In my first journalism class, I learned that a basic lede sums up the 5 W's and the H: Who, What, Where, When, Why and How. Here is my new lede for my life:
Who (am I?): I'm Ali Schmitz. I'm a student journalist, social media addict, and a girl on the verge of 21 who's figuring out life.
What (am I doing?): I started blogging again!
Where (am I?): Gainesville, FL. Specifically, on my bed.
Why (am I typing this?): I miss writing a lot.
How (did I end up here?): Read on.
I've always had an eye for news. As a child, I was an observer and eavesdropper. While I can joke about it now, it drove my parents absolutely insane some days. Secrets were difficult to keep from me. I often asked questions, like most kids do... but to extreme levels. I'm lucky to have grown up with parents who would answer my questions in an open-ended manner. I kept a diary as a child, writing down things I noticed about my life. My Barbie dolls often were used to replay the events of the day, condensed into short packages. I ended up being on the TV News team in the fifth grade, where my love for television blossomed. While most of the kids on the newscast enjoyed anchoring, broadcasting the weather, or sharing the school lunch specials, my favorite task was the "slider," AKA running master control.
I didn't realize that I liked journalism much until I joined the yearbook staff and TV news team in the eighth grade. This time around, I was given more control. I took photos, helped write scripts, and updated graphics. I attempted to write my first article in the eighth grade, an intriguing recap of the Pop Warner football season. It was eliminated from the yearbook when my adviser realized that I was the only student who wrote an article. In high school I participated in both newspaper and yearbook, and set my heart upon being a print or web journalist.
When graduation rolled around, my family and I made the decision that I would stay home to receive my AA degree at a state college to save money. I'm so glad that I did. In high school I had my heart set on a different college, and if I hadn't stayed home, I wouldn't have chosen UF. During the eighteen months I spent at Daytona State College, I grew incredibly as a journalist and human being. I began taking classes with Elena Jarvis who, before teaching at DSC, worked as a music journalist and advised UCLA Student Media. I eventually became managing editor of the campus paper, In Motion, all while juggling a full course load and two other jobs. While that final semester at DSC was one of the busiest times of my life, I wouldn't change it for the world.
In January 2014, I began my time at the University of Florida, originally enrolling as a Journalism major. I grew to love social media as my classes integrated them into lectures. I took a class about investigative reporting, and loved it. I began running social media for student organizations, and advising classmates on career planning.
During Fall 2014, I realized that what I loved about news was not writing articles, but news itself. I struggled through Reporting, and wanted to cry all through my visual journalism class. I thought that I had made the wrong choice, that I had decided my major too quickly. I hated writing articles, and grew to despise the endless interviews that I conducted.
On October 6th, 2014, everything changed. I took a class that fall called Social Media Management, which took place in UF's Innovation News Center, the J-School's integrated newsroom. Every Monday I worked a shift in the INC, collaborating with reporters on what we should Tweet or post on Facebook for WUFT. During downtime, the two guys I worked my shift with and I would often get distracted, and just end up scrolling through Twitter and talking. While Ben and Norman ended up discussing a mutual friend, I noticed that the UF football's weekly press conference was cancelled. I walked up to our Superdesk to inform a news manager, who just brushed it off. I explained to him that cancelled conferences aren't the norm in Gainesville. Seconds later, Mark Long tweeted this:
A news manager immediately called the UAA after seeing that tweet, and so began hours of breaking news: our freshman quarterback Treon Harris was suspended, the suspension was due to a legal matter, that legal matter was alleged sexual battery, and more... For a summed up version of that day, here's WUFT's coverage of the event. Hours after my shift was technically supposed to end, I left the newsroom. As I began to pack up my things and say goodbye to a friend, one of the TV reporters walked behind me, talking to his friend.
"Schmitz would be a good producer. She killed it today."
My knowledge of news production was limited to what I had seen on episodes of The Newsroom and Mary Tyler Moore. I started asking questions the next few months to advisers and friends about the Telecommunications - News program. The day before the Spring semester started, I entered the advising office to change my major. My adviser initially questioned my decision, but then began having me fill out forms. She reminded me that I still had to test into my major, then wished me luck.
The news spread around the college slowly, and the reactions varied. My favorite came from a former professor who responded, "Well, we lost another one to TV." Some students questioned if I had a quarter-life crisis. When I officially tested into the Telecommunications - News major on the first try, everything felt right.
Now? I'm starting to report for radio. I'm associate producing First at Five, WUFT's flagship newscast, once a week. I'm rebranding myself, inside and out. I'm busy, but happier than I've ever been.
This post is my lede. I hope you keep reading on.
Multiplatform journalist. University of Florida Grad. Last seen at News21 and WUFT News.
"Good news is rare these days, and every glittering ounce of it should be cherished and hoarded and worshipped and fondled like a priceless diamond."