Journalist at the University of Tennessee and the work I've done

Leave a comment

Update on Clean Up Day!

Clean up day on Sunday, November 9th was a success!

We collected about 14 bags of trash in two hours.

A big thank you to those who came out: Sammie Herold, Justin Matthews, and Madison Roberts!

Also, none of this would have been possible without the supplies generously donated to us by Keep Knoxville Beautiful.

Thank you all for making my Community Action Project come to life. Next clean up will take place on Sunday, December 14th!


Leave a comment


I’ve lived in the Fort Sanders neighborhood for about two and a half years now. What started out as a convenient place to live turned into an undying passion for my home. Over the past two years I’ve recognized several aspects about the Fort that need improving.

The most obvious problem is the piles of trash that accumulate on lawns, sidewalks, and gutters. That aspect alone seems to depreciate the standard of living in the neighborhood. Since there is already old beer bottles lying on the ground, it isn’t a problem to throw yours down, right? Thus the cycle continues. Trash breeds more trash. Apathy breeds more apathy.

I want to change this.

Part of the Leadership Knoxville Scholars curriculum is a Community Action Project (CAP). Essentially, every scholar must come up with a plan to positively impact the community in some way. The possibilities of CAP’s are endless. My friend, Ryan Brown, created the Food Recovery Network as his CAP. He collects food from various events, such as UT Football games, that would have been thrown out. Then he relocates it to someone in need. It isn’t just Ryan, either, it’s a whole organization. Another friend and fellow scholar, Blake Roller, will hold a history fair for elementary students in Knoxville. He wants to teach them about the rich history of Knoxville, and he’s a total expert on it.

My passion for the Fort is the fuel to my CAP. Organizing a trash clean up has been a goal of mine for over a year now. But between two jobs, school, and life I haven’t had much energy to pour into a brand new project.

Finally I’ve teamed up with the Fort Sanders Neighborhood Association to get my CAP started. Sunday, October 26th the Association hosted a Fort Sanders Homecoming event with chili and music. About 30 people from the community met up at James Agee Park. While enjoying free food, we looked over plans to install several trash receptacles on various corners in the neighborhood. Overall, it was a good time and the Mayor even showed up.

Personally, I would love to have more of these events. The Association and I have talked about a couple different ideas. There will definitely be some community get-togethers in the future.

However, right now, I’d really love to tackle the most obvious problem. This Sunday, November 9th from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m. we’re hosting a trash clean up! We’ll tackle the areas between James Agee and 11th street. Anyone is welcome to come out, and feel free to sign up if you’d like to! We’re getting trash bags and gloves from Keep Knoxville Beautiful.

I don’t just want to make the Fort a cleaner place. I want people to invest in the community like I want to. I want students and members of the community to work together. I want a community! Sure, it won’t be easy to change the mindset that people have toward the Fort. But one day, everyone will see it as I do. It is a significant, beautiful, historical gem. And it deserves to be treated that way.

Our next clean up will be on Sunday, December 14th from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m.

Email me if you have an questions, ideas, or concerns! rblake5@vols.utk.edu

Leave a comment

Addiction in 2014

My heart sank as I watched it crash onto the concrete sidewalk. Hoping for the best, preparing for the worst, I picked it up…and my fears came to fruition.

I had shattered my iPhone screen.

That was in July of this year. My phone attempted to commit technological suicide by forcefully jumping to its death. After some inspection I realized that my iPhone 4 (remember that, it’s important!) was still usable. Although it had lost its gleaming Apple luster.

A couple of weeks ago I began experiencing trouble with the screen. On occasion, when I’d touch the screen it wouldn’t register. I tried to shake it off. Not a big deal. However, as time went on, I lost more and more screen sensitivity. First, I couldn’t use the top row of the keyboard. I turned my phone from side to side until I could use all of the keys I needed in order to communicate. Then I couldn’t text at all. I couldn’t open a lot of programs. Finally it gave out.

I can no longer unlock my phone. If someone calls me, I can answer. But that’s it.

If you own a smart phone (and chances are you do) you realize how much not having a fully functioning phone screws with your normal routine. Honestly, it’s kind of like quitting an addiction. Every day I’d get more and more agitated that I couldn’t talk to my friends whenever I wanted. I couldn’t check twitter while waiting for class to start. I couldn’t look at my bank statement before I went shopping. I couldn’t get directions anywhere. I couldn’t look at snapchats. I couldn’t find out where the bus was. I couldn’t check my email, like I typically do between classes.

It’s been awful.

This experience opened my eyes to what addiction looks like in 2014. My generation works so hard to make the world more eco-friendly and to stop tobacco sales. But we all ignore our own technological dependency.

People DIE because they can’t wait to check their text messages while driving.

It is exceptionally rare to see someone walking to or from class without using their phone in some way. Think about it. Whether you’re listening to music, talking on the phone, texting, playing a game, tweeting, the list goes on and on and on.

This blows my mind. We are so wrapped up in our own little world that we miss everything going on around us. Including the cars swerving around you while you’re texting as you cross the street.

We do so much to improve our world. It is absolutely ridiculous that we can’t put down our devices for more than five minutes. We’re addiction to consumption. We gorge ourselves on information without taking a moment to critically think about what we’re consuming. Our brain eats up so much trash. Think of it like eating pizza for every meal. Technically you’re getting all of the food groups. But what you’re consuming is not good for you.

Jan Winburn, CNN Digital Editor, spoke to my JEM 499 class. Her talk was insightful to say the least. Ms. Winburn encouraged us to think independently of mainstream news sources. She pointed out that news is becoming a commodity. It used to be that our goal, as a journalist, was to get the story out first. Well, with our insatiable appetite for media has made it possible for anyone to “break the story” now. Ms. Winburn suggested that journalist think about the quality of their work, rather than the immediacy of it. Know how to ask the right questions. Have quality conversations with your audience. Because, as Ms. Winburn pointed out, news is much more of a conversation with your audience than ever before.

Now I’m challenging you. Try to go one week only using your phone to call people. Read the newspaper, watch the evening news, and check out your favorite sites on your computer. But don’t use your phone for anything except calling others. Let me know how long you last and what you experience during the challenge.

Leave a comment

My Last Homecoming

As I walked though the rain this morning it hit me that this is my last homecoming.

As a student.

I’ve been sad and nostalgic lately, knowing my time at UT is almost over. UT is my home, and I don’t want to leave.

The good thing about home is that you can always go back.

That’s the purpose of homecoming. It’s so all of the students who’ve already graduated and moved on with their lives can come back…home. Everyone can relive their past. During homecoming, there aren’t students, parents, and alumni.

We’re all Vols. We all bleed orange and sing Rocky Top and tailgate and laugh and cry and enjoy Knoxville.

Homecoming isn’t just about pomping and parades. It’s a time for us to be one. Our only enemy is the team we play. And for that one day, everyone is home again.

So if you’re a senior, a mom, a grandfather, an alum…whoever. Remember that tomorrow it doesn’t matter if you’re a student or not. Because you’re a Volunteer and you’ll give your all for Tennessee.

*Photo credit to Saturdaydownsouth.com

Leave a comment

The future of Journalism and my new goal

A very informative, and thought-provoking article:

Why Small Local Sites *Must* Have Multiple Revenue Streams by Tom Grubisich

Jake Batsell, the main voice in the article, is speaking to my JEM 499 class today. I’m excited. Being a journalist in today’s fast-paced society is both empowering and terrifying. There are so many options. Since I’m graduating in May, my future career is weighing heavily on my mind.

Mr. Batsell’s ideas propelled me to create a goal for myself.

Every Friday I’ll publish an article. Starting this week.

The story will be something that benefits society to consume. Whether it be a hard news story or entertainment, advice or observation. I need a challenge.

Idea you’d like to see a story on? Tweet me. Message me. Email, if that’s your thing.


Leave a comment

Worth It

I found out this morning that I was not selected for the USA Today program. Am I disappointed? A little. Overall, though, I think it was a valuable experience. Think of all good things that came out of it:

-Made this nifty little blog. Now I can post my assignments all in one place, and I haven’t done that before. 

-Learned more about our LGBT community at UT. And as an extra bonus I got  to hang out with Joel Kramer for an hour or so. 

-Did my first same-day journalism project. MY FIRST. Seriously, that’s a step in the right direction if nothing else. 

So the next time you’re down in the dumps because something didn’t go your way, take a moment. Maybe that wasn’t the right direction for you anyway. Embrace change and make the best of your new situation. 

1 Comment

Diversity at the University of Tennessee

This past week I’ve been stoked about doing this project. However I had an extremely jam-packed week and had to wait until today to do it. I worked for my job on Monday and Wednesday, finished my internship at WBIR yesterday, and had to move out of my apartment by Wednesday night. Needless to say, I’m exhausted.

Today was full of challenges, but I got it done, and I’m so happy because it was a great day! It may not seem like it at first, just wait. 

I started out the day by paying off my tuition for the summer and forgetting my phone at home. I arrived on campus around 9:10 a.m. and checked out the equipment. I gathered some shots from campus and headed over for my interview at 10 a.m. Joel Kramer is a boss, and I absolutely love him. He was extremely informative about diversity on campus and the initiatives that the University maintains. If it was possible, I would have loved to show his 23 minute interview in its entirety because it was great. After leaving him I bopped around from 30 minute parking spots to 15 minute parking spots until I got the footage I needed. I also ran into the beautiful Sammie Herold and got some great insight from her. Since I left my phone at home, I looked up directions to my doctor’s office and headed out around 11:58 a.m. even though my appointment was at 12:30 p.m. I grabbed some McDonald’s and immediately spilled a third of my large coke all over me. The gas light went on so I needed to fill up–almost got hit THREE times in the parking lot. Then as I’m trying to find the office, the road it’s supposed to be on turned out to be a dead end. A DEAD END. For those of you who do not know me, I don’t own a car and don’t typically drive. I was freaking out. Miraculously I navigated my way there with 10 minutes to spare. I scarfed down my lunch and spent the next hour and a half at the doctor. I bolted out and finally found a metered spot a couple of blocks away from campus. The time? 2:08 p.m. There was only a two hour limit on the meter. I hadn’t even uploaded my footage, let alone edited it. I fed the meter and prayed that I could somehow get back before I got ticketed. The next part wasn’t easy, but everything seemed to fall into place and the story basically told itself. It was the fastest I’ve ever edited a piece. It was also my first time doing a same-day turnaround on a project. I finished at 4:21 p.m. And I have no idea how. The deadline was 5 p.m. I’m actually really proud of my work, too. Even if I don’t make it past round two, it was a great experience.

Diversity at the University of Tennessee

Hope you enjoy!