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Journalism, the Trading Card Game

As journalists, our trade is stories.

Listen in on a gathering of journalists out to dinner – or more likely out for drinks – and you’re likely to hear sophisticated talk about the advances in data journalism or high-minded conversation about ethical considerations of publication, wedged in between the gallows humor that describes the state of the industry, and how we’ll end up broke and on the streets with only our humanities degrees to keep us warm.

But stay long enough and you’ll get to the real meat.

Here’s an observation for you: In any discussion between journalists given enough time, you’ll start to hear other people’s stories exchanged like Pokémon cards on the third grade open market.

Do you have the one with the lady with quite obvious mental health issues who regularly barnstorms city council meetings? How about the one about the professor publicly ridiculed for his race at a professional event? The one about the recovering Catholic with an autistic son and a gay best friend?

We’re not doctors or lawyers and we don’t have the same sort of rules governing interactions with our sources. The relationship between a subject and a reporter is somewhat more tenuous under the Obama administration, and without thesame privileges. But in any case, how could we not gleefully blab? It’s only a natural qualification of our jobs.

I don’t know when I first realized the profession that I fully intend to pursue in post-collegiate life is inherently immoral.

It might have been when I first talked to a woman who opened up about discrimination she experienced throughout her career. I turned around and made it a lede.

Or it could have been when I had a conversation with a homeless guy from Alaska, snatched a few quotes from him and left him in line at the shelter.

Or maybe it was when I first read Janet Malcolm’s indispensable work on journalism ethics, “The Journalist and the Murderer.” In the first paragraph of the book, she lays it out quite bare and beautifully. “Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible,” she writes.

I was talking to a fellow young aspiring journalist a few weeks ago and asked her why she got into the profession. She answered that she “wanted to tell the stories of people who couldn’t do it themselves.”

It’s a sentiment I might have spouted off a few years ago if you asked me the same question, but I’ve discarded it for the incredibly patronizing reasoning. I believe I’ve come to terms with the fact that I love journalism for the baser reasons of my personality, along with my better angels.

The gossiper that digs up mud on celebrities on TMZ? There but for the grace of God (or Harvey Levin) go I.

The big ego who needs to know things before other people and make sure everyone else knows it. Well there’s a reason why Twitter is mainly popular with celebrities and journalists.

Even the quiet, but relentless ambition. Which I would contend makes me a hungry reporter, but others have chalked up as just being nosy.

The thing is I think I’ve done good work even with this realization, or maybe in small part because of it. I’ve looked into the tamping down of free speech on college campuses, the plight of street-food vendors on Los Angeles sidewalks and even the occasional missing tortoise.

So much for my short-lived efforts to steer clear of shameless self-promotion.

All this is not to say that journalism is a bad field and I hope no one thinks I’m discouraging anyone to get into it – far from it. Being all those things doesn’t preclude you from being honest, brave and, most importantly, compassionate. While the practice of journalism may sometimes be distasteful, its fruits can be quite nourishing.

We need the gossipers, the ambitious and the talented with enormous egos. These are the ones who write brilliantly about the state of healthcare in America using the example of the veteran who can’t get his medication, the ones who risk their lives trying to get the real story out from war zones and the ones who help lead the charge in taking down a corrupt team owner caught with his pants down.

I’m just letting you in on a secret: Journalism – even (or especially) if performed with good intentions – is still just journalism.

But all of this comes from one. So take that with a grain of salt, or better yet, a shot of whiskey.

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Kelly Yeo: On friendship and first week

For the first time after two years of party-going at UCLA, I went to a party and actually made friends with people I didn’t know.

The layout was the usual: beer pong, jungle juice, a Spotify playlist on someone’s phone with tiny speakers blaring. There was the never-ending din of conversations I don’t care about, complaints about classes I’ll never take and organizations I’ll probably never join. As you can tell, large apartment parties have never held any magic for me. Mostly, I felt obligated to pay a visit to see my friend, one of the hosts, and then leave.

I’m not sure if it was my mood, or the people who happened to be there, but several hours and tequila pulls later, I ended up in a very real conversation as a group of us attended to a girl vomiting over the side of the balcony. It was one of those glorious cinematic moments where you break through all the drunken awkwardness to really, truly talk.

People may go on and on about how UCLA has a place for everyone, but given the scale of campus and the hundreds of organizations, it can feel pretty hard trying to find your “people.” Your “people”: the friends with whom doing nothing feels like something. Hours fly by. Papers go unwritten and amino acids go unmemorized. And when you’re finally alone in your room, you know it was all worth it.

Some are lucky, hitting it off with their orientation or first-year dorm friends, the rock of their social lives solidifying early on. Others take longer, and some of us will leave UCLA without ever truly having a group of friends to call their “people,” even as we claim membership to fraternities, sororities, dance teams, service organizations and so on.

I’m not ashamed to say it hasn’t happened for me yet, although in this age of social media, there’s pressure to make everyone think you’re having the time of your life at UCLA. We live curated lives, posting photos and sharing only the news we want people to know about. People post about their besties and their squads, even if the scenario that these relationships are superficial and primarily based on affiliation is well within the realm of possibilities. The rest of the world may not be immune, but UCLA, and many other colleges, are diseased in that regard: Aren’t your years in college supposed to be the best years of your life?

Fake it until you make it, I suppose.

As a third-year student, I don’t expect a lot from folks in terms of making real platonic connections. The first-year social Rumspringa has petered out fully, and we identify ourselves by our majors and our organizations. We’re all busy people: studying, working, going to the gym, doing research, spending time with the friends we’ve already made, dating and engaged in extracurricular commitments and internships. I’ve made friends, though they’re spread out, involved in everything from Model United Nations to a cappella groups.

That night at the party, a group of strangers talked about break-ups and cats, holding back the hair of a girl we’d just met. Friend requests followed, and the next morning, I found myself joking around on Facebook Messenger with these people whom I am never going to encounter in my pre-med or major classes.

Whether these people end up being my “people” or just friends I’ll see every now and then, it’s nice to know that in a world of perpetually busy UCLA students who seem to have it all figured out, some of us are still open to new friendships, new connections, no longer closed for business on the friendship front, even as the more seasoned among us inch past second year and into our home stretch of college.

The at-times superficial social networks formed by extracurricular activities, social organizations and major aren’t the only thing you can find at UCLA. Sometimes, friendship happens when you’re at a party rubbing a random girl’s back, or maybe it happens when you share a table at Kerckhoff.

Whoever you are, I hope you know that it’s never too late to find real friendship. It’s week one of fall quarter, before our feet are held to the fire as midterms begin and our free time disappears into thin air, and anything seems possible.

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Harm reduction would help prevent drug-related deaths at raves

On Aug. 1, Tracy Nguyen, a rising second-year business economics student at UCLA, died at HARD Summer music festival, one of two deaths that were linked to suspected drug usage.

With her death will come a butterfly effect of outcomes. These may include opinions shifting away from a tolerant attitude of Ecstasy-fueled rave culture, the possible banning of music festivals on L.A. County-owned property and further push-pull between the two fronts of drug education and legislation: efforts to educate the public on avoiding adverse drug reactions versus an abstinence-based approach.

Efforts at spreading awareness about how to use Ecstasy in a “safe” manner, known as “harm reduction,” have been shot down in the past in Los Angeles County, largely due to the Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act of 2003. This federal law makes it unlawful to knowingly operate a venue that functions as a place to use illicit drugs, which has sent electronic dance music event organizers scurrying to cover their legal tracks.

However, as people continue to die at almost every major rave in Southern California, these efforts, which persist despite government opposition, are insufficient to quell the maelstrom of injuries and deaths due to club drug use.

Although I did not know Tracy personally, her death hits close to home. Last summer, I was en route to the very same HARD Summer music festival. Having wanted to go to the music festival a few years prior, my strict Asian parents pointed to the death of 15-year-old Sasha Rodriguez at the Electric Daisy Carnival in 2010 and said, “No.” It wouldn’t be until I turned 18 that I would go. That day in 2014, I was just like Tracy: a female Asian UCLA student attending a summer rave.

Like many others, Tracy loved electronic music and the festival experience that comes with it, according to Jasmine Lin, a rising third-year communications studies student. At the same time, the increased reliance on rave culture both as emotional and stress release may be putting Asian-Americans at risk for Ecstasy-related adverse reactions, including death, even as rave attendance and Ecstasy usage become more commonplace in the general population. Whether that experience involves drugs is up to the individual, but the draw is obvious: The emotional effects of Ecstasy are well-documented and include euphoria and personal revelation.

Even before the integration of EDM into the mainstream, Asian-Americans, their drug use and the Asian-American dance club/rave scene have been studied, such as in a 2011 study of 100 Asian-Americans. In another paper based on a survey of 250 Bay Area Asian-Americans involved in the dance club/rave scene in 2010, all but three had tried at least one “club drug”: Ecstasy, LSD, methamphetamine, GHB, ketamine or Rohypnol.

Asian-American EDM culture may be something we are all marginally aware of as we pass by people flyering for Asian Greek EDM events on Bruin Walk, but beyond mere observation, the phenomenon begets the question: Why is Asian-American rave culture a thing?

Among other proposals in the literature, a few overarching theories seemed relevant. One, supported by a statement made by one Chinese-American woman, was that her experience with raves and Ecstasy helped her “balance out” the “unemotional and introverted” manner in which she had been brought up. Ecstasy and rave culture may give emotionally rigid Asians and Asian-Americans the freedom to express more emotions.

As a secondary point, one of the authors of the study, Geoffrey Hunt, also summarized another interview subject’s point of view: Asian-Americans “are stressed out and … need an outlet – and using Ecstasy and dancing can provide this.”

Natalie Tantisirirat, a rising third-year music history student and an attendee of this year’s HARD Summer, agreed. “There’s just this sense of community and carefree vibes that people don’t normally get to experience,” she said.

The desire for this unique and oft-revelatory experience, and the musical genre and event industry associated with it, aren’t going anywhere, even as young people continue to die at events in circumstances relating to Ecstasy usage, and as, in response, institutions call for harsher drug-related laws and bans on electronic music festivals in Los Angeles County.

Drugs can never be 100 percent safe, but most deaths caused by drug use have the potential to be prevented with widespread access to harm reduction resources and education. Rather than, as with every new announcement of a young life taken prematurely at a music festival, vilifying rave culture and trying to ban raves, why not come to terms with the reality: Illicit drug use, as it has been for many decades, will continue to at least partially define the coming-of-age experience for some.

Instead of trying to stifle this trend, as generations before us have seen with the war on drugs, we should push for the use of more harm reduction tactics. Currently, harm reduction information is easily available online through documentaries like “What’s In My Baggie?” and other sources.

Nevertheless, this information is less utilized thanks to a lack of advertising, especially on-site at raves. In recent years event organizers have provided better access to emergency medical services and free water – severe dehydration is associated with Ecstasy-related deaths. Though drug usage will never be risk-free, drug-related deaths could possibly be prevented through harm reduction and acknowledgement, as in the case of many states’ curriculums on sex education, where abstinence-based education regarding societal temptations has proven ineffective.

For all the failed D.A.R.E. education many of us received as children, it seems our generation has come to realize that drug use can be enjoyable and relatively safe in moderation, with the first-hand experiences of older millennials and scientific information available online.

Tracy’s passing is recent, and her absence will continue to be felt in the UCLA community for some time. It’s important to not lose sight of what her loss could mean for EDM fans, Asian-American or otherwise, whether or not they choose to partake in drug use, and what can be done, realistically, to make sure no family, community or social network has to feel the same pain again.

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Snapchat Stories: Conquering the Death Stairs of 1919

UCLA is filled with stairs all over campus. But the steps that are dreaded the most are the infamous “1919 stairs,” also known as the death stairs. These four tiers of steps lead to a heavenly cup of warm cafe latte with a delicious lemon poppyseed scone, a perfect balance of hot and cold in the Monte Bianco or a stomach-filling cheesy pizza. But when the food coma is in full effect, the stairs come back to haunt you. Those in Hedrick, Rieber and Hitch completely understand the pain and struggle.

So here’s a little story of the constant battle with the stairs that we go through every day.

1. First you’re going to look up at and mentally decide that you’re going to power through.


2. You run up by stretching your legs across as many steps as you can, thinking that it will make the journey quicker and less strenuous.


3. Then you realize that the people in front of you are being so slow.


4. So you debate whether you should go around to the other side.


5. Once you cut the person off you think you’re going to mob up these stairs again. But then you realize that the third tier of stairs are WAY steeper and you have to take a breather.


6. Now you’re at the top and you feel the cool breeze, but you’re still sweating and out of breath.


Congrats! Just a couple more steps until you’re at the doors ready to go in the room and rest.

7. Oops, you left your Bruin Card at your table. Back down the stairs you go. Good luck coming back up.



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