September 21, 2015

In all seriousness, the reason I joined Experience Institute

I have a question about Chicago.

One of my performer friend Aaron’s many jobs in Chicago is Segway tour guide. When he took me out on a private museum tour during a trip to the city in May, he switched into his “performer voice” to proclaim, “Chicago was actually nicknamed ‘the Windy City’ because of its gusty political culture, rather than all the wind.”

My question is, was it windy in Chicago before it got the nickname or was the wind a result of the nickname? I guess that’s like asking, “would there be hundreds of marijuana shops in Denver if it wasn’t nicknamed ‘The Mile High City?'”

I’m in Chicago now and I don’t want to misrepresent it. You see, I come from the most serious place on the planet—I was a reporter in a sports locker room. After particularly bad losses, I sometimes felt like yelling at a group of somber players, “Why so serious?”

They know it’s a game right? They’re speaking in their funeral voice about sports. Didn’t they watch, Remember the Titans? Did no one here listen to Denzel Washington say, “Football is fun”? Sports are supposed to be fun!

You want to talk about serious? For a few brief moments in Boulder, Colorado, journalism died. I’m not talking figuratively. The Board of Regents at the University of Colorado voted to kill the journalism school, and it closed for four years, sending students scrambling into degrees elsewhere in the Arts and Sciences. As a graduate of the program, I have been asked in job interviews, “didn’t they close the journalism school?”

Luckily, it just reopened—rebranded as the College of Media, Communication and Information.

I have no idea what that school’s new title means. I feel like I should understand the name of the program from which I graduated. So, two years after securing a degree from CU and after holding a handful of jobs, I am returning to a new school – Experience Institute. The title of the school is pretty straightforward. I will have three different experiences during my year studying storytelling.

I’m embarking on my journey with Ei because I want to find places where quality storytelling still exists in our lives. The Internet has allowed a number of competing entities to spring up across mediums, but I’m not sure any model is really working well. I believe that, in five years, everything we know about the way art and media is delivered will shift. What will remain is the desire for great stories.

I did not become a writer or a journalist to be another member of the digital media. I am not going to spend my year learning how to create content, but instead I’m going to tell stories. I’m going to work on creating narratives and not clicks. I want to create experiences for others with my work because the quality of a piece isn’t measured in the number of “likes” it receives on Facebook.

This summer I wrote down on a sticky note, “I want to create places of inspiration, imagination and laughter.” It was just after the verdict was delivered in the Aurora theater shooting trial. The emotion of the last few years and my personal connection to the events in that theater on July 20, 2012 were raging within me. This note represented a conscious choice to make havens away from the tragic moments in life. I want to be conscious about creating better opportunities for people to tell their stories.

I found my way to Ei because I was searching for a new challenge. I desire to inject more of myself into my work. I hope to use my voice to find human passion and charisma. This is the start of a journey in a windy city, looking forward to a year of great moments ahead.

If I was following suit with the rebranding of CU’s Journalism School or the quick turnover rate of the Internet’s media, my alternative was writing content for some aggregate site. Although, maybe I could write a quick piece called, “22 Cities that should be called the Windy City more than Chicago,” and maybe we could get the wind to slow down here a bit.

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