Reading & Reacting: How David O. Russell Made Me a Journalist

Photo: courtesy of Medium - Bradley Cooper, David o. Russell, Jennifer Lawrence. Photo: Jojo Whilden

courtesy of Medium – Bradley Cooper, David o. Russell, Jennifer Lawrence.
Photo: Jojo Whilden

By Callie Schweitzer @ Medium

I have been exploring Medium, the new project from Blogger and Twitter boys’ (Ev Williams and Biz Stone), for a few months, but didn’t really have a breakthrough moment of how it really made sense to me until recently I came across this moving piece. Callie Schweitzer works in the media, specifically in online publishing for some big content producers, but here she shares a very personal story about how she came to know what she was supposed to do with her life.

It all started in high school, where she was looking for a place to connect and belong. Not being an athlete, she found her way to the newspaper. Early in her experience she suffered a small setback.

Deep inside I knew I was meant to be a part of this paper, no matter how long it would take me to get on staff. No assignment was too big or too small. I would prove to them that I deserved it. So I perked up and asked what the assignment was.

The new assignment to match her new attitude, “Interview David O. Russell,” the editor said. “He went to our high school.” Not even knowing who her subject was, Schweitzer began a short journey that would result in a late night phone call from the then successful and now Oscar nominated filmmaker, ready to be interviewed. It was in the small talk she used to buy time while waiting for her computer to fire that she “jokingly suggested he “swing by” [the] high school for a visit.” To her shock, he agreed.

Having done preliminary research, Schweitzer was more than aware of who her subject was, and her sophomore self froze at the prospects of Russell making good on his visit.

Every rational part of my brain told me he wouldn’t show, but part of me wondered whether he was the kind of person who would.

Of course, he did show, a couple of minutes later than scheduled, but he made it, just as he said he would. From there the rest of the piece frames this experience as a defining moment for Schweitzer’s life. It is beautifully written and moving.

I asked my journalism students to read it last week in class and we discussed the power of the piece. They liked it, but there is always a tendency to think, “Yeah, but that would never happen to me.” My response was “Why not?” There may be no famous filmmaker that has left the small Massachusetts town where I work, but there are plenty of other interesting people. We then discussed what an advantage being a high school journalist can be, in terms of discovering people’s good-natured willingness to help them, giving them access to things and people a professional might never be offered. It is a piece that I am sure I will ask other students to read. It has a lot of possible applications for me as an English teacher.

Clocking in as a 6 minute read on the Medium time estimate, it is a piece well worth reading by teacher, student, anyone.

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