Day 9 – Are we all just mad here?

Matt Pinkney battles against the deadline as he rushes to finish his first story. // Photo by Brian Nguyen

Matt Pinkney battles against the deadline as he rushes to finish his first story. // Photo by Brian Nguyen

By Matt Pinkney, Mosaic Staff Writer

As deadline approaches, it’s natural to switch between thinking “Oh God, how am I going to finish on time?” and “So, what’s next?”  At school, this means thinking about what my story for the next issue.

At Mosaic, though, there is no next issue.  After we go to print, that’s it.  Done.  Goodbye San Jose State, goodbye newsroom, welcome back to a regular summer.  So my “what’s next?” has to be taken up by larger things.

I want to be a writer.  It’s something I enjoy doing and it’s something I’ve wanted to do since middle school.  But writing is one of those skills with a lot of applications.  What can you use writing for?  More accurately, what can’t you use it for?  If I want to write for a living, there’s a million different ways to do that.

But I think when I say “I want to write,” most people know what I mean.  I want my job to be writing.  In an English-y sort of way.

Fiction is one way to do that.  And it does have a certain glamour attached to it, if only for nerdy, book-loving kids like me.  And I’ve taken steps to make that happen.  My first novel, Birth by Flame, is going to be published this fall.  It’s an exciting prospect.  But, most professional authors have a certain quality about them.  A certain “I’m already financially stable” quality that I don’t.

Journalism is another way to write for a living.  And it seems more economically viable!  Yet I’m still in that gray area of not knowing what I want to do.  Call it teenage angst or indecision or shake your walking stick at “them gosh-darn millennials,” but I’m still just a kid, really.

This article doesn’t make things any easier for me.  It lists the ten careers with the highest concentration of people with psychopathic tendencies.  And journalist is sitting comfortably at number 6 on that list.

At first, I was a little shocked.  The professional journalists I’ve met and worked with certainly don’t seem like psychopaths.  So I did a little digging as to what “psychopathic tendencies” really are.

One study lists three main symptoms of psychopathy that can be observed to varying degrees.  These are boldness, disinhibition and meanness.

Boldness is definitely something journalists have in abundance.  How many times have I been told to get out there, get that story, dig deeper, be curious?  I ask because I’ve lost track myself.

Disinhibition is a trickier thing to grasp.  It’s described as “poor impulse control” among other things.  I can’t see that as a specific trait in the journalists I know, but I guess it can happen.

Now, meanness.  It’s not really what you might think.  It’s not being actively malicious; it’s more having a lack of empathy.  And…I can see that in a lot of journalists.  We have empathy and form close attachments with each other.  At Mosaic, we were all friends within a few minutes of meeting each other.  But, we can’t really have empathy towards our stories.  You have to report the objective truth and you might have to deal with extremely emotional situations.  And you have to do all of this while remaining neutral.  Eventually, I think you just get desensitized.

So, maybe it’s not a matter of psychopaths being drawn to journalism.  Maybe it’s a matter of journalism producing psychopaths.

But, then again, maybe everyone in this newsroom is just waiting to crack.  Whatever the case, I don’t think I’ll be sticking around in this profession long enough to find out.

Or maybe I will!  It’s fun and exciting and the people here are all genuinely great people I want to be great friends with.  Does this mean they aren’t psychopaths?  Or are we all just mad here?

Day 8 – Here at Mosaic, our only drug is breaking news

Alam Skandar, 39, descended from the 90 ft crane at around 10:30 a.m. after a 14-hour standoff with the SJPD. (Photo by Steven Barajas, Mosaic Staff Photographer)

Alam Skandar, 39, descended from the 90 ft crane at around 10:30 a.m. after a 14-hour standoff with the SJPD. // Photo by Steven Barajas, Mosaic Staff Photographer

By Matt Pinkney, Mosaic Staff Writer

I think I’ve finally come down from my buzz.  Don’t worry.  Mosaic isn’t some sketchy organization letting kids get strange drugs from weird people in downtown San Jose.

No, here at Mosaic, our only drug is breaking news.  And I got my first taste today.

I had just rolled out of bed about ten minutes earlier when I got a call from a number I didn’t recognize.  I picked up the phone.  It turned out to be Robert, one of our editors.  He told me to find a photographer and get over to City Hall as soon as we could.  It was kind of hard to make him out (dorms don’t have the best reception), but I could gather something about a guy in a high place by City Hall and that I needed to be there now.  I threw on some clothes and David and I rushed over to the corner of 6th and Santa Clara as fast as we could.

When we got there, there were camera crews and reporters from all the local stations.  Video cameras were pointed into the sky, a few reporters talked with colleagues and photographers moved along the corner trying to get pictures.

One of our editors, Karl, introduced us to some of his colleagues from the Mercury News.  We got the full story as the reporters knew it: a homeless man had climbed up into a crane on a construction sight and had been there for twelve hours.  Police had blocked off some of the streets and were trying to get him to come down.

As we got filled in, David got a lot of pictures of the guy in the crane.  I mostly observed what was going on, both up in the crane and down on the ground.  I had never seen one TV news crew so close up, let alone four or five like were situated on this corner.  It was interesting to see everyone so comfortable around each other.  I guess I hadn’t expected professional journalists to be so friendly, especially in TV.

After a while, David and I took a walk around the section the cops had blocked off.  We heard the man shout something down at the cops, we saw people looking up at the crane and talk amongst themselves, and we saw people going about their day normally as if nothing had changed.

For a while, it looked like nothing would change.  Then the man came out of the cab and started walking along the crane.  David scrambled to get into a good position for pictures.  I gripped my notebook tight.  My heart was in my throat.  I was nervous about what could happen.

Thankfully, he went back into the cab, unhurt.  We walked back to where the reporters stood and met up with Steven, Hannah and Brian.  I talked to some more people while all three photographers took their shots.

We were standing far away from the other reporters when he started to come down from the crane.  We had the perfect shot, too, framed by the construction and some of the surrounding buildings.  As soon as he was down, we ran over to the police line where they were loading him into the police car.  We didn’t get great shots as he drove away, unfortunately.
When we finally walked back to the newsroom, I was still pumped.  I felt like a real journalist, getting a story that was happening now.  It was an amazing thrill and I’m so incredibly glad to have had this experience.

Day 6 – Looking into the future

Mosaic reporters Jacky Tsang, Megan Robalewski, Sara Ashary and Semira Sherief enjoy some free time in newsroom. // Photo by Mosaic staff

Mosaic reporters Jacky Tsang, Megan Robalewski, Sara Ashary and Semira Sherief enjoy some free time in the newsroom. // Photo by Mosaic staff

By Sara Ashary, Mosaic Staff Writer and part-time clairvoyant

(Editors Note: Saturday is usually a slow day in the newsroom, so we’ve allowed Mosaic staffer Sara Ashary to take a hypothetical look into the future of Mosaic’s 2015 class)

So today I did a lot of writing but the most interesting thing was predicting with my Mosaic squad where we each will be in 20 years. Here we go…

Steezy and Hannah: We decided to put them together because their futures will be alike. They each are going to be with someone that is like a hippie and/or an animal lover. Their families will go to music festivals and take many photos.

Sara: I think I will become an accountant.

Aysha: She will become a successful podcaster and talk about Middle Eastern problems and give a whole new view to everyone.

Joelle: She is going tp be like the next Melinda Gates. She is going to be smoking rich because her husband is like a computer genius. She is going to do yoga in the mornings, wear nice expensive simple dresses. She will do a whole lot of charity work while being super smart. She will be a very influential activist.

Jacky: Jacky is an interesting man, so he will take life as it goes.

Tomas: He is going to manage the Earthquakes with like a bluetooth on his left ear and a clipboard in his hand. AKA Making bank.

Noah: One look at Noah and you will understand: He will be an Anchor Man for channel 4 news.

Rachel: National Geographic Photographer that travels around the world. She will wear khakis and green cargo jackets with red toms.

Kaitlyn: She is going to have a PhD but have no idea what to do with it. She will probably end up alright and make herself a great life, living in Palo Alto.

Semira: Semira is such a beautiful soul. I see her marrying a celebrity (like Chris Pine). There will be pictures of her wearing sunglasses, Starbucks in her hand and yoga capris.

Matt: Famous Novelist, like the next John Green. Touring around the country for his new book.

Adele: She is going to be like a CEO. Like imagine her coming into our reunion and she is wearing a pencil skirt and talking on the phone, screaming at her assistant for giving her the wrong fax.

Megan: Megan is going to live that American life and live that high class life. There be a white picket-fence home with two kids. She will drive a Mercedes.

David: David is going to be doing some freelance photography and live alone in this really boyish apartment.

Shannon: Holy guacamole! I do not even know. Maybe the first Asian-American president. She is independent and smart.

Day 3 – Stepping out of my comfort zone

Staff Writer Matt Pinkney skims through the Mercury News during breakfast. // Photo by Hannah Chebeleu, Mosaic Staff Photographer.

Staff Writer Matt Pinkney skims through the Mercury News during breakfast. // Photo by Hannah Chebeleu, Mosaic Staff Photographer.

By Matt Pinkney, Mosaic Staff Writer

Today was my first day of going out and getting interviews.  I woke up both excited and nervous.  Obviously it was good to start making headway on my story, but I haven’t done interviews in a few months.  And every time I’ve done interviews, it’s been with kids.  Going out and interviewing adults is a completely different experience.  I hoped that nervous feeling in my stomach would go away.  Tea helps.

I spent the morning and lunch going over questions and doing some last minute research.  When I left with Hannah and Brian, I was more excited than nervous.  And then, more nervous than excited.  And then tired.  We picked up some other reporters and brought them back to campus.  I’ll admit I maybe considered leaving right then.  Not sincerely, but the thought was there.

We drove to Grand Century Mall in the heart of Little Saigon, the focus of my story.  We stepped out into the blazing sun and walked into the mall.  It felt like stepping into a foreign country.  Every sign was in Vietnamese, every store was catered to Vietnamese customers and everywhere, the Vietnamese language floated into my ears.  As an outsider, it was all fascinating and really cool to experience.  As a journalist, one question came back to my mind.

How do I talk to people?

The first woman we talked to was a little shy at first and sort of mumbled her answers to me.  Then Brian came to the rescue and explained who I was and what I was asking her.  After that, she was not shy about letting us know everything.  When Hannah asked her for pictures, she put on some makeup and let her hair down.  She was a beauty queen or something and she was very proud of her accomplishments.

The next lady we talked to was a lot shyer.  She worked at the supermarket and was really worried about us coming in and taking pictures.  She called her boss and everything was okay in the end. Hannah took a bunch of pictures of the market and the people in it.

We talked to a few more people in the neighboring Vietnam Town before finally heading home.  Little Saigon is a part of San Jose I hadn’t experienced or even really known about before, and I don’t think it’s something I would have experienced if it wasn’t for Mosaic.  I’m happy that I got this chance to step outside of my comfort zone and try something new.

Day 1 – Here we go

Day 1 - Newsroom

By Matthew Pinkney, Mosaic Staff

My first instinct upon walking into Mosaic was strangely neutral.  I was excited, yes, to meet the other reporters and to get moved into the dorm, but it was a strangely muted kind of excitement.  It was excitement mixed with acceptance.  No more “Oh God, what did I get myself into?”  Now, there was only just “Here we go.”

Moving in, I was a little distant, not quite the fast friend I usually am.  Maybe it was just having my parents there doing all the talking for me.  And then some.  I think they were just nervous about giving their little boy up for two weeks.  Like me, except they masked their fear with talking as opposed to my silence.  We took a walk around campus, enjoying the last time we’d be together for a while.

Dinner was about what I expected, a basic buffet with all the reporters and their families.  After getting our food, all the writers sat in a corner and ate, chatted and got to know each other better.  I think it’s fairly safe to say we became good friends even in this short time.

After dinner was a long, long meeting.  We met Joe and Marcos and Leslie, our fearless leaders for the next two weeks.  The parents had their fears assuaged (or re-ignited?) about our safety and we had our fears re-ignited (or assuaged?) about our workload.

Finally, it came time to say goodbye to our parents.  There weren’t any tears or anything dramatic like that.  We just hugged and promised to call and then Mom and Dad left and I joined a group of writers talking.

Then we went up to the lounge.  If that sounds cool, I’m sorry to disappoint you.  It’s a tiny room with a few chairs, a pool table (with no balls or cues), a foosball table (with no balls), a TV (that doesn’t work), and a few vending machines (which might work).

Eventually we all decided to go to bed.  Which resulted in me tossing and turning for the better part of the night.  I set my alarm for 8:00, which would have given me plenty of time to get ready.  By 6, I just gave up on the idea of sleep and read for a few hours.

We got to the newsroom bright and early.  We started writing biographies for our roommates and talked about some story ideas before we broke for lunch.

Lunch was the most exciting part of the day, to be honest.  As we walked off campus and into the city to find a place to eat, we all finally felt like college students for the first time.  Lunch was more expensive than I thought, but it was really fun to hang out with some new friends.

After lunch, we came back to the newsroom and hammered out some story ideas.  Pitching is always the hardest and most nerve-wracking part of journalism.  But, the hard part is probably yet to come.  Oh boy…