. As a multimedia journalist aspirant, I came in wanting to know about the people. I wanted to know what drove them and how they reconciled making a livelihood with their humanistic duty to further the progression of society. The answers they gave were largely unanswered and expressed a sense of mixed feelings — a real sign of how human they were and something that made me feel more connected to them. After all, we’re all in conflict and all we can really do at the end of the day is express our views based on our own backgrounds and surround ourselves with others who will do the same.
As I walked out of the meeting, I couldn’t help but notice the large group staff photo that was hanging in their office. As others scurried around the office, I stopped and stared, searching for my boss, a former Freep multimedia journalist. A writer came up to me and started reminiscing about the moment and began telling stories about the individuals who were in the photo. Another writer came up and started reminiscing, too. They laughed about quirks of members come and gone, they lamented the strike that followed soon after the photograph, and were saddened by the death of a former managing editor. They cared about each other and were a weird family of their own. That’s what I’ve always wanted from journalism, as selfish as that may be.
Thanks, Emilia. I really enjoyed this trip.