Monday, September 27, 2010

"These things always happen in threes"

(skip to 1:47)

Today's paper has my first game column. I've written opinion columns having to do with football before, but this was my first one based on a particular game. You know, like real sports columnists do. This was also my first story to appear on The Daily Universe's special football pullout page* every Monday after a game.

My column is about bad things always happening in threes. It's certainly been that way for BYU football.

1) Two big losses in a row, to Air Force and Florida State
2) Riley Nelson out for the season with shoulder surgery
3) O'Neill Chambers being suspended

The week leading up to the game against Nevada definitely did not go in BYU's favor.

Hard-luck Cougars seeing bad things come in threes

The Nevada game was my first time actually covering a BYU home game. It was very, very cool. (It would have been cooler if we won, but oh well.)

This was my view from the press box.

And here is my complimentary meal from Tucano's.

*Go to page 4.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


A couple things frustrating me about The Daily Universe this morning. I'll try not to vent too inappropriately, and I don't mean to badmouth anybody. It's the nature of the biz for not everything to go my way. And it's the nature of any biz, so I need to keep trying to get used to it, I suppose.

1) One of the first stories David and I assigned on the very first day of class was a story about the system in place at LaVell Edwards Stadium for fans to send text messages to stadium security with concerns and issues. We assigned it to a reporter who didn't end up on the sports desk once desk assignments were made, but she still worked on the story and did a pretty good job.

David was the first actually to do the story as a front page package. The new Universe, with the enterprise editor, more involvement from the academic department and other changes, doesn't really do front packages anymore. But we started talking very early on about the story as a package, how to do photos, etc.

Then, another story came in (actually from my COMMS 377 class) that was a profile on the ROTC, and highlighting the ROTC doing pushups at the stadium every time BYU scores and (little known fact) that they are the ones who clean up the stadium after the games.

I thought that would go perfectly with the stadium security story. I forget who brought it up in front page meeting, but it made sense to me. The theme could be something about goings-on at the stadium other than the game itself. Sounded like a good idea to me. And as far as I knew, it was a good idea to everyone else.

But then yesterday in front page meeting, the faith behind the two stories diminished for some reason. First, no one thought the two stories fit together, even though we had been saying they did for some time now. Then, it was determined the ROTC story should wait until there is more photos, even though the photo desk had already found stuff to work with. And, some people thought the stadium security wasn't all that great anyway unless it were "beefed up" a little bit.

I said that I had edited the story and improved it, but I guess it still wasn't "front-page worthy." So, the only way to save the stadium security story for front page (the ROTC story was quickly abandoned) was for me to "beef it up."

I didn't know how I would do that, but I worked on it a little and added to it. There. Done.

Except that when I see the front page this morning, the security story is scooted over to the side and the front page package became a story that was mocked even by the desk it came from. Yes, the "Carp(e) diem" story had better pictures. And the headline was funny, normally it would amuse me. But to see a front page package idea for four weeks turn into barely anything in five minutes is a big letdown.

I mean, I didn't personally write either of the stories or take any of the pictures (although I am in the background of the stadium security picture). I don't have that much personally invested in the package. I just thought it was a good idea, and to see everyone suddenly change their minds is frustrating.

(The green shirt on the left? That's me!)

It reminds me of another job I had at BYU. It seemed like all we did was sit in meetings and talk about doing things. But we didn't or couldn't actually do them because we had to come up with something everyone could agree on. Which is fine. But sometimes it seemed like everyone did agree, and then out of nowhere the unanimity would vanish.

I know it's not good to just want to do everything my way. I need to be able to yield to other people's ideas, and not complain.

Something to work on.

Anyway, here's the stadium security story, by Michelle Menezes:

Stadium fans can text for security

And today's front page:

Carp(e) diem: Seizing the fish

2) Two letters to the editor were published today in response to my "Stewart gets serious" viewpoint. They were fine letters, nothing mean or insulting (like I dealt with sometimes during the spring and summer). Just definitely disagreed with me.

Both letters, especially the first one, thought Jon Stewart and I were promoting political inactivity. I don't think that's what we're going for at all. In fact, it's advocating the opposite. The Rally to Restore Sanity isn't about mediocrity, it's for moderation. Jon Stewart does want people to get involved. He just wants them to do it humanely.

The other reaction was something I sort of expected, saying basically that our country is in serious trouble and that we should be passionately fighting against what our government does. I disagree, but people can live in fear if they wish to, I suppose.

Here are the two letters:

Stewart still a joke
(Be sure to read the comment from Will Matheson at the bottom of the page)

Politically aware

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Return to the Opinion Page

Rally to Restore Sanity

Inspiring, no?

For a long time, fans of "The Daily Show" have been waiting for Jon Stewart to make a response to Glenn Beck's rally at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Instead of just taking another shot at Beck and the FOX News gang, he's going for something that I think is nobler.

Stewart's announcement was inspiring enough for me to write an opinion column on it. So, thanks to my fellow The Dalles Wahtonka Eagle Indian and friend Jade McDowell, there was a spot for a few words from me.

Stewart gets serious - 'Take it down a notch for America'

Unfortunately, Jade wasn't able to fit everything I wrote. Back when I was in charge of the page, if my viewpoint went a little beyond the 750-word limit I crammed it in anyway. But Jade has had some trouble enforcing the word limit, and I didn't want to receive any special treatment. Well, part of me did, but I understand.

Anyway, here's the "director's cut" version of my column:

Jon Stewart has turned from political humorist to political hero.
Ever since Stewart took over the desk at “The Daily Show” in 1999, he has used his flair for unabashed mockery to expose modern politics and media for what it really is. Even though he regularly calls his show a provider of “fake news,” Stewart and his writers have become increasingly relevant as they ridicule the exploits and errors of politicians and pundits.
After Glenn Beck’s latest hijinks – the extravagant “Restoring Honor” rally held at Abraham Lincoln’s feet, on the anniversary of the “I Have a Dream” speech – fans of “The Daily Show” have been anticipating an equal and opposite reaction from Stewart. All last week, Stewart and his counterpart Stephen Colbert have been hinting and teasing their audience about a possible retaliation against the continuing Beck phenomenon.
But when the announcement finally came from Stewart, it went beyond satire. This time, it’s serious.
Instead of going the anti-FOX News or anti-Tea Party route, Stewart is taking the opportunity to take on the big picture. His cause evokes neither FOX News nor MSNBC, neither Sarah Palin nor Rahm Emanuel, neither conservatives nor liberals.
“We live in troubled times, with real people facing very real problems, problems that have real, if imperfect, solutions that I believe 70 to 80 percent of our population could agree to try and could ultimately live with,” Stewart said on his show Thursday. “Unfortunately, the conversation and process is controlled by the other 15 to 20 percent.”
His remedy? “The Rally to Restore Sanity,” to take place in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 30. For real.
Stewart plans on giving a voice to the silent majority. He knows most Americans actually care less about health care reform than they do about getting their kids to soccer practice on time.
“Why don’t we hear from the 70-to-80-percenters?” Stewart asked. “Well, most likely because you have [things] to do.”
Stewart is calling for regular folks to get together and civilly discuss the issues. Instead of resorting to the incessant and wildly provoking extremes shown on the news every day, he is leading a more mundane approach.
“We will gather on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., a ‘Million Moderate March,’ where we take to the streets, to send a message to our leaders and our national media that says, ‘We are here, we’re only here though until six because we have a sitter,’” Stewart said.
Stewart is fighting a revolution against radicalism. He knows the rampant and rancorous discord in our country (although it provides plenty of fodder for his comedy) gets nothing done. He would rather promote for common sense.
There will even be protest signs available to any rally goers too busy for elaborate rally preparation. The signs proclaim passionate war cries like, “I disagree with you, but I’m pretty sure you’re not Hitler” and “I’m not afraid of Muslims/Tea Partiers/Socialists/Immigrants/Gun Owners/Gays … But I am scared of spiders.”
Stewart is obviously having some fun here. But the restoration of sanity is something we need now more than ever.
Fearmongers and name-callers may be popular these days. But as Americans, Latter-day Saints or BYU students, we should have higher class than to give ear to their theatrical, pontificated sound bytes. Why do we have to think of our government and society in terms of conspiracies, untruths and gloom and doom? Why can’t we reach for something nobler and enlightening? Why can’t we lift up, instead of tear down?
No one would disagree that our unique LDS community is predominantly Republican. But that doesn’t mean a Democrat in the White House is a sign that the apocalypse is imminent. Taxes may increase, liberal judges may be sworn in or a mosque may be built in Manhattan. But it is no reason to fear. Just make the best of the situation for the next few years before society’s pendulum will inevitably swing your way again.
The right wing is not the only side that needs to calm down. Progressives should be aware they do not have a monopoly on the answers to today’s questions. Ideas and plans based on traditional values are still viable and not outdated. And at the very least, they should realize a schoolmate uttering “under God” as he recites the Pledge of Allegiance or oil rig worker who still has the gall to “Drill, Baby, Drill” is not actually a personal, mortal threat.
What Stewart wants from you, no matter what your ideology, is fewer knee-jerk rants and more pauses of thoughtful reflection.
“I don’t know, seems like a pretty reasonable request,” Stewart humbly said.
I hope each and every BYU student or alumnus who has the means to accept Stewart’s invitation to march will do so. But even if you are stuck with armchair activism, get ready for some reasoning and moderation that – if allowed to do so – will save the country.
J.J. Despain won’t be able to make it to Washington, D.C., but will keep up the effort to restore sanity at home. For more, go to or follow J.J. on Twitter at @joshjoed.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Guns and Love Letters

Guns and love letters: investigating 'Covert Affairs'

So this semester I'm in COMMS 377, feature writing. It's been fun so far and I think it will get even better. I like writing a little differently, more magazine style than newspaper. And just like COMMS 321, what I write is homework and can be used for The Daily Universe.

I finished a profile on Ezekiel Ansah, just waiting on some artwork to go with it before it's published. And then I also wrote something for a review assignment.

I picked "Covert Affairs," the newest show on USA Network that Erin and I have become big fans of. I figured I could come up with 250 to 350 words about it, plus the first season wrapped up this week so I thought it would be a good way to say, "Hey, this show just had a successful first season, check it out."

I turned it in to my professor, and he responded asking why I would do a review for a show that just ended. (The word he used was "mystified.") I don't disagree with him, he has a good point. Why recommend a show that's not on TV anymore? It makes sense.

But then, Matz the tab editor and Kaye the editorial manager for The Daily Universe read it and thought it was written well, so they talked about getting it into the Friday tab. I didn't really care whether it ended up in the paper or not. Then Matz called me Thursday night, letting me know that one of the tab's stories was pulled even after the paper was all laid out and ready to go, so there would be room for my review. Okay, cool.

Then I see it in the paper, and it just cracked me up because it's made to look like a bigger deal than I intended! Two photos, an infobox, and a pull-out quote. (Go to page 8 here.) Haha, I know all the extra stuff was just to fill up the page (because my review wasn't supposed to be very long). But hey, whatever works.

Anyway, it is a great show. Look for episodes online until time for season two!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Update on the Two-Quarterback System

I had just a quick blurb in the paper today. But I never get tired of seeing my name in print!

Nelson will start at QB

I basically just compiled the Bronco Mendenhall quotes I got on Twitter yesterday. I wrote this article in like ten minutes.

Monday, September 13, 2010

My First Road Trip

It was a tough weekend for Cougar Nation, but I had a fun time.

This was my first time going on the road as a sports writer, and really my first time going on the road to follow a sports team at all (unless you count my trips to Pilot Rock and Stanfield as a high school athlete). The Daily Universe got a lot of extra advertising money this semester (thank you, Macey's!) and so we've planned trips to all of BYU football's away games.

This weekend was my turn. I got to go with one of our 321 football writers, a photographer and my boss Rich to the game against Air Force. I had the assignment of writing a story apart from the game, and write about all of the activities going on to commemorate 9/11.

Being at the Air Force Academy for a football game on a 9/11 anniversary is pretty special. I got to talk to Kenny Haskell of the FDNY and Steve Hayden of the NYPD, who came to the game as honorary captains for the Falcons. I also talked to one of the volunteers passing out copies of the U.S. Constitution at a stadium gate, and he so happened to be the founder of the organization who had the constitutions.

Here's my story:

Air Force honoring the heroes of 9/11

It was a unique opportunity and I'm grateful to have had it.

Here's a photo gallery of more 9/11 celebration:

Photo Gallery: BYU football at Air Force

If you want to read the Universe's coverage of the game, go here:

BYU embarrassed by disciplined Falcons

Turnovers a big key in Cougar defeat*

*(Go to page 6, to the lower left corner.)

Friday, September 3, 2010

Viewpoints for the Weekend

A viewpoint from me in the paper two days in a row:

The best of both worlds

In this one I give my take on the new two-quarterback system announced by coach Mendenhall. Instead of choosing between Riley Nelson and Jake Heaps, why not pick both?

I liked this one too. Maybe I can write about football after all.

My fellow sports editor David had a viewpoint in today too, this one about the running backs. Not only did that position open up during the offseason like the quarterback one did, it was left open by Harvey Unga. Unga would probably have been the biggest sports hero on campus if it weren't for his less-than-proud departure from BYU because of an honor code violation. Everyone misses Unga, and will miss him even more if the new running backs don't measure up.

Anyway, I'll let you read his viewpoint before I give it all away:

Are BYU running backs ready?

The whole newspaper today is actually really good, full of great football stuff from not only David and me but Brandon and a few 321ers.

A New Era

Thursday, September 2, 2010

First Week as a Sports Editor

This week could not have been much crazier.

First off: last Tuesday I became a dad! Our little girl was born at 3:16 a.m. She was 6 lbs. 3 oz. and 19 1/2 inches. And we named her Allisyn Leila.

For being such a little person, she sure keeps us busy. All we have to do is change her and feed her, but it still takes up all our free time! Including our "free" time between bedtime and time to wake up. Of course, it's totally worth it. Allisyn makes us so happy and we just love her so much.

Over at the newsroom, things have been crazy too. There's the normal hectic environment of bringing in brand new COMMS 321 students and getting them to work right away. Then there's the planning between David, Brandon and me in writing football stories on both the first game of the year and a preview of the season in general.

Then ... this happened.

With BYU football independence being official, it pushed everything out of the way and took over. We had viewpoints to write, a story about Wednesday's press conference and a story about all the BYU sports other than football and how they are affected. And a lot of our Washington preview and season preview stuff was cut out.

Here's the viewpoint I wrote:

We love BYU's independence (My original headline: "Happy Independence Day!")

I like this one a lot, I think it turned out well.

But now, I feel like things have calmed down a bit. Now, I can just get excited for the game. (This Saturday I don't have to work at the game, I can just go as a fan.)

We have some great sports writers this semester. I have been very impressed with their enthusiasm and willingness to learn. We gave the official beat assignments today and I think it's all going to go very well.

Whew! Time to get ready for the weekend. Now, all I have to think about is homework, enjoying the Washington game ... and, of course, my little baby. :)

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