Ashley Gets More Comfortable on Cam

It’s really annoying to start every blog post with an apology for the delay–both for you–and for me. So, let’s skip that and talk about fun things.

One year ago this week, I was having a complete anxiety attack over the impending decision to move to Boston. I was given less than 12 hours to make a decision on an apartment that I had never laid eyes on and agree to a montly rent that I had no idea how I would pay for.

At that time, as I laid in the floor hyperventilating, my mom calmly told me that a year would pass either way and before I knew it it would be next spring. She said that we wouldn’t believe how quickly the time would pass.

And boy, was she right.

One year. And now I’m back to stressing about where I’ll live next 🙂

In funny torture, Boston University makes its graduate program three semesters–which means you’re left looking for an apartment for––three months? You have a year lease and then everyone wants you to buckle down for another year.

What’s a girl to do?

Well, I don’t have a clue. I’m obviously staying in Boston through the end of school. I do love it here. But, after December the story is yet to be written and I want to give myself the greatest flexibility to either be with my loves while I look for a job, or travel, or just move to the next gig! I’m hoping and praying and crossing fingers for a splendid ordeal to work out. But I need some prayers!

It’s hard to worry too much about life stuff though with so much school happening. Shooting, shooting, shooting. I’ve been doing a lot of application this semester. The first part of my program gave us the tools: intro to cameras, intro to editing, intro to approaching stories. This semester has been about constantly generating––and I can see huge growth in what I’m doing. The latest example was completed earlier this week. I’m pretty excited to show how much more comfortable with the camera that BU’s program has helped me to become:

I’m happy to say that I’ll be getting even more on-camera experience this summer as I take part in the Newton News fellowship and generate a lot of stories over the coming months.

That means I’m not sure when I’ll get to come home to North Carolina next though; which is intimidating. I’m hoping and praying for at least a long weekend in the coming months!

In the meantime, I came to Boston to switch back to newswoman––and I have to say––that’s been my true focus over the last seven months; now eight more to go before a graduation!

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Sneak Peek: “Ashley on Cam.” aka, what’s Ashley doing in Boston?

I came to Boston with the excitement and interest in figuring out what spectrum of broadcast news I should be focused on. Should I be a producer? Should I be on-air?

A funny realization hit me last week.

I came here with the misconception that everyone could produce; and only a certain few could be on-air.

And I was wrong.

It takes a pretty special talent to produce OR to be reporting in front of the camera.

Lucky me, I’m getting a wealth of exposure to all types of situations and opportunities that are allowing me to work on the necessary skills to be good––as well as figure out what feels better. What do I really want to do? It’s very different pathways even though they’re in the same newsroom.

This week’s flex work involved doing a professionally set stand-up report with some coaching. I’m sharing for the furthest from vain reasons (I HATED people watching me. An inherent problem if this is what I want to do). Instead, I’m sharing it because–as someone who was considering graduate school; I think it could be helpful to others interested who want to see what the grad school experience can be like.

I want to post it so my family can get a sense of what the heck i’m doing 14 hours away.

And I’m posting it to kind of get over myself and insecurities a little.

Only way is to jump right in, right?

I had some mixed feelings about posting the whole take (it’s only like 3 minutes long); but at the same time––that’s really the only way to see what I’m doing right now. Which happens to include gibberish and giggling sometimes in the middle of forgetting what I’m supposed to be saying.

Overall, I’m SO excited about how much progress I’m making. This session was abundantly helpful to really iron out some vocal things that I need to work on. Look forward to taping an even better stand up with my next package.

In things I need to fix: don’t be an up-talker, say the letter “W” correctly and get used to those crazy bright lights.

This is just the beginning!

PS: Isn’t BU beautiful!?

For best viewing: Make sure you let it load all the way first. Otherwise it looks grainy and the audio doesn’t match up. In other things I need to learn to do better: downsize video files better. If for some reason it’s embedding here grainy and not so great; check it out here instead.

Back to By-Lines.

I'm with the press.

I’m with the press.

It’s been over a year since I’ve written an article. Over a year since my by-line was on anything other than this blog.

A strange feeling for a reporter.

Even stranger to then go cover an event.

I was very blessed to get the opportunity to cover the Boston municipal preliminary elections Tuesday night. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Boston politics, the current mayoral election is very important since current mayor, Thomas Menino, is leaving after 20 years in office. Most locals are a little turned up that he’s leaving. It’s what they’re used to; and it’s what many feel like they have always known. Not to mention, he’s fairly popular.

Anyway, so I got a great opportunity to cover the preliminaries for Boston University News Service.

This is one of the many reasons I chose Boston University.

They have television, radio, print and online all ran by students internally–and then they also have students working with other local publications.

I chose to cover the event from candidate John Connolly’s reception (he ended up being a winner by the way; and yes I picked his location on purpose not on luck). While I was there I met three other BU students covering in various other capacities both for BU and for other local media outlets.

Now, I’ve never covered politics before.

I follow it.

I read the news.

I read the analysis.

But I was always a sports girl.

I was a little nervous that some kind of reflex was going to kick in and my lede was going to say:

“City Councilman John Connolly rallied tonight, coming in second place with X number of votes. His record now stands 1-0 as he advances to the next round of the playoffs.”

I joke.

But in seriousness, I went into the event knowing that I needed to be sensitive to a new game. (Literally, I cannot stop making sports references.)

All I can say is two things:

1) Thank God I had a friend to go with.

2) Thank God I’m taking advantage of learning opportunities.

On the Silver line to Roxbury. It's hard to ride a bus carrying so much stuff. Back row.

On the Silver line to Roxbury. It’s hard to ride a bus carrying so much stuff. Back row.

I was proud of the final article I submitted. And excited to see it make print. But I definitely learned a number of things on the way that I feel worth sharing:

Don’t always take for granted the exact address given to you by the press spokesperson. 

Mikaela and I showed up at the address that was given to us approximately two hours early and no one was there. It wasn’t because we were being over diligent on getting there in time–but a lot of other people went to polling locations and then the reception. Or they went to headquarters and then the reception. There was no one there! There was definitely a moment where we thought to ourselves. “Oh my. We have none of the news right now. We have no news.” Do your research, be diligent about exploring and seeking multiple locations. Our schedule wasn’t really conducive to allowing us to fully do this; but next time if we had a full day to delegate (and this was a full-time job) that’s definitely a consideration.

Be assertive about getting your story.

John Connolly’s reception was in Roxbury, which is a more diverse area of Boston. I’ll put it like this, there were a couple of times my camera was noticed on the street, two men called out “Hey blondie, how you doing?” and one of my interviewees talked about the prevalence of drug deals that happened in the area. If I hadn’t just had a little gumption to go out and get the interviews I needed on the street; I wouldn’t have had a story. Period. Know your surroundings. Be smart. But be brave, too. Sometimes you just have to go do it. For me, Boston is already a slight culture shock. That night in Roxbury (ha, no pun intended) was definitely vastly different than what I’m used to. I was proud for how I handled the reporting though.

Make friends.

This one I knew from sports reporting. The men you sit next to on the press row are the same ones who might offer you a ride to your car later or charge to your phone if you have to have it. The same was true on the camera line Tuesday night. My friend needed a longer cable and what do you know, a nice neighboring cameraman obliged. Lesson learned here though: always get their names. That way you can track them down later to return aforementioned items and offer a thanks. We ran into some hurdles with that later. . . .

Plan, plan, plan.

And have a realistic idea of what you want to accomplish.

Mikaela and I went armed with a video camera, audio recorders and notepads. I was trying to live blog, write a print story, shoot a television package and get audio.

I about lost my mind.

Maybe if I had been impeccably organized with a rundown of shot list, how long each shot should be; interviews and questions–it would have been more manageable. But in the heat of a first time reporting with a camera in tow? It was a lot.

Get a mule.

Less reasonable. Broadcast-J students have a lot of stuff to carry.

At 11:30 p.m. as I’m walking a mile home from the bus stop I’m realizing what a lovely predator target I could have been. Here I am carrying a backpack, a tripod and a big camera bag. Easily 30 pounds of stuff. And that’s a light load. Note to self, plan for cabs.

You can’t get a mule; but I should have planned ahead better about getting home so late and with so much (expensive) equipment slowing me down.

You know at the end of the day, politics weren’t so different than sports.

There’s a winner and there’s a loser. There’s a next game and there’s a strategy behind what just happened on the field. There are coaches and MVPs; fans and supporters; there are bandwagoners and there are hecklers. They just have different labels and the game may not all unfold under the stadium lights quite like sports–but there are more similarities than I imagined. Maybe that’s a blog for another day when I’ve covered as many government events as athletic ones.

John Connolly's reception was a great event and election outcome to be covering.

John Connolly’s reception was a great event and election outcome to be covering.

But until then, I’ve at least crossed off one more 25 by 25 to be published in a new publication.

Not to put any pressure on myself, but there are still FIVE 25 by 25s to do before October 7; and that’s only 10 days away. I need to get going:

– Write a book proposal. (Pfft. I can already tell you–this sucker is not going to be checked off.)

– Volunteer time somewhere that really counts. Find a non-profit to dedicate passion. (Does volunteering with BUTV count? I need to check into this . . .)

– Try for other acting experience. (Yeah. About that.)

– Learn how to handle a firearm. Okay, and maybe shoot one too. (Damnit, I’ve had TWO friends attempt to cross this off with me this year and it just . . .hasn’t happened. Something tells me it would be easier if I were still in N.C.)

– See a play on Broadway. (This MIGHT be feasible.)

Wish me luck . . .

Land Legs in Boston.

Sorry for the super lag.

Moving is crazy. Moving almost 15 hours away is even crazier.

You’re getting settled in a new place. You’re getting used to new transportation, different stores, a change in schedule. That just scratches the surface of the transition I’ve been going through. Every time I thought about updating the blog I felt like I had to have a polished picture of Boston so far. And you know what? It’s actually still kind of messy : ) So, hence me taking the pressure off of myself to give you perfect. Instead, I’ll just give an update.

It’s officially been a week and a half and it’s definitely not enough time to feel settled or for this to feel remotely like “home,” but it’s long enough to be getting my land legs back underneath me.

Moving weekend was a BONDING experience. Bonding in the sense that my butt was seriously bonded to that freaking moving truck. TMI? The family and I loaded up the Budget truck and after a wonderful dinner with family Friday night, we slept in a little Saturday; had a nice family breakfast; shared some long hugs and climbed up for a long drive.

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Mi + Familia.

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This is my “excited to get on the road” face. Super actress.

12 hours, four different radio-broadcast football games, miles of classic country, fields and fields and five state lines later we took a break in Scranton, Penn.

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Somewhere in Virginia.

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More Virginia. We were in Virginia FOREVER.

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And I have no clue where this was.

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More Virginia. Like seriously, we were in VA forever.

It took us a whopping 19 hours to actually get to Boston because a) moving trucks are a little slower than the average speedster and b) there was a lot of torrential rain we had to drive through. I consider myself a professional driver of all sorts now that I completed this huge road test. The first thing that Dad and I did when we got here was to hop the train down to the Wharf to check out Faneuil Hall and get some lobster (duh).

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Me + Dad. So glad he made the trip with me.

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So, I guess I live here now?

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First lobster. And can I say, the middle is gross. Just saying. A New England bit that I need to work on.

That night we checked out the empty apartment for the first time and I was so happy to see that it was a lot bigger than I had prepared myself for. I think him and I slept like rocks that night and got up BRIGHT and early for me to take him to the airport at 5 a.m. Driving a moving truck test three? Drive a moving truck in pouring rain in Boston to the airport and back. I got lost in Charlestown somehow, missed exit and whatnot. I tried to get out of there fairly quickly.

Moving day was CRAZY. Moved all my stuff in by noon and then hurried to orientation. I think that’s the day that it was really hitting me “Goodness, I’m a student again.”

I don’t know why I didn’t plan differently than I did; but the way the week went I moved in – had orientation – went to bed – had a full first day of class. It was nuts. That night when I got home I went to bed at 7 p.m. and didn’t wake up the next day until 7:30 a.m. I was EXHAUSTED.

No car; so I’m adjusting to using public transportation which I actually really adore.

New roommates; so it’s not just me anymore : ).  So far, that has been good too. Luckily I was able to gradually transition back to roommates after living with my old college roommate/best friend for a month in-between my Winston apartment and the new Boston adventure.

After a full week of classes I’m left with a few key thoughts that I’ll share and then I promise I’ll be more organized here on out:

1) Boston is beautiful. I love history. I love architecture. I love all of the greenery and parks mixed with city. I love it. I was able to just wander around a lot this weekend and I was constantly adoring the sights and feeling grateful to spend some time here.

2) Boston University faculty are amazing. I had a great team of professors at Appalachian State and it’s thanks to them that I am prepared for this level of study. There is a stark difference in the faculty (predominantly full-time professors) that I had at Appalachian and now the faculty that I have in Boston. My professors are almost all still involved in the industry; many are publishing books; others are producing for Nightline or serving as commentators on MSNBC. Seriously, it’s an incredible mix to be able to learn from and I just know that I’ve put myself in a great place for this new career change.

3) It’s really fun to get outside your comfort zone. I’m being open to life right now. I’m in this huge life change where I took a leap and a risk. It’s incredibly exciting and invigorating. I’m trying to take it outside of school and Boston though and just be open to new friends, trying new food, going new places, being open to dating like a 24-year-old typically would and just having a good time.

4) Oh my, how did I do a college schedule!? What will balance that freewill to a good time? My INSANE schedule. I was amazingly blessed to receive two teacher assistantships and a graduate assistantship. Which is a lot. On top of 18 hours of classes. Well, that’s a hella lot. I’m hoping I don’t have to step away from any of them but right now I’m easing my way into a schedule to see what’s feasible. My first and foremost priority will be school. Period. Monday through Friday are going to be nutso; but you know–if you realize it’s short-term you just have to enjoy it for what it is.

5) You can’t really carry that many groceries in .7 mile. So, in my transportation adjustments––sure, I’m getting used to not driving to school and work. But there are also things like the grocery store? It’s nuts. I went yesterday and was SO PROUD to carry home: apples, bananas, oranges, pork chops, carrots and 2 things of frozen vegetables. Haha, I joke that I’m going to turn into a French woman who just buys what she eats each day.

More updates more regularly I promise. And back on schedule with Turn It Up next Monday! ❤

It’s never too late to try again.

When I was in college, every Saturday August to December was spent with countless hours covering college football. The hours I didn’t get paid for driving to far-away universities. The free time I devoted to working on the game stories that counted and the features that were extra. Maybe it was the stadium lights and smell of AstroTurf, or maybe I genuinely loved reporting–but I never complained about the overtime or weekend work.

Sure the game reporting was the glamorous part of my job.

Just hanging out on the sidelines at Death Valley with Anne Baker.

But those late Wednesday nights agonizing over the manifest with my fellow editors? Those nights were the ones that no one else on campus knew about; and the nights that I still somehow adored. Did we get the right stories? Do we have the right hierarchy? Were there enough quotes in that story? Did we cite the right sources? Does the picture match the story?

Working in newspapers wasn’t for the faint of heart or for those who prided themselves in lots of free time outside class.

Those of us on the newspaper staff were bonded in ink and coffee. They were relationships I could compare to few others because beyond the hours we shared editing or comparing news, we all cared on a core level about the motivation of our job. We all shared that idyllic philosophy about serving the community through providing balanced media. We were some pretty self-righteous college students : ).

So much time spent with this crowd. Photo credit to the gloriously talented Alisha Park Dakon.

News was a passion. Sports was a lifestyle. But, writing has always been my tonic.

2003 – I start my first journal and I still have one to this day (oh wow, hello 10-year anniversary).

2004 – I had my first reporting job with the local newspaper covering education.

2005 – I helped start our high school’s first online newspaper.

2007 – I joined The Appalachian, Appalachian State University’s student newspaper.

2008 to 2011 – I was able to report for publications across the East Coast and online covering various sports and athletic teams.

Reporting, while I have tried to deny it a couple times, has almost always been a part of my DNA.

But sometimes life happens. And you graduate college in the middle of a recession looking for a job in a dying industry. Newspapers weren’t hiring and while online publications were, I suffered a bit of a crossroads crisis. Communications overall has always been a passion of mine––I had a degree in Public Relations as well, after all–maybe I should broaden my skill set.

At the time I was in a serious relationship that had always been long distance. It was time to give local a try. So, Winston-Salem it was. And keeping with journalism wasn’t in the cards.

I went door-to-door with advertising agencies. I had no experience; but knew that I could be a quick study and I truly always had loved branding and marketing. I loved the science behind consumer behavior and was fascinated with creative campaigns.

Luckily I visited Woodbine on the day that their CFO had five minutes to spare for a little blonde girl knocking on the door with a resume and ready smile. I swear if Wanda hadn’t spent those five minutes then, she wouldn’t have been there to say “I think we should talk to that Ashley.” I wouldn’t have gotten that job in advertising and I wouldn’t have been able to spend three years at an agency that became my family. (Wanda and I fell in a different kind of love that day—three years later, she’s my Winston-Salem mama.) I’m going to save that for a separate post though.

Advertising was great. It was. And I invested myself. I learned about the industry. I immersed myself in my clients.

But journalism was still tugging at my heart.

Maybe it was the day that I watched too many episodes of The Newsroom or maybe it was watching too much Brian Williams on NBC Nightly News. But I had a very clear moment on a late August day one year ago that said:

I need to try again.

From the moment I graduated from undergraduate I knew that my education wasn’t over. Academics have always been a huge part of my life and focus. My mother works with the county school board and my father is a (in fact, my) high school chemistry teacher.

It was time to consider graduate school.

Still fresh off of a break-up and re-evaluating where my heart was and what I wanted to do with my life (I have been high on embracing my time) I decided to give it a shot. What does it hurt to apply?

I picked three schools:

– Northwestern University

– Syracuse University

– Boston University

I wanted to go back for journalism to jumpstart back into the industry, connect to more people who could move me forward faster––and to more importantly, enter a segment of journalism I don’t have any experience in: broadcast. Cue that speculation over Newsroom getting to me.

All three schools were relatively challenging to expect getting into. Northwestern is the Harvard of journalism schools. Syracuse’s sports journalism graduate program is practically a direct feed into ESPN’s media room and Boston University had one of the strongest hands-on programs in a major media market that I could hope for.

Three agonizing months went into the applications. And then more agonizing months waiting on responses.

The first came on a Friday evening. I was sitting eating Chinese food and remarking on how few plans I had for the night when the phone rang.

“Hi, is this Ashley Davis?” the voice asked.

“Yes, can I help you?”

“Well, we just wanted to call and let you know that you’ve been accepted to Northwestern’s Medill School and hoped to start your weekend in a good way by calling to tell you the news!”

I think I choked out a “Wow,” and a “Thank you” before dissolving into tears and calling my mom.

Overwhelmed was probably the first and best word to use.

Holy crap, I got into Northwestern. My confidence level on getting into the other two schools immediately jumped. Although, I secretly was hoping for Boston.

Blame it on visiting the university and seeing my birthdate on a quote in the COM department lobby (superstitious much?). Or blame it on a desire to be in a city where it seemed the connection to opportunities would be insane. Regardless, I was excited to hear about all three schools.

And one by one the acceptances came in.

I was stunned.

I would only go if it was overwhelmingly obvious that I should go.

And then there was a late spring day where the email came that not only was I offered acceptance in Boston, I was offered a substantial scholarship. And you know what else? I had some friends who needed a roommate. Oh, and also there are some assistantships with my name on it.

What more could I ask for? It had to be.

I had to turn down Northwestern and Syracuse––and let me tell you, it was far from easy. Northwestern? I mean, come on. The kicker that made my decision? I could’ve bought a nice house or went to Northwestern. Sadly, it was a financially charged decision. For Syracuse? I decided that if I had chosen Syracuse I would have inevitably went straight back into sports. I love sports. I know that I can do sports. If I wanted to do sports I don’t think that I would have to go back to graduate school.

I want school to challenge me outside my comfort zone. I want school to offer abundant opportunities for exposure to new things, new experiences, new skills and settings. I thought Boston fit that argument better. And God seemed to be pushing me in that direction, as well.

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Looks like I’m a Boston Terrier these days. What in the world will I do not having black and gold as my school colors!? : )

One year later I have had to put in my notice at Woodbine. I have had to spend three tearful, wonderful, fun-filled, fully lived months of summer in a city that I have learned to love with friends who have become family. I have worked a full notice and helped transition projects that have been my babies. I have packed up an apartment that watched me grow up in a new way. I have shared an apartment one more time with a college roommate and very best friend. And I have driven the 2.5-hour drive from Winston-Salem to Waynesville one last time as a Winston resident.

As I drove that route last night through all the tears I cracked a smile thinking: If my life were a movie, this moment would unavoidably be a scene. Regardless of if I go to school and am a raving success taking on Savannah Guthrie and Katie Couric in 20 years; or if this risk goes insanely wrong and I find myself in a lost place in three months—REGARDLESS, this is a huge game changer. That moment; this week, is officially on the books as a game changer.

I have closed an adventure and I’m embarking on a new one.

In the end of the first Newsroom season, there’s a big focus on “the greater fool.” Per the show, the greater fool is the person who will buy long and sell short. You have to have a greater fool for anyone else to profit. The greater fool is idealistic and naive. They don’t know necessarily what they’re losing but only what they hope to gain. In a lot of ways the greater fool sounds like the not that you would want to be; but without the greater fool and risk then there’s not the hope of growing. Without whisking you up in an Aaron-Sorkin style diatribe, suffice to say this is resonating with me right now.

I just quit a full-time, great job to go back to school full time. I just walked away from a stable income to go into debt. I just abandoned an industry that is fully focused on sales and increase for an industry with unknown growth.

But I want to do the news.

And I want to try to make a difference.

And I want to write and report and share stories.

And something tells me that without being a little naive I would never have taken the risk.

January 2013. I made a pit stop to check out the school just in case. "Just in case, I'll take your picture" Sarah said. Just in case.

January 2013. I made a pit stop to check out the school just in case. “Just in case, I’ll take your picture” Sarah said. Just in case. Notice my look of shrugged shoulders and non-committal, I dunno. Just give it six months, Ashley.

I fully and inherently know that the HBO Newsroom is not a real newsroom. But it’s a nice explication of what’s happening in my heart.

Another pretty of me on campus. Isn't this university beautiful!? Also, please note the torrential snowfall. Homegirl is going to be investing in some WARM clothes.

Another pretty of me on campus. Isn’t this university beautiful!? Also, please note the torrential snowfall. Homegirl is going to be investing in some WARM clothes.

So now this explains how #25: Apply for something outside of your comfort zone. Be it a mission trip, race or whatever I’ve wanted to try in the past but chickened out on. was crossed off.

You’re only 24 once, right?

Now I can also cross off #10: Continue my education. Enroll in a class or make a point to find non-traditional ways to keep challenging myself and growing. And also, hopefully soon, #18: Be published in a news forum that I haven’t been published in before.

Two days of family and then Saturday I start a Daddy-Daughter road trip to the North.

Boston, watch out––southern accent in tow.

New adventures to hit the blog starting <now.>