Friday, May 27, 2011

Ovine Makeover

A quick little story about an event at the Prospect Park Zoo last weekend:

Last weekend's sheer-shearing thing was a hairy good time

And from what I hear, my brother could use some shearing of his own...

Photo courtesy of Kandis Despain

Thursday, May 26, 2011

My New York film debut!

The bigwigs at The Brooklyn Paper decided to have some fun with this story:

GUILTY! Perfetto convicted in 'trial of the century'

First, I'll explain the 'trial of the century.' Ralph Perfetto is a good guy politician from Bay Ridge, but being such a good guy actually got him in trouble. He was helping out a relative with some legal problems, and in court Perfetto accidentally slipped and said he was the relative's lawyer, which technically wasn't true. So, then he had a court case of his own, with charges of impersonating a lawyer. Today, the court ruled him guilty, with sentencing in July.

It reminds me of news stories about crazy, frivolous lawsuits that can entertain for hours. And my editor decided to add to the entertainment, by setting up a behind-the-scenes video, the "story behind the story." He recruited me to play the role of a kid reporter - I know, a real stretch for me, right?

But it was a lot of fun. And now I can add "running through the streets of Brooklyn" to the list of random opportunities I've had from being a journalist.

Again, here's the video (at the top of the page).

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Police Beat - New York Style

Yesterday, I was sent to the 88th Precinct to do what The Brooklyn Paper calls the Police Blotter. It's basically the same as The Daily Universe's Police Beat, but the crimes here are a little different from what gets reported in Happy Valley.

88th Precinct - May 17-24

The first one is probably some of the most heartbreaking news you'll ever hear, especially if you're the parent of a newborn. My editor didn't want to do a full story on it, and I completely agree. But if you're curious to know more, click here.

UPDATE: Hey, my Police Blotter showed up on the New York Post website.


The Police Blotter from another precinct led to a story that I got to help out with. One apartment building has had three break-ins in the past week, all of them pretty similar. The people living in this building are all young hipsters, here to perform their art and play video games. They like to keep their doors open and invite their neighbors to join in the fun...and some thugs are taking advantage of it.

McKibbin Lofts are party - and crime - central

I was sent to the building to find some tenants to talk to as they entered and exited the building. Almost everyone I talked to was really helpful - one guy even let me into the building, and introduced me to one of the neighbors who was actually robbed. Success!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Throw down!

My latest for The Brooklyn Paper:

Throw down! Austrian takes world pillow-fighting championship in Williamsburg

That's right. The first ever Pillow Fight World Cup took place here in Brooklyn last week. You might think it's a joke, but don't tell that to the Austrians.

We just got back from a weekend trip to Church historic sites in and around Palmyra and to Niagara Falls. And it was another wildly successful Despain road trip. We're getting really good at those.

It was quite an experience to be driving through quiet, open spaces after literally not leaving New York City for almost a month. The New York countryside was beautiful. And, of course, the sights were a once-in-a-lifetime experience. My favorite was the Sacred Grove, but I also loved Niagara Falls. Keep watching our family blog for photos and stories from the weekend!

*Just because I'm tracking these things, I'll mention that I have another byline on the Brooklyn Paper's website. It's just one sentence, a notification that the Twilight Tattoo that I wrote about earlier had been cancelled because of rain. But whoever wrote it was nice enough to credit me! Thanks. (I guess that shows I'm an intern, I'm appreciative of getting one sentence published, haha.)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Immigration Nation in The Daily Universe

Remember those immigration stories I wrote for COMMS 420 last semester? They are both in The Daily Universe today, as well as both videos:

Immigration lawyers dedicated to their cause

(video by Elora Murray)

Legislation raises profiling questions

(reporting and video by Elora Murray)

And, here's how it looks in the paper:

Thursday, May 19, 2011 (my stories are on pages 1, 4 and 7)

(I'm surprised they kept my whole front page story. Look at how much space it uses on page 4! Haha, anyone who's already sick of me is only going to get more so.)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Fair and Honest Appraisal of Your Appearance

This is the story I hinted at earlier this week:

Finally, a hospital gala that was fun

I got photos of a New York Methodist Hospital awards gala, and of course most of the photos were people in fancy clothes wining and dining. But in a few of the photos, there was a man wearing a hat, mask and a bandana accompanied by a woman in a bandana, sunglasses and a bright red wig. I asked the photographer who they were, and he started me on an investigation.

It turns out this couple, who call themselves the Bumbys, do this shtick that's sort of like "Guess Your Weight"...except it's about your general appearance. They grade you on a scale of 1 to 10, tell you what fashion choices are working for you and which ones aren't, and they type it up on their electric typewriters and hand it to you. And people are fascinated enough to join in and ask for a Bumby appraisal, at parties and events all over New York City.

Here's a New York Times article that explains their act:

Don't Judge Us, We'll Judge You

So instead of just writing about the gala and the awards, I centered the story around the Bumbys. Which was more interesting and fun to write.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Utah makes it into The Brooklyn Paper

So, through no effort of Dan or myself, our fair state Utah found its way into The Brooklyn Paper.

Everyone loves Brooklyn - the name

Gary Buiso found out that the name "Brooklyn" was the 34th most popular girl's name in the United States last year, and found out it was number six in Utah, of all places.

It's an interesting story, make sure you check it out.


I figured out something.

The reason that responses were rolling in to my almost three-week-old blog post is because of my New Jersey Nets story. My editor told me about a blogger, Norman Oder, who does a lot of work reporting on the Atlantic Yards project and the Barclays Center. He linked to my Brooklyn Paper story and commented on it, and I guess he was really interested in my blog because he read 11 posts back from that Nets one. And even though that old post didn't have anything to do with Atlantic Yards, I guess it fit in with what he wanted to say about The Brooklyn Paper anyway.

I knew beforehand that I should be careful with what I say online, because anyone can read it and it can be permanent. But I guess I relearned this lesson the hard way. Most of the reason I wrote something up on my third day in Brooklyn was because I didn't think anyone would really read it, just a few Facebook friends maybe. I'm just an intern, I didn't think anyone would find me online. But now I know I should have waited until the culture shock died down before saying anything online.

Monday, May 16, 2011


Some things I wrote on my blog more than two weeks ago are still generating responses from people, including a couple of anonymous commenters. So it looks like I need to provide a little clarification.

In my first 2 1/2 days at The Brooklyn Paper, I wanted to tell anyone interested how my internship was going so far. At the time, it was still a culture shock for me. And I suppose I should have waited until that shock died down before interpreting it and commenting on it, at least publicly online. Some of the responses were trying to encourage me that things will get better, which is nice, but others seemed to be annoyed by my negative mood and others told me complaining on my blog was a bad idea (which they're right about). I didn't mean it to sound like complaining, just to sound like I had a lot to get used to.

I can assure you that my internship has gotten better in the past two weeks, things are going well, I'm learning a lot, I'm gaining a lot of experience ... I'm glad I'm here. I mean, my byline is being published on the front page of a New York City newspaper. I can't ask for much more than that. Whatever happens in the future, I know my few weeks here will be good preparation and a positive contribution to what I end up doing.

NBA and Repoussé

Two more stories - one's even a sports story:

Nets Lopez was the 'center' of attention on Bergen Street

Starting the 2012-2013 season, the New Jersey Nets will be playing in Brooklyn. Every once in a while, one of the Nets' stars visits the construction site of the new arena for a photo op. But Brook Lopez, their leading scorer and blocker last year, also visited the neighborhood around the arena.

When my editor let me know that the emphasis should be on the neighborhood visit, not so much the arena, it helped me write what he was going for the first time. He just added some more information about Bark Hot Dogs (since I had never been there, I didn't know their hot dogs were "special, organic, free-range, grass-fed, hand-massaged," haha. But other than that, it was like I got it right the first time.

Also, there's a new art exhibit at Prospect Park. What makes this different is that it's outside, even out on Prospect Park Lake.

Artist Robert Lobe can see the trees for the forest

Both my editor and Erin liked the lead to this story.

I was proud of both of these stories, not necessarily because it's hard-hitting news or because I wrote them beautifully, but because they didn't need a complete editing overhaul. Writing here is becoming a little easier, I think.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Immigration: Discuss.

Back in the good ol' days at the Brimhall Building, I took the COMMS 420 class. That was the class where I came up with these classics:

Rise and shout! But will you tweet it out?
Cougar sports by the numbers (and its various versions)
Huntsman to toss hat into ring?

Also in that class, we were the guinea pigs for a joint project with broadcast and multimedia communications students. The Daily Universe would start a special website solely for stories on the topic of immigration, with videos and graphics and articles.

The project was a success in some ways and not quite in other ways. For the most part, I enjoyed it. I teamed up with broadcast student Elora Murray for both of my stories. I learned a lot and I think I came up with some pretty good stories. I didn't learn a whole lot about broadcast or multimedia, haha, but it was great to work with Elora and other broadcast and multimedia students, if nothing else to make new friends.

My stories:

Law enforcement simply enforces the law
(video by Elora)

This one I am particularly proud of:
Immigration lawyers dedicated to their cause
(Elora did a video for this one too, but I'm not sure if it's on the website yet or not.)

And here's the website where you can see all the other work done by my friends in the Comms department:

Immigration Nation

Thursday, May 12, 2011

He's No Jim Henson

A big story in The Brooklyn Paper today:

New puppet theater opens on Columbia Street

In one sense, it's big because it's 442 words, by far the longest story I've had in the paper so far. Also, my editor said more than once that it was a big story. He trusted me with it and helped me turn it into something well done. (He even emailed me after I had already left the newsroom to point out something he liked about it.)

The topic is interesting, for sure. When you think of puppets, you probably think of Lamb Chop or Big Bird. But this new puppeteer in town, Jonathan Edward Cross a.k.a. Johnny Clockworks, has a different philosophy. For the kids, instead of only doing shows he also does workshops and teaches kids to do their own puppetry. And he also does shows for adults, and uses puppet plays that deal with some pretty deep topics. And from what I've seen, the word that keeps popping into my head to describe the puppets themselves is "mesmerizing."

Anyway, not that I'm an expert on puppetry now or that I want to take it on as my new hobby. Just wanted to explain that this story is more serious than you might think at first glance.

Oh, and the first comment on the story made me laugh. (Context: Brooklyn makes up Kings County in New York state.)


And I helped out a little bit with this story:

West Street becomes home to genuine trailer trash

I was the one who took the photos. Basically, this street in Greenpoint is taken over by a construction crew, leaving their equipment all over and blocking fences and streets.

The neighbor I met with for the photo shoot, Jon Kosar, was a real nice guy. We even talked about Utah a little bit - turns out he lived in Ogden for a short time. For some reason it seemed funny to find a former Utahan in the middle of Brooklyn.


Things are going pretty well here. I'm not close to mastering anything, but I am learning a lot and gaining a lot of experience, that's for sure. I loved working at The Daily Universe, but it's great to work at a nitty gritty city newspaper. Even if I don't end up with a career in journalism, I'll always be able to brag that I was a Brooklyn reporter.


Speaking of where I end up, that's the big question weighing on me and Erin. Before coming to New York, whenever anyone asked me what we would do after graduating from BYU, I told them that I would know after my internship. Well, now I'm here, and it's time to start deciding what to do.

We long ago narrowed it down to me either going to grad school/law school or starting my way to a career. As you can see, that's not very narrow, haha. We're trying to think and study it out, we're praying about it and going to the temple.

Any advice or suggestions?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Hut hut!

Another event preview written for the paper:

Hut, hut! Fort Ham's annual military drill show is May 20

Like the Norwegian parade story, this is one of the first stories I wrote after I got here, but it was held until now since the event isn't until later in the month.

Based on these early stories I did, I realize that there is a ton of stuff in Brooklyn! They've got a Norwegian parade, a military base, the Brooklyn Museum, a royal wedding, Coney's a happenin' place.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Order in the Court, please!

Another story for The Brooklyn Paper:

Court Street station is a filthy mess!*

I kind of enjoyed this one, but I'm not really sure why. Maybe because this story, plus the one about rowdy kids in Brooklyn Heights, is sort of trying to correct a wrong committed against the community, which I didn't do much of at The Daily Universe. I mean, these stories won't change the world, but it's still different from just writing about a BYU game.

And, in today's print version of the paper, you can find my stories on the royal wedding viewing party under the Manhattan Bridge and the Brooklyn Museum's mummy CAT scan.

*Here's another story that goes with mine. This one is about the R trains specifically.
Bay Ridge's lone subway train is a reeky rail

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Rowdy kids and lutefisk!*

*(As my brother would say, that would be a great name for band.)

Two more Brooklyn Paper stories of mine are online!

Celebrate Boklepp! Norwegian parade comes to Bay Ridge on May 15

This one was actually the first story I wrote for the paper, but since the event isn't until May 15 it was held until today. I certainly learned a lot more about the history of Norwegian immigrants in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn than I had ever known before.

Town vs. gown! Locals battle Clark Street 'animal house'
Or, the New York Post version: Town vs. gown! Locals battle Clark Street 'animal house'

I didn't do this one by myself, I just helped. It was a lot of fun though. My assignment was to go down to 55 Clark Street, home to a college residence used by multiple colleges, and talk to students and neighbors about noise complaints. Apparently, the college kids there have been partying and playing music and throwing cans out into the street. And this is a pretty nice area of Brooklyn, so the rowdiness is both surprising and extra annoying.

Anyway, so I found people to interview, and gave all my quotes to Gary Buiso, one of The Brooklyn Paper's professionals, to write the story. And I like what he did with it, and it was cool that I came up with some usable stuff! (Kendra Stanchfield, Julia Sommer, Peter Myers, Cesar Moneda, Elliot Palatnik and Anton Landauer were the ones in the story who I talked to.)

I got to the address at about 9 am, and for a while I was having a lot of trouble getting people to talk to me. Everyone was in a hurry and didn't want to talk to me (I felt like a missionary in Argentina again). But then, I narrowed my search down to people who were 1) walking their dog, because they probably aren't going to work and probably live nearby, or 2) people who were standing and not walking. I also stood outside the residence door and grabbed a few students on their way in or out - I guess they weren't as busy as the subway-bound employed people. And my plan worked! I made a goal to not call the newsroom until I had talked to four neighbors and four students, and I ended up talking to five of each. And I ended up coming up with enough good stuff for Gary to use.

Things are going better here. I know last week I probably just sounded like I was complaining. But really, I think I just had a lot to get used to (and of course still do). I should have known, of course, but no matter how obvious it was that things would be a lot different here it still hit me hard. But I'm getting more comfortable, and I'm learning a lot.

And whether or not I ever really get used to things, it's great to see my name in print at a New York City newspaper.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

9 1/2 Years

Just like I'll always remember where I was when I heard the news on 9/11, I'll always remember where I was when I heard the news on 5/1.

I actually didn't hear the news until the next morning. We don't get TV in our little studio apartment at the I-House, and we mostly spent a lazy, relaxing Sunday at home. (Other BYU communications students got the news Sunday night and headed down to Ground Zero to join in the jubilation.) Erin was checking email/Facebook and found out. She read an entire article out loud while I was getting dressed and getting ready to start another week at The Brooklyn Paper.

It was amazing to me that it had actually happened. It seemed like the hunt for Osama bin Laden would never be over, and that eventually he would just weaken and die on his own. So the fact that he was killed by Navy SEALs actually surprised me.

I didn't become ecstatic that he was dead. But when Erin got to the part in the article about the 9/11 victims' families, and this end (there's probably more than one) to their grieving, that's when the tears welled up. That's when I felt that, finally, the United States had something more to offer them than a short-lived heightening of mutual respect among neighbors (already back to normal), no more liquid containers larger than three ounces on carry-on, and a steeper decline of the airline industry (which has affected my family directly). The United States finally accomplished the pinnacle of its goals in the War on Terror and showed it can get the job done.

As far as my reaction to the basic fact that a man was killed, I think I feel some satisfaction in that too. It's a strange emotion, definitely, to be glad that any human being is wiped off the face of the earth. I certainly can't judge who should live and who should die; that's God's job. But I am reminded of a point of LDS doctrine (a doctrine that I fully believe in):

"Behold the Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes. It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief."

When the Spirit instructs Nephi to kill Laban, Nephi has a real problem. He has not even an ounce of bloodthirstiness, and no desire to kill Laban even for the essential records he was on a mission to obtain. But, with the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, Nephi reasoned that according to the Lord's will, Laban needed to die and Nephi needed to kill him.

Now, I don't know if bin Laden's remaining on the earth would have resulted in the United States' "dwindling in unbelief." I know the doctrine that bin Laden professed was absolutely false in so many ways, and was leading some people astray. But as for me and other Americans, I think what we can take solace in is that there is that much less evil in our world now. bin Laden doesn't have to condemn himself any further, and the terror network he left behind is now much less of a threat to our society.

Of course, evil, terror and even al Qaeda will still exist. As long as there is agency, evil will never go away.

But the absence of bin Laden's backwards mentality that is undoubtedly contrary to God's eternal plan is a triumph. Geopolitically, a triumph for the United States. But eternally, a triumph for us too.


A few other thoughts:

I thought it would be really cool to come to work yesterday and be assigned to find and interview a few families of 9/11 victims who live here in Brooklyn. I wasn't sure if it would happen, or if an intern would get that assignment, but I had my fingers crossed.

Alas, I didn't get anything of the kind. And as far as I know, the only Osama-related story done by The Brooklyn Paper was this one:

Osama is dead - and so is her silent protest

It's definitely interesting, but not like I had in mind.


Another criticism I saw and heard yesterday was against Fox News, and I'm actually going to come to their defense for once. A few tweeters thought they found a chance to ridicule Fox News because in their coverage yesterday, the spelled his name "Usama bin Laden." What I guess they forgot or never knew is that when it comes to Arabic names, there are actually multiple spellings.

A quick Wikipedia search brings this up:

"There is no universally accepted standard for transliterating Arabic words and Arabic names into English;[10] bin Laden's name was most frequently rendered "Osama bin Laden." The FBI and CIA, as well as other US Governmental agencies, have used either "Usama bin Laden" or "Usama bin Ladin", both of which may be abbreviated as "UBL". Less common renderings include "Ussamah Bin Ladin" and "Oussama Ben Laden" in the French-language media. Other spellings include "Binladen" or, as used by his family in the West, "Binladin". The spellings with "o" and "e" come from a Persian-influenced pronunciation also used in Afghanistan, where bin Laden spent many years."

I saw somewhere else on Twitter that Fox News has been using the "Usama" spelling long before yesterday. So they were just being consistent.

That said, Fox News did make at least one egregious (but brief) mistake.


In addition, I've seen some complaints that President Obama is taking too much credit for bin Laden's death. Some people think Obama is using too many words like "I" and "me."

I didn't see his Sunday night speech, but I did read the transcript. And I didn't get that impression at all. I think he does deserve some credit for making the right decisions that led to taking out bin Laden. He maybe didn't do anything more amazing than another president - even President Bush - would have done. But even though another person might have done the same, I don't think any person would have done the same. The president made some good and wise decisions. He does deserve some credit for this, and I don't think he's trying to give himself too much.


Jordan Carroll, a fellow BYU communications student in New York, wrote a story for The Daily Universe based on her trip to Ground Zero and being here in New York when the news came.

Just in time for Mummy's Day

Another one of my Brooklyn Paper stories is now online:

Mummy, you look wonderful!

What's funny is that for this story, I tried some snarkiness, and I was actually pretty proud of what I came up with. My editor liked it too. But ultimately none of it ended up in the final version, haha.

I think things are going better here. I'm closer to meeting expectations and there's less that has to be changed. Just some general things I need to keep improving. And the editor has been saying that overall, it's good stuff. So, that's nice to know.
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