Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Numero Cinco

On my way to work today, I got a phone call from the admissions office at the University of Minnesota. I got in!

That makes me 5 for 5, with zero denials so far. Nobody jinx it!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Buckeye Power

More law school news!

I got a congratulatory email today from Ohio State!

This one wasn't a surprise, sort of like the news from Baylor. But, maybe like Baylor, I'll get a full-tuition scholarship!

So now that makes the score Acceptances 4, Rejections 0. Whoo hoo!

Speaking of Ohio State, I love this photo in Ohio State's viewbook:

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, represent.

In other law school news, I was approved for a fee waiver from Stanford! So I'll be sending in that application straightaway. Stanford is expensive to the point of being prohibitive, so I don't think I would go even if I got in. But if I do get in, I'll have bragging rights forever.

Woodstock Rock and Resurrection

My stuff in today's Daily Herald:

Bloom goes back on the rose at UVU production of 'Secret Garden'

For all of you who loved "The Secret Garden" as a kid, you can see it on stage at UVU starting this week. Everyone I talked to was really into it, and the publicity photos look amazing.

Fare play: Gypsy Cab offers ticket to rock Saturday at Velour

This one was a lot of fun. I had heard of Gypsy Cab, and I liked what I heard on YouTube.

It's good ol' fashioned Hendrix and Zeppelin style rock. Love it.

The interview was great too, especially for being through email.

And the briefs:

Sound Hot Ticket: Paint the town Paisley

Perfect Date: 'Thank you, I've been here all week' (Brian Regan at Abravanel Hall)

Arts Briefs: Wash it down with some arsenic

I also did another Sounds Brief, but it doesn't seem to be online.


This Daily Herald update is a little late because I'm blogging from Colorado. My family and I are here for a funeral, my aunt Pam passed away early Monday morning.

It's been great to see so much family. I haven't seen my uncle David and his kids in 10 years, and I haven't seen Kay in almost that long. But of course, it's a sad occasion that brings us together. It's especially sad after a funeral on the other side of my family less than four months ago.

Pam was always a joy to be around and always had a quick sense of humor. One of my favorite memories with her was our trip to the Grand Canyon. My dad, my three oldest siblings and I each took a friend to hike to the bottom of Havasupai Canyon, and Pam was my dad's "friend." She didn't always have great health (she came home early from her mission in Guatemala because of medical problems), but she was always adventurous.

She was diagnosed with colon cancer a couple of years ago. She swung back and forth between feeling healthy and feeling miserable, until last week she took a turn for the worse. Even though we knew this day was coming, the day came sooner than we anticipated.

I'll sure miss Aunt Pam. I am so grateful for the restored gospel that has restored answers to the universal question: where do we go after we die?

Alma 40: 11-12

I know that although I miss Pam, this won't be goodbye forever. In the grand scheme of things, it's really just a moment that I won't be able to see her. Thanks to the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we will all be resurrected and we will see each other again.


Coming up for The Daily Herald: an interview with Richard Sterban of The Oak Ridge Boys! They're coming to town, and I was assigned to do the story. He might be the biggest celebrity I've ever interviewed, definitely the biggest musical celebrity. And the interview went great. We talked for 25 minutes, and he opened up and told all kinds of great stories. Look for the story next Thursday!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Sittin' Pretty

My latest cartoon for The Daily Universe:

By no means am I aboard the Mitt Romney bandwagon, but for some reason the Gingrich victory in South Carolina bothered me. Romney is an opportunistic flip-flopper on pretty much any item of domestic policy, and his foreign policy is a little too Bush-like. But Gingrich is just sleazy. And I felt that way before the tell-all interview with his second wife. Just gross.

The thought of Gingrich going up against Barack Obama is ridiculous to me. Of course, smug womanizers have been elected before. But I can't help but think any victory for Gingrich is a victory for Obama.

It's a threepeat!

Tonight I was going over more law school data, and actually made a new chart (more on that later). I thought I'd wrap up the evening's law school perusal by checking my application status at my list of schools. Most law schools let you check the status of your application through some handy web service done by LSAC, and now that my applications are in I get more and more anxious about checking that status.

Anyway, I was making the rounds, and when I checked my Iowa application I happened to come upon this:

"Congratulations!  You have been admitted to the 2012 entering class."

Whoo-hoo! That means I'm 3-for-3!

Nobody jinx it.

So once again I have a specific reason to look forward to mail time.


This is what I was working on before I discovered the news:

I started thinking about it after BYU's "Law School Boot Camp" on Saturday. I looked up the average starting salary of each school's graduates, and compared it to the average debt.

Some of the law schools' websites couldn't give me a straight answer on average salaries:

* Median, instead of mean/average
** 50th percentile, instead of mean/average
*** 50% of graduates made this much or more
**** Only for private sector jobs

Also, the statistics can be a little misleading because not every single graduate reports back to their alma mater to give that information.

But, I think this can still be somewhat useful. One thing I realized was that it shows there might be some truth to the theory that "you get what you pay for." In other words, a higher ranked school might be more expensive but it's worth the investment.

Saturday, January 21, 2012


So in the same day I found out I was accepted to Texas, the notification letter came from Baylor. And I got in!

It's pretty much what I was expecting for Baylor, so I wasn't surprised. But what did surprise me was that I was offered a full-tuition scholarship for three years!

So with only two offers so far, my decision is already complicated. It's only going to get worse...

Now I'm 2 for 2! Keeping the streak alive!

Friday, January 20, 2012

I feel accepted

I got my first acceptance today!

Earlier I posted that Baylor had made a decision, and that their letter was in the mail. But another school beat them.

I got a voice mail message from the University of Texas, saying "Congratulations" and that more details will be mailed to me.


It's pretty exciting news! Texas was a school I was reaching for, and even after my second LSAT score Texas still wasn't a sure thing. So to be accepted there is a good omen.

Even if I got rejected by every other school, at least I have Texas! Which ain't a bad school. So I'm set. Things can only go up from here.

I'm 1 for 1! Only 16 more to go.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Gotta Keep Your Head Up

Publicity photo by Josh Newton

My latest for The Daily Herald: an interview with Andy Grammer!

Singer-songwriter punctuates music with positive, upbeat vibes

I think the story turned out well. But I realized I'm not very good with interviewing musicians. I thought I had a good list of questions, but somehow we got through them really fast. I was only on the phone with Andy Grammer for like seven minutes. But, I used to not be very good at interviewing athletes, so I think I'll get better with this as my internship progresses.

At least it was fun! Andy is just as nice a guy as he seems in his concerts and videos.

(For the interactive version, go here.)

Here's my other story for The Daily Herald:

Woodbury exhibit provides platform for 'Hidden Voices'

This one was interesting. UVU started an art project with women in Utah Valley who were interested in expressing themselves through printmaking. These women talked about how they were finally able to talk in a way they couldn't before. And I also thought it was interesting how the printmaking process is analogous to their lives. I'm glad I got to do this story.

And, this week's "Perfect Date": another version of my "CSI: Provo" story from last week.

Perfect Date - CSI: Date night

This week's Sound Hot Ticket: a concert and a barbecue with the Zac Brown Band.

Sound Hot Ticket - Finger-licking good?

I actually only typed up the first of these Sound Briefs, the one about the local band Ferocious Oaks. The second one must have been added after I left on Tuesday.

Sound Briefs: These trees know how to party

And, this week's arts briefs:

Arts Briefs: Fairbanks comes to Orem

Oh, and did you know I put together the Billboard charts for The Daily Herald?:

Billboard charts for Jan. 19

Not like I'm showing any writing skill, just copying and pasting. But still, it's there because of me!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The End of an Era

Katie Harmer, the current issues and ideas editor at The Daily Universe, was kind enough to ask if I wanted to draw a cartoon about the recent news about the news.

For those of you who don't know, by the end of this semester The Daily Universe will transition from a daily print newspaper available around campus to a weekly print paper, with the daily news appearing on the website and on mobile apps.

It's been very hard for me to reconcile my thoughts and feelings about this. What I say here is the best I can do, but really it's still a rough draft.

While I've been stewing over this, some colleagues have beaten me to the punch and said things better than I could. Most of my sentiments I can express by concurring with what Alex Hairston said in his two blog posts:

The End of The Daily Universe: An emotional response

The End of The Daily Universe: A less emotional response

And by concurring with what Erin Kulesus said on her blog (although with a caveat that I'll get to later):

Censoring censorship, Part I

Censoring Censorship, part II

Alex and Erin bring up two different issues, so I'll try to address each one.

I. A. ) When I first saw that The Daily Universe was going digital, it was a shocker.

I was sad to think of the paper edition no longer being there for BYU every day. Human beings in general have a lack of interest in the world around them, and not all BYU students are immune to the ignorance. A free newspaper ready to grab on the way to class could remedy that somewhat.

Are students going to think of the BYU student newspaper when they are curious about the news? Maybe for Police Beat or letters to the editor. You know, the parts people remember when they erroneously claim The Daily Universe is silly or irrelevant. (But that's a topic for another day.)

When news is only online though, here's a possible scenario: half of the student population will rarely even read the news online.

Half of the remaining population will get their news through late night monologues (not that there's anything wrong with that).

Half of what's left will get their news through a channel that already agrees with them, like Fox News or MSNBC.

Half of who is leftover will get local news from the Deseret News or the Salt Lake Tribune. (And by "news" I mean the comments section on BYU sports stories. In fact, maybe instead of Deseret News or Salt Lake Tribune I should just say Cougarboard.)

Half of who's left after that will get news from KSL or KUTV while they are waiting for the late night monologues to come on.

That leaves 937.5 people on campus who will think of The Daily Universe when they've got a hankerin' for news.

(Oh, except they won't think of it until their friend or family member who writes for The Daily Universe posts a link to his or her latest article on their Facebook news feed. And even then only half will click on it.)

I'm exaggerating, and maybe being a little facetious. And I'm sure efforts will be made to advertise the new website and apps, and of course, I hope students and readers do adapt their routines to check The Daily Universe online, even when there isn't a paper waiting for them in the newsstand. The Daily Universe won't be destroyed.

But I do think the overall readership will go down until the next outrageous Police Beat or the next ridiculous letter to the editor.

And haven't The Daily Universe's previous attempts at online only ideas fizzled out? "Beyond the Universe," anyone?

And will a weekly publication turn into something like the BYU Political Review or The Student Review? There's nothing wrong with either The Student Review or the BYU Political Review, they're both great. But their aim is different from The Daily Universe's original aim. They are both more similar to the average campus newspaper, and The Daily Universe model was something else.

I. B. ) I'm all for technology and innovation. And it's the only stuff saving the journalism industry so far. So part of me knew the change was necessary, whether I liked it or not. And, I admit, a smaller part of me was excited for the upgrade to the 21st century. But that was quickly quelled after some secondary news came out. (More on that later.)

I actually like the Wordpress system, and even defended it when the copy desk objected to the change. In theory, it was great to give reporters a way to write and publish an article right at the scene. But what The Daily Universe needed to do was put it into practice.

Even with the ability to update our website 24/7, we weren't taking advantage of that ability. Our basic schedule was still waiting until around 4 p.m. every day when the articles started rolling in, just like when we only had a print deadline.

Our sports reporters had some experience with getting articles in ASAP after a game was over, or the Arts and Entertainment reporter watching "The Sing-Off" on Monday night.

But mostly, the schedule revolved around late afternoon, because that's when the reporters set aside time from the rest of the credits they were taking, their jobs, their wedding planning and their family obligations.

It will be difficult to run a 24/7 news cycle as long as The Daily Universe reporters can't be reporters 24/7.

I. C. ) So The Daily Universe had some work to do to keep up with the times. But that means a change in philosophy and behavior, not necessarily a change in organization, and certainly not a change in personnel.

While I initially wasn't sure if the digital transition was ultimately good news or bad news, I could unhesitatingly rule a verdict after I knew the eight members of The Daily Universe's full-time staff would be laid off.

I think the fact that it never occurred to me that these digital changes would mean jobs would be lost shows how senseless these layoffs are. After the announcement of going digital, learning the full-time staffers would be laid off was still just as much of a surprise. In my mind the two things can be completely unconnected.

I never thought Rich, Kaye, Brandon, R.J., Ellen, Daryl, Warren or Shayne stood in the way of The Daily Universe becoming a 21st century newspaper. Never.

If this Daily Universe experiment is going to work, all the digital expertise in the world is nothing without journalistic expertise. I'm not saying all journalistic expertise will vanish after The Magnificent Eight do. But what made The Daily Universe a home away from home will vanish.

The DU newsroom will mean more to me than any classroom, CougarEat table, Marriott Center or LaVell Edwards Stadium seat ever will. For me it was the most comfortable place in the whole state of Utah except for home, the church and the temple. The Magnificent Eight and my many fellow editors and reporters made me feel like I belonged there. The full-time staff had a way of connecting with students and becoming their friends that can never be duplicated. And that sense of home even extended to my wife and baby. The DU Family made my family their family. I will forever be grateful to know them and to have spent time with them. And future generations of Daily Universes reporters will miss out.

It makes me miss them even more to see their gracious and positive attitudes after the bad news. Kaye is keeping an eternal perspective, and Rich is joking about a lifelong dream to be a mime. That they can be so happy, and cheer up other people who are dealing with their bad news, is another testament to how special these people are.

This is more than just saying goodbye to wonderful people though. This isn't high school graduation. The Daily Universe will be losing these people prematurely and I don't think it will be worth it.

II. ) One of the reasons for the change that BYU professor Dale Cressman (more on him later) cited was that The Daily Universe has been losing money. I'm not saying he's wrong, but I do want to say that in the two years I worked there I was never under the impression we were losing money. (In fact, the reason I got to go to Colorado twice for The Daily Universe was a direct result of an influx in advertising revenue.)

Last week's announcement was a sign that the decline of print journalism had reached even the university level. At school, you're supposed to be protected from any recession or economic trends. School should prepare you for the real world. School is meant to be the on deck circle. You aren't supposed to face 101 m.p.h. curveballs when you're on the on deck circle.

I believe even with the journalism world going digital, a reporter should have a background in old-fashioned print journalism. Above all, a reporter needs to know how to write. And the university should protect their investment in teaching reporters to write.

I'm not saying the art of writing is destroyed, or that the new system won't teach reporters how to write. But I think instead of contorting The Daily Universe to fit within financial restraints, the newspaper should be treated like the flagship that it is. I never understood why The Daily Universe was treated like a stepchild compared with the broadcast program (which, by the way, no one watches or even knows exists except for the five minutes before devotional, or Whitney Wonnacott) and the PR program. (Well, actually, I have some theories.)

Right now, everything going on in the field of journalism to try and make it a viable business is in the experimental stage. Nothing is tried and true yet. Let the real world conduct those experiments, and let the real world risk people's livelihoods in the process. Keep those risks out of the institutions of learning. They are institutions of learning, not of profit margins.

The Daily Universe shouldn't be given an infinite budget. But it shouldn't have to kowtow to something uninspiring like financial restraints. (Like Alex said, if the university was about making money there wouldn't be a religion department. Maybe journalism is more dispensable than religion. But then again we need journalism to have democracy, and we need democracy to have our religion.)

III. A. 1. ) The other major issue that has come to the surface has been brought up by "the old guard," namely Erin, McKay Coppins, Mike Curtis, Elizabeth Gosney and others. I'm not as qualified as they are to discuss the issue, but I'll put in my two cents.

About two years ago, The Daily Universe got in trouble for a few articles that, basically, made BYU look bad. The biggest one was probably our article that exposed the BYUSA budget. It's ironic that the article might be the closest BYU could get to a Bernstein/Woodward style, and yet that inspiring version of journalism is what got the newspaper in trouble.

Another one was a front page story about a fashion line started by a couple of BYU alumni. Although the article itself had nothing wrong with it, the website for the alumni's business included photos of models wearing see-through dresses.

The wake of the administration's wrath left a lot of rubble. BYU President Cecil O. Samuelson said The Daily Universe was a "disloyal" organization. Ranking faculty members were called in to supervise the copy editing process, and interrupted it on a nightly basis in order to pull stories, for incredibly silly reasons. A classic example was an article about Redbox and Netflix, which included a photo of a Redbox machine. Some of the movies advertised on the machine happened to be rated R, so the faculty member wanted the photo gone. Oh, so we're supposed to pretend like R-rated movies don't exist? (For more examples, see Erin's Tumblr.) Two of our editors were haphazardly and senselessly accused of being pornography users and were investigated by BYU.

After the immediate, horribly messy aftermath and some organizational changes, things calmed down to a normal BYU level. Of course, there is a bubble at BYU and there always will be. "A normal BYU level" will always have a more discriminating filter than the average newspaper.

But I didn't let that be an obstacle. I just made sure to make up for whatever lack exists with a commitment to lifelong learning. (It's part of the reason I wanted to go to New York City for my required internship, and part of the reason I consider BYU a "backup" law school on my list and would rather start an adventure in a new place.) In the meantime, I can laugh at the nuances of working at The Daily Universe.

So even though the trouble from two years ago was at worst censorship and at best annoying, bringing it up two years later, I feel, is an overreaction. It was bad, but it's been long enough now that I don't think it is a primary motivation behind these recent changes and layoffs. I don't let the frustrations from months ago (or the fact that the administration still doesn't seem to understand the mission of The Daily Universe, and would rather perceive it as an outlet for public relations packages than for hard-hitting journalism) affect my opinion of the BYU Department of Communications, BYU itself, and certainly not the Church.

Erin has decided to lead a charge against censorship and to demand answers. I don't feel it's the right fight to have. Maybe I would if my circumstances were different. I was never a copy editor like Erin was, so I was never in the newsroom at the deadline when a faculty member suddenly pulled an article arbitrarily and I had to change my whole layout. And I was never investigated for pornography use like other editors were. I didn't suffer through as much as "the old guard" did. If I had gone through all that, I might be just as vehemently up in arms. If President Samuelson himself fired me for no legitimate reason, I would lose probably all admiration for him. But I would like to think I could still sustain him as a General Authority.

Maybe I'm too eager to please and make peace. Maybe I'm a wuss. Maybe I just want everyone to get along. Maybe they got me and I'm brainwashed, haha.

III. A. 2. ) Although I am not as riled up as Erin and others, I don't mean to diminish what they experienced. What they experienced was real. And though I don't share Erin's sentiments whole-heartedly, I do share her understanding. And I still want to take some time to come to her defense.

Erin got into a Twitter debate with Dale Cressman, a member of the BYU faculty. (It reminds me of a Twitter debate McKay had with Professor Cressman almost two years ago.) He read her side of the Daily Universe censorship story, and in order to explain his side he called her account "stunningly naive."

Though Professor Cressman was right about some things, calling Erin "naive" was not one of them. Even if he thinks the decision behind every Daily Universe change was clearly the right decision and he can't comprehend how anyone can think differently, he doesn't need to belittle her opinion because she disagrees with him. He doesn't need to dismiss her contributions to the conversation.

(In reflecting on Professor Cressman's two Twitter fights I've observed, I can't help but wonder why he's made himself a spokesman for The Daily Universe. In the two years I worked there I never would have guessed he was involved enough in the newsroom goings-on to take that responsibility. I, for one, never felt his influence when I was there.)

III. B. ) All that said, I am sure the decisionmakers behind cutting The Magnificent Eight loose haven't forgotten those days when The Daily Universe was "disloyal." Giving the faculty tighter control over The Daily Universe's content is likely seen by them as an advantage. I won't go so far as to say the conversation behind closed doors went something like, "Now, we can get rid of Rich, Kaye, and everyone else, once and for all! Bwahahahahahaha [thunderclaps]." But I will say I wouldn't be surprised if the thought, "Hey, come to think of it, maybe a secondary effect of this is that we can keep a closer eye on this whole operation. Bonus!" crossed multiple minds.

Professor Carter, Professor Campbell and even Professor Cressman won't be stooges for some Thought Police. They still know what good journalism is and will promote it. I think they will be more "careful" than Rich and Kaye and everyone else would be (as the "powers that be" might put it), but that doesn't necessarily ensure doom and gloom for freedom of speech at BYU.

I just wish Rich, Kaye, Brandon, R.J., Ellen, Daryl, Warren and Shayne weren't seen as a liability. Even if no one says they are now, without a doubt they used to be a liability to some people.

They were only assets to The Daily Universe, and have been and always be assets in my life and the life of my family.


At least I got my hard copy clips while I still could. Now I'll be able to show them to my grandkids, along with my cassette tapes and my 35mm camera.

Monday, January 16, 2012

In Like Flynn

All my law school applications are in!

I spent Saturday morning finalizing them. I still had BYU and Utah applications left over, plus I added Duke, Northwestern and Stanford after my surprisingly high LSAT score.

The BYU and Utah applications took longer because I wanted to write a personal statement from scratch, instead of basically reviving my original Texas and North Carolina statements and adapting them to each school.

The Stanford and BYU processes still aren't completely done. I need to do an ecclesiastical endorsement interview with my bishop for BYU. And for Stanford, I'm still waiting to see if I can get a fee waiver. I'm hesitant to pay the $100 fee for a school I might not get into and might not go to even if I did get in.

Other than those two things, I just sit back and wait.

Most of the schools I've applied to have a handy way to check my application status online. And I just so happened to discover that Baylor has already made a decision and the letter is in the mail! The time has come for decisions to start rolling in!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

My Daily Herald debut!

My first articles for The Daily Herald!

'CSI: Provo' places Desert Star in Happy Valley

Photo by Chad Whitlock, Desert Star Playhouse

Have any of you ever heard of the Desert Star Playhouse in Murray? I hadn't until this assignment. But it sounds hilarious. It sounds like Divine Comedy, but instead of sketches it's a whole play. They like to make lots of Utah/Mormon jokes, but their latest is more specifically making fun of Utah. (And, I almost got to interview a "celebrity" for it ... if only Nick Whitaker had called me back!)

Perfect date: This is not your Toto's 'Africa!'

The Herald does a "perfect date" every week. For this week I basically summed up an article published last week about the "Africa!" show going on at the SCERA.

(I don't quite get the headline ... and I don't remember writing "Get in touch with your African roots -- whether or not you actually have any or not." Don't know how that got there.)

I also did a couple of briefs, which is really just abridging press releases:

Arts Briefs - Jan. 12, 2012

Sound Briefs - Jan. 12, 2012

I also did a short article (like the "Perfect date" above) about the next BYU Young Ambassadors show. For some reason it's not online, but if you have a copy of Thursday's Daily Herald, you can find it in "The Ticket."

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Party on, Wayne.

So the "J.J.'s Looking For a 2nd Part-Time Job World Tour" has come to an end!

Over the course of two days, I stopped at literally 33 locations to ask for a job application. Of course, 17 of them told me to apply online. Then five of them had kiosks in the store for job applications. The other 11 applications I filled out by hand.

Now I just sit back and wait to see who calls me back.

I did say I was going to make T-shirts. Well, no shirts yet, but here's the logo:

Rock on.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

And the chorus sang 'Hallelujah'

So the LSAT scores finally came today. And I couldn't be more surprised and ecstatic!

I got a 167!

To put that in context: that's the 94th percentile. A perfect score is 180, Ivy League range is anywhere in the 170s. (Elle Woods got a 179.)

Definitely way more than I expected. If you remember, in my practices leading up to the December LSAT I was getting 166 consistently. But, you might also remember that the morning of the test was stressful, to put it mildly. So I was hopeful that I would get better than my October score of 161, but not up to 166. And a part of me was a little worried that my crazy morning would have more of an effect than I thought, and that I would still be close to or right at 161. And a smaller part of me worried it would be worse than 161.

I would have never seriously predicted a 167!

This is pretty exciting news. This means I'm much more likely to get in to every school on my list, and many of them I'll be in "automatically." Now that Texas, Notre Dame, Virginia and Minnesota are no longer "reaching" schools, I think I'll add a couple more to my list, like Duke and Stanford.

Here's where that Law School Predictor calculator (that I blogged about last time) stacked me with a bunch of schools, with my GPA and a 161 score:

And, here's that chart next to the 167 version:

Look at all those reds turns to yellows and all those yellows turn to green! It's a Christmas miracle!

And there was much rejoicing in the Despain home.

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