writing samples

The following are writing samples from my time as a reporter of the Arts and Entertainment section and the Business and Science section, as well as the Business and Science editor of The Signpost at Weber State University. To view more samples of my editorial work, please click here.

Matisyahu makes music with WSU students

Portfolio commentary:
This story came about when I was not yet hired on the staff of The Signpost, but was in a course that required me to be a reporter for them in the Arts and Entertainment section, published or not. I spearheaded this story, as I knew the singer was well-known and I also enjoyed his music. Because the event brought in a massive crowd, I was told the event was top story, front-page material and needed to be written immediately, when I had originally planned to write it in the next couple of days. 
I decided to write the story drawing on the emotion, energy and popularity of the event.

Matisayu performs at Weber State University
During the Q&A session with reggae artist Matisyahu, Weber State University student Mitch Tarbox stood in front of nearly 1,000 people and asked how he, an aspiring rapper, could be heard.

“Well, I’ll tell you the best way,” Matisyahu said. “I’m going to give you a beat right now. Ready?”

Singer and songwriter Matisyahu, who blends orthodox Jewish themes with reggae and hip hop beat-boxing, performed and spoke at WSU on Thursday to a large crowd of students and community members. Starting at 9 a.m., people were lining up, awaiting the artist who was not scheduled until noon. The line eventually pushed through the Shepherd Union Building’s doors, stretching all the way to WSU’s Stewart Library.

About 45 students had the opportunity to attend a meet-and-greet with the artist prior to the show. During the meet-and-greet, which resembled a round-table conversation, Matisyahu pointed to one WSU student at the opposite end of the table and said he remembered meeting him on his tour this past summer.

The student was guitarist Jordan Chad Tanner, who said he knows all of Matisyahu’s songs. During the concert, Matisyahu invited Tanner onto the stage to play guitar for Matisyahu’s song “Darkness into Light.”

“I’ve learned all his lyrics and I can play a lot of his songs,” Tanner said. “I’ve always been a big fan . . . I thought I’d be more nervous than I was. It was just fun. It was cool to be up there . . . Everyone wants to be a rock star, right?”

Upon performing several songs, Matisyahu spoke with the audience in a Q&A session, which increased the reverent, hushed tone of the room.

Several people in attendance observed the energy in the room.

“(It’s) just a great, energetic sound,” said Carlos Emjay, a drummer with the WSU African Drum Society. ”It was a great opportunity to hear him live . . . Whatever he was saying was legit.”

Britta Stumpp, a dancer and an employee at WSU’s library, said she had not heard of Matisyahu until the show.

“I love his message of spirituality versus dogma,” she said.

While known for his spiritual lyrics, Matisyahu stated his belief that not all religious people are deep thinkers. His words on the matter generated a large amount of cheers.

“Trust me, I’m surrounded by a lot of religious people, and a lot of times they’re the most shallow thinkers, you know?” he said. “But I guess for me, again, I try not to think of things in terms of religion, or not religion . . . Everyone has their own trip that they’re on, basically.”
WSU Convocations, a committee of students who choose speakers and performers to come to WSU, brought Matisyahu to campus.

“We make sure they have a message,” said Tara Peris-Caputo, Convocations adviser and coordinator of Clubs and Organizations. “His was spirituality in music. It went really well.”

Nathan Chappell, a musician who attended with his daughter, said Matisyahu is an inspiration.

“He’s the best,” Chappell said. “He’s awesome. He embodies a lot of ideals I think we need to get closer to. Beyond the music, I think his approach to life is balanced and something I’d like to be more like.”

According to his MySpace page, Matisyahu is a “Hasidic Jewish musician from New York City singing reggae songs about his religious devotion.”

Exploring pristine Russia

Portfolio commentary:
I wrote this as the business and science editor and was under the impression that this story was another routine guest speaking engagement focusing on scientific research. However, as speaker Jeffrey Hazboun related his adventure about an untouched foreign land with beautiful photographs, I knew I must approach the angle with illustrative language. Two more reasons I needed more of a feature-like angle is because Hazboun's trip to Russia was not timely, as it took place over a year and a half ago, and the only relevance he brought to Weber State University was as a guest speaker.

Source: Reel Water Productions Jeffrey Hazboun is filmed by National Geographic 
while he and a fellow crew member
fish in Kamchatka, Russia.

Although it has been close to a year and a half since Jeffrey Hazboun, the scientist-explorer student from Utah State University, was dropped off by a helicopter on top of some bear tracks at the base of a volcano, his expedition’s impact is still reverberating.
Hazboun, who spoke at Weber State University on Wednesday, attributed the lasting impact of his adventure to Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula to being filmed for the “Russian Giants” episode of Monster Fish on the National Geographic Channel.
The idea for the expedition came from Robert Bart, a friend of Hazboun’s. Bart said he hopes people will become more aware of environmental issues.

“We (hoped that we) could maybe get attention to Kamchatka by being kayakers,” Bart said. “It’s a great hook. If people will see a picture of a kayak running something and its beautiful and impressive,
they will be more likely to read the story as well. So our hope was to be able to tell the story about
how incredible Kamchatka is as well as how important it is ecologically.”
Hazboun and the group he traveled with knew their goal was not merely to find out ways to conserve, but it was “really changing public and institutional desires for conservation.”

For this cause, Hazboun has been spreading the word about Kamchatka and what he described as a region that is still relatively untouched by humans.
“Anytime you do a web search on Kamchatka or talk to anyone who’s been there, what comes up more than anything is fish and salmon resources and the Kamchatka brown bear,” Hazboun said.
“And we realized that this was a very wild place. People kept saying it’s like Alaska was 75 years ago. It’s this magical place, and there’s no other place like it for salmon and for fish and for wildness.”

Kamchatka is home to one-fourth of the world’s spawning sockeye salmon. Hazboun found that because of this poaching for salmon roe is a huge problem.
“They drag chain-link fence across the river and will catch every salmon that’s going up the river,” Hazboun described. “So, they basically kill an entire year’s run from a given river, and they just go on to the next river and the next river. They don’t take the bodies, they only take the eggs.”
Bart expressed his wishes for Kamchatka’s environment and suggested that the government in Russia should develop a sustainability plan.

“The illegal poaching for salmon roe is a billion dollar industry there,” Bart said. “I would love to see some sort of sustainable salmon plan come out that had local buy-in.”

Hazboun noted that merely forcing sustainability laws would not be effective approach.
“I think going back to the idea of globalization, the difficulty becomes in the fact that we can’t tell Russia what to do,” Hazboun said. “We have to convince the people in Russia . . . in some way, that’s not very pushy. We can bring them to here to show them what we’ve done. We can bring people to there to show what an amazing place it is.”
Therese Grijalva, a WSU professor of economics, attended the presentation and said she saw Hazboun’s message as a movement to educate people so they may in turn educate others.

“When you educate, you find experience,” Grijalva said.

Japanese business students visit WSU

Portfolio commentary:
This story was one of the few news-breakers of the semester for the business and science section. We were contacted by a Weber State business professor one morning saying a group of Japanese business students had been visiting the school all week but were leaving the next day. I immediately tracked them down, not being told what room they would be in. Upon interviewing a few of them, I discovered they had a unique opinion about Weber State: the students here were "more serious" than those in Japan -- this is the angle I decided to take.

Students from Keio University, Japan visit a Japanese business language class on Wednesday.

A group of Japanese business students and their professor visited Weber State University this week, finding that students here are more serious and more interactive in their classes than those at the Keio University in Japan.

The students, who were chosen by their professor Hideo Suzuki to travel to WSU, had the opportunity to present their research in WSU’s business classes. Suzuki and student Fan Liang noted that the instructors and their students engaged in discussion during class time.

“I think it’s a good experience to see . . . how American students take class,” Liang said. “Actually, it’s the first time I came to America. It’s quite different from Japan, you know. In Japan, maybe almost all the students just sit in the class and don’t make more communication with (the) professor or with each other, but in the United States, you see in the class they have communication.”

According to Suzuki, it is the way of Japanese culture to have a “teacher tend to (lecture) one way.”

Suzuki, Liang and another student, Yo Takahashi, also noted that students here seem to be more serious.

“It is often said American student is much more serious compared with Japanese students, and I think this is true after we came to America,” student Yo Takahashi said.

WSU business professor Shane Schvaneveldt is a longtime friend of Suzuki’s and explained that in Japan, it is more difficult for students to be accepted into a university and usually take their schooling before college more seriously than their college experience.

Drawing from his own time spent in Japan as a university student, Schvaneveldt said that “Japanese university courses are at a higher level than similar courses in the United States. I do agree that there is a difference in the amount of routine homework involved. ”
“Of course they take their classes, and they’re somewhat serious about that, but (there is) a lot of socializing and not as much pressure,” Schvaneveldt said. “If you do an okay job of your (college) coursework, then you can probably graduate. But in the United States . . . it’s easier to get admitted to the university but it’s hard to do all of the coursework and to persevere and to graduate; there’s no guarantee you’re going to graduate.”
The students also visited a Japanese business language class. For the majority of the 50-minute class, they visited with the WSU students, ultimately staying an additional 30 minutes past class time to converse.

WSU senior Russell Hunsaker said he appreciated the chance to speak and “brush up on” the Japanese language.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve had so much Japanese going on around me, you know,” Hunsaker said. “I served a mission in Japan, so it was nostalgic, I guess you could say, for that reason.”

Suzuki said that the purpose of the trip was to allow his students to “experience a university in America. Maybe in the future they will have to work international. So it’s very useful.”
According to Schvaneveldt, WSU also benefited from their visit through the bridging of the “potential partnerships” and the sharing of their culture, as many students here are not able to travel abroad.

“So with them attending the class and having some discussions, when we exchanged research presentations with each other, that gave our students a chance to see students from another country also doing research on the kinds of topics and issues and experiences they’re having and compare it to themselves and learn from each other,” Schvaneveldt said.


Post a Comment