Changed for the better?

Here we are at the end of the semester, and I’m finishing my final project for J335. I made it! And I’m so happy to finish the class with this project, which is very close to my heart.

I’m about to end my third year here at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and some of my absolute best memories of college have taken place on State Street. From sitting outside Michaelangelo’s coffee shop on the first day of spring, to having a fancy dinner with friends at Cosi, to trudging through the snow to get free frozen yogurt, State Street has served as the center of my campus world for three years. When I saw the plans for the Street’s redevelopment that came out this spring, I couldn’t decide if I was excited to see the new beginnings of the street, or sad at the loss of a great area.

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A sketch of the proposed building which would take up the 500 and 600 blocks of State Street. Courtesy of thedailypage.com: http://www.thedailypage.com/daily/article.php?article=39874

Talking to city and University officials backing the plan made me feel like this might be something great. Talking to students who were frustrated at the loss of some of their favorite places, full of memories and stories from their time here as a Badger made me realize that this development is somewhat of a tragedy.

State Street is what makes Madison unique and special. Knocking down small businesses who have had a home in the area for years to build ANOTHER expensive apartment building is a real loss. It even sounds like it could be the plot in an action movie, we just need a hero to swoop in and save the day, stopping the big city from making a mistake and giving into big companies.

This story made me realize I need to take action to try to help the area, and join my friends who were hoping to keep their favorite restaurants and shops right where they are. We can be the action heroes in this situation.

This is the second time that a story I wrote for J335 inspired me to make a change in my life and join a cause. Though I don’t know if my actions will help create any real results, I need to say I tried. I’m proud to say this isn’t something I probably would’ve done before I took this class.

So, even if the apartment building does go up, I can at least say I did what I could, and through the process, I was changed for the better.

Thanks for everything J335! Senior year here I come!

Long Road Ahead?

Throughout the semester I’ve been working on a feature story about the Solidarity Singers a.k.a. the Solidarity Sing Along that has been going on for over two years at the Wisconsin State Capitol.

Only in July 2012, after over 150 days of peaceful sing alongs were they first punished by law enforcement. Shortly after Capitol Police Chief David Erwin was appointed by the Department of Administration, tickets were being given out almost daily to sing along participants, most for over $100.

The singers stayed peaceful, but quietly began protecting themselves with lawyers. Their singing only got louder though.

This was especially true on Monday, April 15, the day before Chief Erwin’s strict, new “emergency” rules were enforced. The video below is from that day, with over 30 participants on the first floor, and many spectators watching from above.

The future of the Solidarity Sing Along remains unclear. Brandon Barwick, the group’s de facto leader says that they will continue to be there as long as Scott Walker is governor. Capitol police are continuing to enforce harsher punishments on singers to keep them at home. So far, the singers have been successful in court, having all their cases dismissed.

Will dozens continue to show up at the Capitol every day for the next year and a half? Will they stay if Walker is re-elected for four more years?

Even though my official reporting is over, the story definitely isn’t.

You can keep track of the Solidarity Sing Along and all the news surrounding them on their facebook page, through The Capitol Times, The Isthmus, and The Wisconsin State Journal.

I cannot wait to see what is in store for this group, and the Capitol police. Covering their conflicts over the last two and a half months has been fascinating, rewarding and inspiring.

The adventure begins…

I did my first interview for my J335 feature story! I decided that for my interview of a Solidarity Singer group member I would just go up to them outside the Capitol and see who would talk to me. I got so many volunteers! I decided to do my main interview with Martina Rippon, who plays the drum for the group.

It was fascinating to talk to Martina, a retired teacher, who drives the three and a half hours from her home in Kankakee, Illinois to Madison almost every day to be part of the Solidarity Singers. She was so passionate about this group. She literally dedicates almost every day of her life to it.

I’m so excited for my next interviews. It took me a while to come up with the idea for this story, but I’m really happy with the direction it’s going so far.

I’ll keep you posted blog world!

Here’s some pictures I got last Friday:

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I’m back! And I’ve got a story for you…

It’s been a while blogosphere! After a nice and relaxing winter break its time to re-enter the world of being a journalism student.

I’m taking Journalism 335: Intermediate Reporting with Prof. Sue Robinson this semester and am so excited to be past the terrifyingly-gigantic intro course that is J202.

Unfortunately, when it came time to pick a topic to do a feature report on throughout the semester, my mind went completely blank. For like a week. I had no ideas at all. My classmates’ all had amazing ideas that inspired me…eventually.

I decided to do my feature report on The Solidarity Singers that continue to protest at the capitol, two years after most of those protesting Governor Scott Walker’s Union Bill had long since gone.

Working at the Wisconsin Historical Museum on Capitol Square has allowed me to see this passionate group singing and gathering at the Capitol for the last two years. I hope to discover why this group is still here, who makes up the group, and what their goals are.

Doing some online research has shown me that several members of the group face legal consequences, including thousands of dollars in fines. I hope to talk to the Capitol Police Department to figure out why these supposedly peaceful protestors were given tickets and citations.

Maybe I’ll find a really great story about passionate people who won’t give up on a cause they truly believe in. It could be a great human interest piece with a national audience. It could also be a flop. We shall see…

Wish me luck!And let me know what you think!