JMC 3023: Story behind the story assignment


Better understanding the people and processes behind great work, as well as an opportunity to make a new contact in the business.

Key dates

  • Monday, Aug. 24: Launch assignment and set into groups by due date
  • Monday, Sept. 14: Round 1 due (Kaylin Carpenter, Miranda Foster, Jett Johnson, Steven Plaisance)
  • Monday, Oct. 12: Round 2 due (Blake Douglas, Hogan Gore, Jonathan Kyncl, Parker Primrose)
  • Monday, Nov. 9: Round 3 due (Chandler Engelbrecht, Christian Hans, KaraLee Langford, Vic Reynolds, Mary Catherine Wells)
  • Monday, Dec 7: Round 4 due (Ari Fife, Jordan Hayden, Sydnee Lyons, Cassandra Snow)

The assignment

You will research and interview one of your favorite writers to understand the story behind a great story.

Due the Monday of your turn: An approximately 10-15 minute podcast directing us to the piece in question, and edited into a compelling conversation that covers the writer’s path to their current job, the backstory to the piece, how and why they elected to write it that way and any other key takeaways that could apply to our work in this course.

In class: Each student will lead an approximately 15-minute discussion on his or her piece.

Rubric (250 points total)

  • Interview and podcast | 50 percent
    • Reached reporter of feature story and interviewed them in significant depth
    • Asked compelling and probing questions that unearthed challenges of the particular story as well as the reporter’s writing process
    • Asked questions about any reactions to the story from sources or public
    • Podcast minimum is 10 minutes
  • Presentation and discussion | 50 percent
    • Leads a 10-minute recap of the story, its backstory and key takeaways that could apply to our work
    • Covers the reporter’s career experience and advice
  • Deductions
    • Fact errors: -50 percent
    • Miss deadline: -Letter grade

Ghosting prominent among millennial


After talking to a girl for over six months, Sammy Najib, a management info systems junior, realized this girl had decided to ghost him. Their communication had been consistent. They talked every day and had hours-long Facetime calls every night but when she hadn’t opened Najib’s Snapchat in five days, he knew it was over.

Despite suddenly being cut off, Najib was not hurt. Najib said being ghosted is something that has happened several times to him and stems from simply losing interest in a person.

“You get really involved in the conversation and then it just dies,” Najib said. “It’s just the conversation dies. You have to keep putting effort in to make a conversation. At that point, it’s not worth it anymore.”

Ghosting is ending a relationship by suddenly cutting off all contact with a person with an emphasis on electronic communication, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. While ghosting is not a new concept, the increase of technology and how it has simplified communication prompted Merriam-Webster to add the word ghosting to the dictionary in February 2017.

According to a survey from 2015 by the Pew Research Center, 15 percent of American adults have tried online dating. Online dating of those between the ages of 18 to 24 is up to 27 percent compared to 10 percent in 2013.

“It’s so much easier with social media and cell phone communication to simply avoid dealing with the end of a relationship than it was when you would run into a person you had been dating at parties or other gatherings of friends,” psychologist Diane Barth, who runs a private practice in New York, said. “But ending a relationship has always been hard and even in the days of just telephones for communications, people would stop calling and just disappear from your life without letting you know why.”

A study conducted by Gili Freedman and published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships on Jan. 12, 2018, focuses on how theories of relationships relate to ghosting. According to Freedman’s website, she is an assistant professor in the psychology department at St. Mary’s College of Maryland and focuses on interpersonal processes.

Part of the survey asked 554 participants about their knowledge on ghosting. A little less than half were familiar with the term. Of those that were familiar with the term, 95 percent believed not responding to phone calls and text messages were behaviors associated with ghosting.

Participants were familiarized with ghosting and were asked to agree on which scenarios they believed it was acceptable to ghost a romantic partner. Some of the scenarios included were for a short-term relationship, a long-term relationship, before or after physical intimacy, and whether they have been or have ghosted someone. One hundred and forty participants said they had been ghosted while 120 said they had ghosted.

While Najib could easily tell he was being ghosted, Zain Anabtawi, a management info systems junior, did not realize he ghosted someone until years later when the girl called him out and told his sister.

Anabtawi started talking to the girl again during his senior year of high school. He didn’t think anything between them was serious, which is why he didn’t talk to her when he went out of town.

That’s when he started talking to, and soon started dating, another girl, Avery. The first girl was in college in Waco, Texas while Anabtawi went to high school in Grand Prairie. She had her own life and did her own thing so Anabtawi thought nothing of it. Two years later, she called him out.

“She reached out to me two months after me and Avery broke up, basically just checking up on me,” Anabtawi said. “She was like ‘Do you remember when you ghosted me’ or whatever. She brought it up and it was super awkward. I just really don’t remember it like that.”

Anabtawi has been on the other end of ghosting as well. He sent a direct message to a girl on Twitter after he moved to Norman and they started talking. This girl worked a lot and soon quit responding. Anabtawi thought nothing of it because he knows people just lose interest after a while.

“I feel like I’m at that point in my life where I’m not going to waste my time being hurt over someone who has moved on,” Anabtawi said. “So you just move on too.”

Alexandria Prothero, an international relations junior at Lindenwood University, used online dating apps several times before meeting her current boyfriend. She meet a boy named Jordan on the app Whisper, which is an app where people can share thoughts, advice and chat directly. Prothero was honest with Jordan about having an open relationship but he still bought her a ring despite the fact they had not met in person.

She was close with Jordan and his family until she learned he was seeing other people and kept it a secret. Prothero wanted to be taken seriously and she wasn’t going to get that with Jordan. She cut off his family and soon after told him she was in love with a different boy, her current boyfriend, and was moving to Seattle.

“I blocked him because I didn’t want him to respond,” Prothero said. “Every time something like that happened, he’d try to sweet talk himself back in just so I’d be some sort of security for him and it was just draining and mentally exhausting. I never got my closure.”

Jordan was blocked from a variety of different social media platforms and because they never saw each other in person, social media, texting and calling was their only form of communication. It made it easy to cut off contact.

“Social media makes it easier to ghost people,” Barth said. “You can just block someone or unfriend someone and that’s the end of the contact.

While just over nine percent of those who took part in Freedman’s study said they would consider ghosting someone, Trevor Bryant, an international business junior, said ghosting seems pretty common.

“I think it’s just like a thing where millennials don’t like confrontation sometimes,” Bryant said. “So they don’t want to be like that. They don’t want to say that to someone. It’s just easier to not reply.”


E-cigarette use among​ young adults is on the rise


Reoccurring sights on a college campus include students riding their bikes or organizations handing out flyers, but another common sight at the University of Oklahoma is vapor clouds, which are often accompanied by scents like mango or creme.

Whether walking to class or studying in the library, an increasing number of students can be found using electronic cigarettes like the brand JUUL, but efforts to decrease nicotine use among minors and young adults might change this.

JUUL devices, which hit the market in 2015, can be used discretely since they resemble in both style and size a USB flash drive. JUULpods, which are cartridges that are placed into the top of the device, contain a salt-based nicotine e-liquid formula, according to JUUL’s website. When the e-liquid is heated, the vapor is generated and inhaled.

The nicotine in one JUULpod is equivalent to a whole pack of cigarettes, but about 37 percent of 15- to 24-year-old JUUL consumers are unaware of whether the product contains nicotine, according to the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust.

In November, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement that the agency is seeking to have all flavored e-cigarette products, other than tobacco, mint and menthol, “sold in age-restricted, in-person locations and, if sold online, under heightened practices for age verification.”

Two days before this announcement, JUUL Labs CEO Kevin Burns said in a statement that the company would discontinue selling fruit and desert-flavored JUULpods to retailers and will only sell them to stores that scan IDs to ensure the customer is 21-years-old. For online purchases, the company will use more age-verification measures.

Alex Weeks, a 21-year-old Norman resident, said he started smoking cigarettes when he was 15 and started using e-cigarettes when he was 18. He used the JUUL for about four months and would use about one JUULpod a day, with mint being his favorite flavor.

“It was nice to feel that rush to the head and that tingling sensation again after not feeling that from smoking for a long time,” said Weeks.

He still alternates between vaping and smoking cigarettes

According to the Annals of Internal Medicine, more than half of e-cigarette users are under the age of 35-years-old, and consumption is the highest among 18- to 24-year-olds with about 2.8 million users in this age range.

JUUL is more popular than any e-cigarette brand made by big tobacco companies, according to the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust. Garrett Lee, an associate at the vaporizer store The Intake in Norman, said about every 3 out of 5 customers buys JUULpods or a similar pod system. He said people of all ages purchase JUUL products at the store, but many are 18- to 20-year-olds.

The Intake is about four miles away from OU. A pack of four JUULpods cost about $16, according to JUUL’s website.

Lee said the restrictions have not impacted the store’s business yet since they have a large supply of flavored JUULpods. Once their supply is gone, they will have to wait to get an ID scanner and will only be able to sell JUULpod flavors like mango, cucumber, creme and fruit to customers 21-years-old or older. Customers between the ages of 18- to 20-years-old will still be able to purchase mint, tobacco and menthol-flavored JUULpods.

Weeks now uses a cheaper e-cigarette, but he enjoyed using the JUUL since it was small, simple to use and could easily be charged by using a USB port.

“I didn’t have to mess with buying juice and filling it up or anything,” Weeks said. “I would just buy the pods, buy the JUUL and go.”

Julie Bisbee, director of public information and outreach for the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust, said it is fair to say e-cigarette usage can be higher in a college town like Norman since it houses a larger number of 18- to 24-year-olds.

Nicotine typically does not have an appealing flavor, Bisbee said, so flavored products ease the harshness. She said placing more restrictions on fruit and desert-flavored nicotine will hopefully lead to fewer young people experimenting with e-cigarettes.

“We know that the person’s brain is still developing until they are 25 so those things that you start doing in adolescents and young adulthood can be hardwired into your brain and make it even more difficult to quit nicotine, which in and of itself is highly addictive,” Bisbee said.

Nicotine can have long-term damaging effects on adolescent brain development and can affect the cardiovascular system, according to the Youth Engagement Alliance For Tobacco Control.

Even though the JUUL and e-cigarettes can be used to help people stop smoking cigarettes, it has also attracted many non-smokers. Out of all e-cigarette consumers, 15 percent never smoked cigarettes, according to the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust funds services like 1-800-QUIT NOW, which is a 24 hour, seven days a week hotline where tobacco users can call and receive services and free nicotine patches, gum or lozenges. Bisbee said the trust is preparing to launch a campaign about the risk and harm of flavored nicotine products.

Trend: What is next for education spending in Oklahoma?


Seven months and a midterm election later, the lasting effects of Oklahoma’s teacher walkout in April remains anything but clear.

According to Rep. Jacob Rosecrants, D-Norman, 70 to 80 former teachers left their positions after the walkout in April to run for the state legislator. Rosecrants is a former teacher who was first elected in a special election in 2017, after his predecessor resigned, inspired to run after a decade of cuts to public education dating to 2007.

“I honestly had heard numbers, and people were telling me, ‘You know, that wasn’t going to be a big blue wave, but it was going to be a big educator wave,’ and we saw that,” Rosecrants said.

Education was a top issue discussed in the run-up to the election, with every candidate being questioned about their plan to its restore funding. Oklahoma cut the education budget by 26.9 percent between 2008 and 2017, according to the Oklahoma Policy Institute. According to the latest data from the National Center of Education Statistics, Oklahoma spends $8,096 per student.

Former educators ran as both Democrats and Republicans, illustrating that this was not a partisan issue for voters. With many of these educators beating their incumbent opponents who voted against measures that would increase taxes and be allocated toward public education.

This is what newly elected Rep. Sherrie Conley, R-Newcastle, did when she ran against incumbent Bobby Cleveland, an opponent of the teacher walkout who voted against HB 1010 and stated during the workout that “The the teachers should be in the classroom.”

With funding to public education being a significant influence on the election, an educated assumption would be that it will be a focus of the coming legislative session, but some representatives say that the topic may take a second-row seat.

“We will have to wait and see if more revenue will go to education, or if it’s time to move on to something else,” Rosecrants said. “Criminal justice reform and mental health issues are the two big issues, and I think you’re going to see that with this particular session rather than education.”

Alicia Priest, president of the Oklahoma Education Association, believes that more effort needs to be placed on finding revenue measures that can increase spending for public education.

“We had 10 years of cuts to public education equaling about a billion dollars. There is no way that one year of increased funding is going to make up for that incredible loss,” said Priest.

The Oklahoma Education Association, through a coalition called ‘Save Our State,’ proposed a variety of budget revenue options in what they call a “blueprint for a better budget.” This plan includes raising the gross production tax on oil and gas by another two percent and reforming the corporate income tax.

On March 29, four days before the start of the teacher walkout, Gov. Mary Fallin signed both HB 1010 and HB 1023 under threat of an impending teacher strike.

HB 1010 was the largest tax increase ever to be passed in the state of Oklahoma. The revenue packages totaling $474 million through a variety of revenue measures including an increase in the gross production tax to five percent, a $5 hotel/motel tax, and an increase to the sales tax on gasoline and diesel. HB 1023, allocated revenue from HB 1010 to fund the $5,000 raise to first-year teachers.

Over the weekend, it was unsure if the teacher walkout would continue on Monday as planned. Teachers would still show up, demanding an increase in funding for the classroom. The walkout would end after nine days as some of the state’s largest districts resumed class, without any significant legislation being passed.

Morgan Russell, a teacher at Westmoore High School who attended the teacher walkout, believes the “education crisis is still a crisis.”

“(Teacher raises) are not the sole reason we were at the Capitol,” Russell said. “We didn’t get funding for the classroom. That means our students are still using textbooks that are ancient and that we still have too many students in our classroom that are still falling apart.”

Russell understands that education is not the only issue facing the state, but believes that it is a root cause for many of the other issues.

“We incarcerate more women per capita than any other state, and the data clearly shows that when education goes up, incarcerations go down. Our state, in particular, has a school to prison pipeline, so we need to address the problem from both ends,” Russell said.

It is still unknown if the newly elected legislators who ran on an agenda to increase education spending will have their way in the coming session, or if they will have to negotiate their votes with the leadership in favor of having education funding measures heard on the floor.

“I don’t personally believe education will be pushed aside in the near future,” said Rep. Scott Fetgatter, R-Okmulgee. “Win or lose, Republican or Democrat, start looking at the big picture of things that we need to fix. Many different areas across the state, including education and prioritize them. Until then, our state will continue to be at the bottom of all of this.”

Education will certainly be on the minds of many at the Capitol, but whether or not any legislation for more spending on public education remains to be seen.

Trend — Uber, Lyft services increase in college towns


Getting into a car with a stranger after a night of partying is one thing Moms everywhere probably never wanted their kids to do, but it’s becoming a safer trend in college towns across America.

For most college students, Uber and Lyft are a fast, safe way for them to get home from wherever they are. Other students without vehicles have a quick, easy way to get to Walmart for shopping or to a restaurant to meet with a friend.

“(Uber and Lyft) offer a safer opportunity for especially people who do drink a lot because you can’t always depend on the (designated driver) or you may not be able to find one,” said Cheyenne Wiley, a psychology junior at the University of Oklahoma who uses Uber or Lyft around three times a month. “ It’s safer than drinking and driving.”

Wiley doesn’t own a vehicle in Norman and said she’s increased using Uber and Lyft this year than during her first two years at OU because she goes out a lot more. Her friend group has gotten smaller, so she said she can’t always depend on them for rides like she can with reasonably-priced Uber.

Lili Escandon is another Uber rider who said she uses Uber around four times a month and a lot more around finals week when her friends are busy.

“I don’t have a car,” Escandon said. “Sometimes I have to go grocery shopping … and when I don’t have any friends to take me, the only option I do have is Uber. Because this is such a college town, it’s not too expensive.”

Escandon said she and some of her friends from freshman year didn’t bring their vehicles from their hometowns because parking is an issue on campus. She also said she appreciates having the services there to avoid drinking and driving in Norman.

In Norman, Uber and Lyft are on the rise as a main way of transportation students at the University of Oklahoma and other Norman citizens.

The concept of these companies is similar to taxis. However, services like Uber and Lyft are cost-reducing for riders and help people earn extra income.

“(Uber and Lyft) are reasonably-priced, so it’s easy, and you only have to pay for one way,” Wiley said. “If you have a friend who can take you back home, you don’t have to pay for a round-trip.”

Aili Johnson is a Lyft driver with an anxiety disorder. Driving with Lyft allows her to work in an environment she is comfortable in.

“It’s hard to find jobs,” Johnson said. “A lot of places that are hiring typically have stuff where you have to be doing 100 things at once … which would probably cause me to have a panic attack … It just took forever to find a job where it wouldn’t be so bad.”

Johnson also said one benefit to Uber and Lyft compared to taxis is having the destination already in place. She said this allows riders who are mute to avoid the hassle of communication with drivers.

Phil Rulls is an Uber driver who has been driving for almost a year and almost has 3,000 rides. With a 4.77 rating on the app, Rulls said driving for Uber is a great way for him to earn an income while he’s applying for physical therapy schools at OU and Langston University after graduating from both OU and Oklahoma City Community College.

Rulls also said he believes Uber and Lyft will push taxis out in the future due to Uber and Lyft being cheaper.

“Why pay $100 to go to the airport when you could get an Uber for $40 to get to the same place?” Rulls said.

In the years since Uber first arrived, its sales have increased. Uber alone has 3 millions drivers and 75 million riders, with about 15 million trips completed each day.

According to an Uber Newsroom article, a study found that “Uber is adding substantial (and measurable) value to people’s lives.” Uber contributes $17 billion to the U.S. economy. Uber saves time and money, and a report from Uber states 33 percent of Uber riders pay for car parking less often.

In 2013, Uber and Lyft began specifically targeting colleges and universities. Uber offered promotional deals and visited campuses such as MIT and Boston University during orientation week. The company also partnered with Chegg to place a new rider gift card in textbook shipments.

Lyft joined in on that movement, partnering with universities and greek organizations in Los Angeles and Boston to provide rides to students.

Although Uber and Lyft are competing companies, the two are on the rise and are making their riders safer. Both companies do background checks on drivers and have requirements on vehicles. The Uber app also has features to share location with a friend and, in the event of a crash, to make sure the rider is OK and gets help quickly.

Uber is a San Francisco-based company that launched in 2011. It came to Oklahoma City in 2013 and drew scrutiny from taxi and limo services. The controversy was Uber providing services without proper licensing.

With cars toting a pink mustache on the grill, Lyft, another San Francisco-based company, joined Uber in Oklahoma City in 2014.

In 2015, Uber and Lyft both received business licenses to operate in Oklahoma City. That same year, The Norman Transcript released an opinion article explaining why Norman should also welcome the companies.

“The current generation of college students are to be commended for having the wisdom to use Uber and Lyft to shuttle between their residences and the various venues they attend where drinking alcohol may be a part of the evening’s festivities,” the article said.

Norman Uber and Lyft drivers operate without a license. In November, City Hall Clerk Brenda Hall brought complaints about that to City Council Community Planning and Transportation Committee members, with the conclusion that a decision to take action will happen next year, according to a Norman Transcript article.

Despite the issues the companies faced, Uber and Lyft drivers in Norman like the opportunity to have a job where they make their own hours without a boss, and riders, especially college students, appreciate having a safe, inexpensive way to get home.

“Lyft and Uber are the future, for sure,” Johnson said.