Dear Carmen

Dear Carmen,

Exactly four years ago you were lost– just trying to find your away. You weren’t sure of who you were, where you’d be or who you’d become.

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ULM Hawkline performing at convocation in August 2013

It wasn’t the sudden change of scenery from south to northeast Louisiana. It wasn’t even the slight rhythm change of the transition from high school to college. What it was, was the culture shock that you let defeat you.

Yes, you’ve faced challenges that you were able to overcome but don’t forget the tough lessons learned that allowed you to develop into the woman you are today.

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Royal Bum Clothing photo shoot for fall fashion line in October 2014

If only i’d been with you at your lows– the things I would’ve done to either put you at ease or work with you through your hardships.

At times you felt alone, or even worse, trapped. For two years you allowed your identity to bring down your confidence to the point where you weren’t sure who you were anymore.

You steered away from your faith and didn’t focus your eyes on the goals you’d always worked toward to make possible.

You let negativity bring you down. You followed behind falsified friends who drug down to deep, dark places. And you lost sight of your purpose– an education.

If only you’d centered your attention around your future instead of your present– the long road wouldn’t have been so difficult.

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Making memories with great people ( March 2016.)

You’ve been burned. You’ve been mistreated. You’ve been judged and even overlooked. Allowing individuals who you thought were “friends” and romantic interests you believed to be “lovers” to shape your personality built you up into a completely different person and spat back the backlash to you in return.

Your social life became more important that your academics. You friends became more important than family. And your passions became more than THE passion– Christ, himself.

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Parents at the Blackwell-Barton wedding festivities (December 2015.)

It wasn’t until you allowed your defeat to finally catch up with you– hitting rock bottom–you then realized your changing was vital.

The good thing about the one life we live is that although our days are numbered, everyday is a new beginning.

Two years ago you were reborn. Facing all of your fears head-on, you dedicated yourself to optimism and the change you knew best fit you. You, Carmen Blackwell, commits to the life you knew you deserved.

My advice to the future you is far from what I would’ve prescribed for you in the past.

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Receiving the KNOE intern scholarship award funded by the Louisiana Broadcasters Association ( January 2016.)

I see the fire flame behind the passion in your eyes, you’re a woman. You now realize your life has long surpassed child’s play and you’ve only scratched the surface.

Four years have come and gone and here you are. Stand tall my love, you are phenomenal.

Take everything that you’ve absorbed from your experiences. Those that both hurt you and those that only made you stronger. These are the lessons that will only make you greater than you imagined.

Never forget your past. It gave you passion and it gave you drive. But burry it. It is no longer relevant.

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My friends and colleagues sharing a kodak moment in the heart of New York City ( March 2016.)

To the future you, realize that you are young with a lot of life left to live. Often times I feel like you’re much too impatient and although you’re willing to do whatever it takes to complete something, always remember quality supersedes quantity.

Honesty and integrity will get you exactly where you want to be in life. You’ve proven to yourself and all those around you what you are capable of.

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Boyfriend and I (began dating in October 2014) at his Rays’spring training game (March 2016.)

Create a set of goals for yourself and set out to achieve them with no exceptions. The real world isn’t as cold and frightful as it may seem– keep in mind, “mind over matter.”

As an aspiring multimedia journalist, life will somehow “get in the way” of everything you will dream to come true. Place your faith in Him and keep your head high and your standards even higher.

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Christmas 2015 in Wyoming 

No path is an easy one, but if you continue to work hard and strap on all of the life lessons and experiences you’ve gained thus far, the road to achieving your ultimate dream will be much smoother than you’ll expect.

Work hard. Dream big. Love more. Remember to balance your selflessness with your selfishness and remain humble along the way.

You’ve come such a long way, yet you have a long journey ahead. Keep your head up and ALWAYS continue to push forward– you were destined for greatness.

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Had to take a selfie! Post-graduation pictures (April 2016.)

 

And one more thing… Congratulations! You’ve finally done it. Another milestone reached and plenty more in your future to come.

 

I love you,

Carmen (the new me)

 

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Legends Set Bar Future of Journalism

“In the English language, it all comes down to this: Twenty-six letters, when combined correctly, can create magic. Twenty -six letters form the foundation of a free, informed society.” -John Grogan

All the President’s Men is truer to the craft of journalism than to the art of storytelling, and that’s its problem.

The book and even the movie is an accurate depiction of the journey these  investigative reporters took. As we could expect, and yet the process overwhelms the narrative.

In All the President’s Men, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein are forced to make several ethical decisions because of just how much bigger this story was– people’s lives were at risk, people were facing jail time and the story could’ve put a president down from his nation in the blink of an eye.

These men were not only ambitious in seeing this story to its’ rightful end, but they were rookies in the news room. However, the two journalists made history not for their work but how they conducted their work– a rather rare quality found in solid journalism today.

There was something unique about these journalists that I feel is a lost quality found in what defines a journalist as a “journalist.”Through their research, Woodward and Bernstein used the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics.

“What the heck is that?”, you ask. Well, it’s the current guide for journalists to use when making judgment calls on their reporting and there are four main concepts journalists usually swear a sort of oath by.

Those codes being; seek the truth and report it, minimize harm (reputational), act independently and take accountability.

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“Journalists should: ….— Diligently seek out subjects of news stories to give them the opportunity to respond to allegations of wrongdoing….”

Woodward and Bernstein were a dynamic duo in journalism. The two were adrift in a research– knee deep in evidence, given but an inch of information each step closer that they took. Yet miles left ahead until they covered enough ground to reach the  finish line.

Both Woodward and Bernstein appeared to have no issues with seeking the truth. The code says to be “honest, fair and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.”

Woodward showed a desire to be honest and fair in his gathering of information but the courageous aspect is exemplified best by Bernstein. Bernstein is extremely persistent with sources, even and perhaps especially when those sources are being difficult or not willing to cooperate.

They gathered a sea of names, dates, telephone numbers, coincidences, lucky breaks, false leads, dogged footwork, denials, evasions, and sometimes even the truth.

I feel this “new generation” of journalism lacks thoroughness. Gaps and loopholes that would’ve better made the story hole are often overlooked because of the laziness in reporting today.

Impatience in meeting deadline, not getting enough (accurate) sources or even twisting a story to one’s own bias are key factors to what has left many with a sour taste for what journalism truly is.

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Uncovering thousands of details led up to Watergate and the Nixon resignation, many sources wished to be kept anonymous. Both Woodward and Bernstein built a trusting relationship with their sources which aided them in allowing to get more information.

Good reporting is respecting your sources no matter what. Woodward and Bernstein both used creative tactics to help their sources feel comfortable in allowing their names to be used– now that’s good journalism!

This is an important code of ethics in journalism that really set the bar for the future of journalism. When reporting a story of this magnitude, building trust between you and is imperative.

Reporters have yet to accomplish what Woodward and Bernstien have since the Watergate Scandal was uncovered– they are, in my opinion, the icons of authentic journalism– journalism at its finest.

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“Journalists should: …. — Recognize that private people have a greater right to control information about themselves than do public officials and others who seek power, influence or attention. Only an overriding public need can justify intrusion into anyone’s privacy.”

The stories being published were about a government scandal. While at the beginning neither Woodward nor Bernstein knew the impact their reports would eventually have, each made decisions that would impact lives of people involved.

Both movies and books made after newspaper stories, play up the excitement and ignore the boredom and the waiting.

“— Be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power accountable.”

The journalists were both vigilant and courageous about this point. Those involved were accountable. Those involved in the scandal also happened to be public officials and therefor very powerful men and women.

Once we’ve seen one cycle of investigative reporting, Woodward and Bernstein cracked the first wall separating the break-in from the White House, we understand their method.

“Journalists are accountable to their readers, listeners, viewers and each other.”

Woodward and Bernstein were continually checking each other’s work. They would cross-check sources and information with one another before printing anything. Had either of them made a mistake, both seemed as though they would take the blame for the article.

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I feel as though this step is often mistaken in modern-day reporting. Misquoting and not double-checking facts and sources is popular and common.

Although we are able to fix our mistakes through digital journalism, this almost lost quality in journalism is beginning to fade away.

The dynamic due followed the story through until it led closer and closer to an end we already knew.

All of these elements in “All the President’s Men” are to be praised.

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Though journalism has evolved in so many ways, the power and place journalism holds in our society is shaped by the future of news– both Woodward and Bernstein set the bar high for what it means to be not a “good journalist”, but a legendary journalist.