Wednesday, February 25, 2009

You're not alone, stress is a nationwide epidemic

According to an article from USAToday, many college students around the country are feeling pressured by overwhelming amounts of stress. The article entitled, Poll shows stress pains many in college by Alan Fram and Trevor Tompson of the Associated Press depicts the hidden reasons why students are being stressed out and the phychological occurances that can prove fatal for some. In the article, students discuss factors that contribute to stress such as classes, relationships, family and finances including some students so stressed that they consider suicide as a possible escape from life's challenges.

In fact, four in 10 say they endure stress often and nearly one in five say they feel it all or some of the time from a poll conducted by MTVU. Chris Curran, a junior at the Albany College of Pharmacy, says his work has piled up. "Everything is being piled on at once, Curran said. "You just get really agitated and anxious, then you start procrasatinating, and it all piles up." Students alike can relate to Chris's testimony and feel his pain as well their own. The article goes on to report that classic symptoms of stress include trouble concentrating, sleeping and finding motivation. Relatively common results of stress include eating disorders, feeling lonely or depression.

A lot of people often do not take stress as a serious issue. Some students think of suicide, drinking or drugs as a way to separate themselves from the anguishes that plague their mind. About one in six say they have friends in the past year considering suicide and about one in 10 say they have seriously thought about it themselves.

However, its not all bleak, six in 10 in the survey said they enjoy life and are hopeful. Emily McMahan, a junior at the University of Cincinnati says she is one of those individuals. "I enjoy college, I'm enjoying my experiences," said McMahan. Its been shown in the survey that women are more stressed out than men. To be more exact, 45% of women were more stressed than 34% of men.

Though the future doesn't look any easier, we can the ways of managing stress will improve. Students are encourged to find methods that will decrease the pressure of stress. MTVU, a television network available on most college campuses is a sponsor to its work on "Half of Us," which is a non-profit group working to decrease the number of suicides in relation to college students.

I enjoyed the reading the story published in USAToday, I felt it highlighted issues that occur with stress as well as provide insight to what we as college students go through on a daily basis. I honestly can't find anything to add considering the detailed length of the article. In the beginning, I was a little unclear as to who conducted the surveys, but learned of their credentials at the end of the article. I also feel a picture or graph would have been more effective to illustrate their findings to create a more powerful impact, but overall, a great research effort.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

My feature Story Idea

My beat blog topic is college stress at Towson, so for my feature story, I want to do a "how to" story. My reasons for doing choosing this idea were mainly because I have yet to do this type of story and I feel it will present my story from a different perspective. So far, I've written about articles that I've found relating to stress and found a student here on Towson's campus whose taking us on a journey of her stressful life. Now, I want to retrieve findings from experts here on Towson's campus. I want to consult the Health Center on campus to see if I can find an expert who can shed some light on the subject with statistical findings, experience and advice. Then, I want to seek out yet another TU student who can provide tips for how they remain cool underpressure. I haven't quite worked out everything yet, but I feel that this is the direction I want to go. I believe this can be beneficial to students and maybe an escape from what seems like an impossible feat, known universally as STRESS!!!

The Wall Street Journal Formula

According to All the News by Thom Lieb, the Wall Street Journal formula is proabably the most used feature story structure. The four main sections include:

1. The story typically opens with a specific example (presented in an anecdotal, descriptive or narrative lead.
2. A nut graf relates that example to a more general point and explains what the story is about.
3. The body of the story provides support for the general point (quotes, facts, and development). 4. The story typically ends with another anecdot or description-often featuring the person or people featured in the lead-or speculates on a future development related to the lead.

I found an article on the Baltimore Sun's website entitled, Nightly dialysis keeps teen alive that contains the essential elements to the Wall Street Journal formula. The narrative lead reads, "No matter what Eric Washington is doing - be it catch up work from the classes he has missed a game of pick-up football that his doctors have forbidden- he must be home by 10p.m. No exceptions." This illustrates the narrative lead for the story and sets the scene.

The nut graf of the story reads, "There aren't a lot of children on dialysis - roughly 1,600 in the United States require a machine to perform the normal functions of their kidneys. But there are more than ever, because many children whose kidney disease would have killed them in infancy are surviving to need organ transplants."

The body of the story supports the general point. An example in the story reads, "Eric 17, is but one example of millions of children nationwide with a chronic illness, from with kids with diabetes who are on strict diets and even give themselves insulin shots to those with cystic fibrosis who may need for treatments a day to maintain therir ability to breathe. Many face uncertain futures. All have obstacles the healthy do not." There is also a quote from Eric as to how he feels about having his illness, Eric says, "I'd like to one time go home and just go to sleep," he says, "without having to worry aobut it." Eric's feelings bring the raw emotion into what his life is like on a daily basis.

The final section of the Wall Street Journal formula closes the story by revisting the central person being talked about. In Eric's case, the article reads, "Each day brings a chance that Eric will get a kidney. That ofcourse, would change everything. Dreams about that day bring a smile to his face." The final word comes from Eric in which in says, "I want to go out," he says, "and not come home until the next day."

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Day in the STRESSFUL life of Whitney Reid

Whitney Reid (center) shown enjoying a ride on the water in Panama City, Panama. Photo by Teresa Mora/January. 15, 2009

TU sophomore, Whitney Reid wishes she had time to relax, but her constant busy schedule keeps her running from sun up to sun down. From classes to meetings to a social life, Reid endures it all.

Meet Whitney Reid, a sophomore at Towson University who faces everyday demands equipped with stress along side. Reid is a biology and spanish double major with aspirations of becoming a doctor in her native state of Delaware. As a college student, Whitney fully understands what it means to be under pressure from day-to-day chores such as classes, meetings, homework, clubs, councils and organizations. Reid's day begins at 8am and ends around 9pm everyday with classes including: biology, chemistry, spanish and math. "I try to manage my time effectively by prioritizing my day to be as smooth as possible," Reid said.

Talk about a full plate, while juggling classes, she also tries to maintain a social life with her friends and relationship with her boyfriend. "My boyfriend understands my schedule and is very supportive of me as well as my friends," Reid said. After her classes are done for the day, Reid serves on the building council for Tower C of the Glen Complex as treasurer. The meetings usually last from 6 to 8:30pm every Tuesday, where Reid and other council representatives make progress reports on the standings of committee business.

The stress Reid endures may seem immeasurable, but she manages as we all must do until the work gets done. "My favorite part of the day is to come back to my dorm and hop in my bed, until tomorrow when it all begins again," said Reid. This goes to show that tackling several tasks throughout the day can be stressful, but not impossible. After college, Reid plans to attend graduate school followed by medical school soon after.
Suddenly, my schedule doesn't seem quite as bad when compared to Whitney. I follow my daily routine day-to-day and somehow find time to get everything done before beginning again the next day. I am involved on campus, but maybe not as much as Whitney may be and not as bold to tackle biology, chemistry, spanish and math in one semester. I have much respect for Whitney and appreciate the work that she places upon herself. Whitney demonstrates the attitude of perseverance and strives in all of her endeavors. Despite her stressful encounters, she makes it out on top.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Feature Leads vs. Summary Leads: Same Purpose, Different Goal

The purpose of feature leads is to entice you (the reader) into wanting to read the story by providing a vivid picture or creative insight to what a story is about without giving everything away. The summary lead sets the stage for what the story is about as an overview presenting the 5W's and H, however summary leads used on feature stories do not try to pack the 5w's and an H, but gives the reader just enough information before going on to read the story. Feature leads avoid trying to cram TONS of facts, writers of feature leads want to "wet the whistle" of the reader to encourage them to go on and read more. In the case of summary leads, there are four tips that can help you accomplish writing a successful lead. First, Be as specific as possible. You want to make sure that your summary lead reveals the most interesting or important aspect of the story or the BAM!!! Next, you want to avoid backing in. This refers to placing an introductory clause or phrase before the subject, make your sentence STRONG!!! Third, Be Concise. Avoid trying to cram a lot of information into a sentence that should only be no more than 30 words. Finally, Use Active Voice. By using active voice, it increases the odds that you will grab readers' attention.

In the Living Green section of the Baltimore Sun's website, I found an example of a feature lead. The article is entitled College turn french fry oil into fuel and reads as follows: Dayton, Ohio - "Forgive the students at Sinclair Community College if they get the munchies when they pass the tractors that cut grass, blow leaves or sweep snow on campus: Oil that once cooked french fries and onion rings is being used to power the vehicles."

Another example of a feature lead comes from the Books section of the New Times website, This article is entitled A Lifetime's Collection in Hebrew, at Sotheby's which opening paragraph says, "Is bibliophilia a religious impulse? You can't walk into Sotheby's exhibtion space in Manhattan right now and not sense the devotion or be swept up in its passions and particularities. The 2,400 square foot opening gallery is lined with shelves - 10 high - reaching to the ceiling, not packed tight, but with occational books open to view. Each shelf is labeled, not with a subject, but with a city of town of origin: Amsterdam, Paris, Leiden, Izmir, Bombay, Cochin, Cremona, Jerusalem, Ferrera, Calcutta, Mantua, Shanghai, Alexandria, Baghdad and on and on.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Why Stress May Not Bring Out The Best

This is the title of an article published by Melissa Healy of the Los Angeles Times. In this article, she follows 20 medical students as they prepare to take broad exams. Ofcourse, they're all stressed and perfect for an MRI scan to measure blood flow in the brain as they performed several tasks. New York's Weill Medical College at Cornell and Rockefeller University researchers conducted a study between the medical students and a group of non-stressed students around the same age. Researchers gave the groups two tasks to see where the attention shifted.

To no one's surprise, the non-stressed subjects out performed the stressed medical students. In the attention shifting exercise, the medical students brain function that conducts attention, task-handling and judgment, known as the frontal cortices, had an obvious low performance to that of the non-stressed. The connectivity throughout the other parts of the brain were low as well. After a month since exams ended for the medical students, they repeated the same tasks asked of them before and resulted relatively the same as the non-stressed subjects.

I enjoyed Melissa's article about stress and I felt connected to the medical students as they endured the tasks with the thought of exams embedded on the brain. As a college student, I can fully understand the weight of having several of assignments to accomplish and having to do something else one on top of the other. I thought the idea of medical students was a unique angle to examine stress through and it shows Melissa's creativity and ability to think outside the box. Even though I really enjoyed her angle, I would have investigated several different type of students just out of curiousity to know what the research would have shown. Other than that, I feel Melissa did an excellent job writing the story and exposing readers to what stress looks like under medical observation. Check out Melissa's story at:

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

One word says it all...STRESS!!!

Stress is a unanimous word that college students and everyday people face everyday of their lives in some form or fashion. On a weekly basis, students attend classes where it seems as though one particular professor thinks his/her class is the only one you have and instantly your mind begins to race with other priorities including the newest task weighted on your shoulders. My reason for selecting student stress as my beat of choice is because its universally understood and easy to relate to audiences. No matter what your personal obstacles may be, sometimes it can be liberating when you hear the load of someone else, it makes your schedule seem alot less stressful....ITS TRUE!!! I always remember that there's someone who has it a lot harder than I do, so this beat blog will allow you to walk inside someone else's shoes and experience the demands of Towson University from their perspective. I also want to give tips for effective stress management and what you can do to make life's challenges a little easier. Enjoy! We have a long semester ahead of us.