Muslim organizations unite to honor Chapel Hill shooting victims

Muslim organizations across the nation are uniting to honor three victims who were shot and killed at an apartment in Chapel Hill on Feb. 10.

Feed Their Legacy is a national food drive established by friends and family to continue the mission of three young students, whose lives were abruptly ended by a gunman.

“I think many people caught on quite quick that my brother, his wife, and Razan were very service-minded folks,” Farris Barakat, Deah’s brother, said.

Police say Deah Barakat, 23, his wife Yusor Abu-Salha, 21, and her 19-year-old sister Razan Abu-Salha were shot and killed by Craig Stephen Hicks, a neighbor. Police are investigating possible motives, including racial bias, but they say they believe the shooting was instigated by a parking dispute.

“We felt like the only way to respond to this kind of tragedy and this kind of evil is with a good act,” Tarek El-Messidi, co-founder of Feed Their Legacy, said.

In his last post on Facebook, Deah Barakat posted a photo of him and friends serving food and dental supplies to homeless people in Durham. He was a student at UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Dentistry.

El-Messidi said that photo reminded the victims’ friends and families of their kind hearts and generous dispositions. Deah Barakat’s photo on Facebook sparked the idea for the Feed Their Legacy initiative.

While the idea behind the initiative is to collect food and give it to local food banks in each state, El-Messidi said they also want to give people a different perspective of Islam.

“Extremists are all over the news in terms of the Muslim faith right now,” El-Messidi said. “But people really don’t get to see the side of the 99.9 percent of peace-loving, everyday American Muslims that just want to live happily like everyone else.”

More than 120 mosques, Muslim students associations and groups nationwide have signed up to do a food drive, according to the organization’s Facebook page.

Farris Barakat said the overwhelming support has helped him, his family and the victims’ friends cope with the loss of their loved ones.

“I know my brother is loved by God. That’s clear and manifest in this reaction that we see from everyone,” Barakat said. “I think that’s one of things that helped me and my family – to know his actions were sincere and accepted by God.”

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Tips to get your story or event on the news

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Editor’s note: Ideas expressed in this article belong to the writer, and do not represent any publications or organizations.

I’ve worked for a handful of news organizations in the past few years. Most of my time is spent reading emails – emails from viewers who want their fundraiser for a charity featured on a TV program or website, emails from public information officers about crimes, emails from PR folks about an event they would like covered in the news.

Before I joined the world of mass communication, I had no idea how this stuff works. And after about three years reading emails and talking to friends, family and colleagues, it seems no one outside of electronic media understands how newsrooms operate.

Allow me to be your amateur guide. Below are tips to get your story on the news.

1. What’s an assignment desk?

In stations in larger news markets, there is an assignment desk. At the assignment desk, there are assignment editors. The assignment editors filter emails from viewers, PR folks, reporters, photographers, etc. They also answer phone calls and monitor police, EMS and fire scanners for news events (shootings, car accidents, tractor trailers dumping Ramen noodles everywhere, etc). Should they hear or read something that demands coverage, the assignment editors dispatch reporters and photographers to the event to get video and create the story. That’s a simplified description of the process.

In many cases, assignment editors and managers are the people you are emailing when you send a press release to an email like “news@mylocalstation.com.”

That’s not a generic email that gets immediately sent to no-mans land. In most newsrooms, there is someone monitoring that email 24/7. Your email will be read.

2. If you don’t include a location, date and time your event will not be covered

You might be thinking, “Duh!” But I can’t tell you how many press releases and emails I read that are missing one or all of these details.

If Grandma is turning 112 years old this week, and you want a camera at her birthday party, tell the news organization where the party is and what time it starts.

3. When you’re asked to send an email, they’re not just trying to get you off the phone

People tell me all the time that they want to talk to someone on the phone, because they think an email will go unnoticed. That is opposite of the truth.

When you call a newsroom, there are multiple lines ringing, coworkers at the desk talking to assignment editors, producers who need to know where a reporter is, and breaking news being monitored on the scanner. You most likely will not have the full attention of whoever you’re talking to on the phone.

If you send the information in an email, assignment editors can take time to read it when they get a moment, and then save it in the coverage planner if it’s something they intend to cover.

4. Should you email and call? Yes, but know when to do both

If it’s Monday news folks know very little about what they’re covering on Tuesday. Therefore, if you call about an event in January that’s not happening until April, you might be wasting your time.

Send a press release about two weeks in advance. If the information in the press release sounds like something a news organization might cover, they will save it in their planner.

The time to call is the day before, or the day of the event. If you call an assignment desk on Tuesday for an event on Saturday, you will likely be told, “It’s saved in our calendar, but it’s too soon to tell if we will make it.”

That’s not an excuse to get you off the phone. It’s the truth. Today assignment editors are worried about a vote in the legislature, a missing person, a town council meeting, and a scandal at the local university. They will worry about tomorrow when tomorrow arrives.

5. Understand that news controls media, not the other way around

Don’t take it personally if you’re told a photographer is planning to make it to your event or interview, and then someone in the newsroom calls and cancels.

Their day is determined entirely by the news of the day. They might have a photographer on the way to meet you, and then be forced to move him because someone robbed a bank.

It sucks for media folks, too. We want to cover everything in a community, but there aren’t always enough resources.

6. Make sure you include contact information

Whether you’re sending a tip about llamas on the loose, or you want a reporter to investigate the superintendent of a local school district, make sure you provide contact information.

Your name shouldn’t be used in a story without permission. A respectable news organization would never attribute a tip back to a viewer. Assignment editors and/or reporters would call authorities, research documents, and verify that your tip is true.

They need to be able to call you and email you for more information about a story or event, or to ask you questions.

Don’t just leave an office number. In many cases, the time they will need to reach you is during the event you want covered. Provide a cell phone number.

7. What type of stories do news folks like?

It depends on the day and the news of that day.

A little tip from someone who works a desk on weekends: we love community events like festivals, and charity events on Saturdays and Sundays. We also like feel-good stories about individuals that somehow tie to current events on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

Police officers collecting badges for their ailing brother in uniform, a college student raising money for a woman whose shop in Ferguson, Mo.  was destroyed by looters, a worldly event at the local convention center, or a vigil for a loved one lost too soon… assignment editors count on viewers to keep them informed about stories like these.

8. If a photographer doesn’t make it to your event, email pictures

Producers and web editors are always looking for fresh content. If a photographer didn’t make it to your event, it’s most likely due to limited resources rather than lack of interest.

If your event is more than a half hour away from your local news station, they may not have made it to your event simply due to proximity. This is especially true on weekends, when there are fewer photographers working in most newsrooms.

If you get an email from someone at a station requesting pictures, send photos to them. Even if they don’t make it on TV, they may be featured online. But make sure to send them the day of your event, as soon as possible. By the next day, it’s old news.

9. Wanna go big? Start small.

Maybe you think your story is worthy of network (ABC, NBC, CBS or FOX) air time. Start local. If it’s a good story, the networks will hear about it.

Networks have affiliate relations programs that call local news outlets daily to learn what they’re covering. I once did a story for my student-produced news program, that was later covered by a local television station, and then the story was featured on CBS This Morning. It happens.

Questions? Contact me using the form below.

Spring 2015 outdoor dining spots in the Triangle

Cabin Fever. noun.
irritability, listlessness, and similar symptoms resulting from long confinement or isolation indoors during the winter.

The cures for cabin fever include months of mild temperatures and sunshine, beer gardens and patio dining, and short sleeves and sundresses.

The cure is spring. And it’s finally here!

We’ve compiled a list of places to dine in the Triangle while soaking up the sun you missed so much this winter. Each restaurant is conveniently linked to its Yelp page.

1. Top of the Hill, Chapel Hill

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Blueberry wheat, anyone?

Top of the Hill Restaurant & Brewery on Urbanspoon

2. Maple View Farm Country Store, Hillsborough

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Grab an ice cream cone, and a rocking chair on the front porch. Life doesn’t get much better than this.

Maple View Farm Country Store on Urbanspoon

3. Busy Bee Cafe, Raleigh

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Burgers and craft beer on a rooftop. Yes.

Busy Bee Cafe on Urbanspoon

4. Tobacco Road, Durham

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Tobacco Road Sports Cafe overlooks the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. Dinner overlooking the diamond? No better way to watch a baseball game.

Tobacco Road Sports Cafe on Urbanspoon

5. Boylan Bridge Brewpub, Raleigh

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Go with friends for the beer and the view of Downtown Raleigh.

Boylan Bridge Brewpub on Urbanspoon

6. The Station at Person Street, Raleigh

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Outdoor bar and patio. Can you say “Sunday Funday?”

The Station at Person Street on Urbanspoon

7. Johnny’s Gone Fishing, Carrboro

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Coffee shop, baked goods, local products, beer, wine and free WiFi. Everything you need is at Johnny’s.

Johnny's Gone Fishing on Urbanspoon

8. Humble Pie, Raleigh

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Great for brunch or tapas and drinks.

Humble Pie on Urbanspoon

9. Merritt’s Grill, Chapel Hill

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Three letters: B-L-T.

Merritt's Store & Grill on Urbanspoon

10. Tyler’s Restaurant and Taproom, Durham

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See a show at the DPAC, followed by a cold craft brew at Tyler’s. There are also locations in Apex, Raleigh, and Carrboro.

Tyler's Restaurant & Taproom on Urbanspoon

11. TRU Deli and Wine Bar, Chapel Hill

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Create your own sandwich or wrap, order a glass of wine, and relax. In my opinion, this is the best patio and rooftop in Chapel Hill.

TRU Deli & Wine on Urbanspoon

12. Weathervane, Chapel Hill

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Sunday brunch: $9 Bottomless mimosas on the patio of your dreams.

Weathervane Restaurant on Urbanspoon

13. Geer Street Garden, Durham

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Split “The Pile” with your group: fried chicken, french fries, jalapeños, bacon, Cheddar cheese, gravy and sauces. Dangerously tasty.

Geer Street Garden on Urbanspoon

14. Alivia’s Durham Bistro

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Tar Heels beware – this is a DOOK hangout spot. But good stuff, if you’re willing to mingle.

Alivia's Durham Bistro on Urbanspoon

15. Southern Rail, Carrboro

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Live music, cold brews, and cool summer nights.

Southern Rail on Urbanspoon

16. Weaver Street Market, Carrboro

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Prime picnic spot. Weaver Street is the Whole Foods of Carrboro. Run inside the market to make a salad at the bar, and eat outside with friends.

Cafe at Weaver Street Market on Urbanspoon

17. Babylon Restaurant, Raleigh

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A place to eat in Raleigh that doesn’t look at all like a place in Raleigh

Babylon on Urbanspoon

18. Jubala Coffee, Raleigh

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I wish Jubala would replace all the Starbucks in the world. A morning at Jubala is a good morning.

Jubala Village Coffee on Urbanspoon

19. Raleigh Times

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There’s also a rooftop patio at the Raleigh Times that’s even better than their sidewalk seating. I couldn’t find a picture of it. But this is a great place to get great bar food with friends on a sunny day.

Raleigh Times Bar on Urbanspoon

20. Parker and Otis, Durham

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This renovated tobacco warehouse is perfect to find gifts and baked goods, and a great place to relax and eat lunch.

Parker and Otis on Urbanspoon

21. Vivace, Raleigh

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A romantic dinner spot in Raleigh’s North Hills for Italian cuisine on the patio.

Vivace on Urbanspoon

22. MEZ Contemporary Mexican, Durham

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This is not your typical Mexican restaurant – it’s better! Order a specialty margarita, and enjoy the weather from their second floor outdoor patio. The guacamole is also very good!

Mez on Urbanspoon

Did I miss your favorite? Tell me about it in the comments!

20 things to do in Amsterdam

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1. Rent a bike for the day, and explore

I don’t think there’s a better way to see an unfamiliar city than to ride a bike through it, and biking is a very popular mode of transportation in Amsterdam. It will seem intimidating at first. Pedestrian tourists in this city fear being run over by trams and cyclists who have no time to stop for your jaywalk, but once you start navigating the bike lanes it’s easy. The Guardian said it well, calling the biking culture in Amsterdam “…a chaos that works incredibly well.”

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Tip: There are bike rental shops all over the city. It’s  inexpensive to rent one for the day. Ask someone at the front desk of your hotel/hostel for one nearby.

2. Visit the Van Gogh Museum

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This is a great museum for anyone, not just art lovers. The paintings are displayed in the order in which Van Gogh painted them. As you walk through, it’s interesting to see how his style changed, and to learn what influenced his paintings at various points in his life.

Tip: Buy your tickets online ahead of time to avoid wasting time in the ticket queue. 

3. Eat traditional dutch food

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One of the best things about traveling is trying the native cuisine in a country you’ve never visited. Dutch food is hearty – think meat, potatoes, and greens. There’s also a lot of fish and seafood. I would give you a list of places I’ve visited. But why trust an American tourist when you can go straight to the source? Here’s a list of the Top 10 Dutch food restaurants on Amsterdam’s official website. The Pantry, pictured above, is a hot spot for many tourists.

4. Visit the Anne Frank House

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The Anne Frank House and the Van Gogh museum are the two quintessential things you should do in Amsterdam. It was in the annex of this house where Anne Frank and her family hid from Nazi persecution during World War II. This was also where Anne Frank wrote her famous diary. She did not survive the concentration camps, but her father did. He got the book published in 1947 after returning to Amsterdam. This museum is dedicated to Anne Frank’s life, and shares a great deal of history about the treatment of Jews during WWII.

Tip: You should buy your tickets in advance for this, too, in order to avoid long lines. It’s nine euro for adults. 

5. Pick your poison: Coffee shop or cafe

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In Amsterdam, if you go to a coffee shop, you should know that’s where you go to legally purchase and smoke marijuana. If you only want coffee, you’re looking for a cafe.

Your nose will help you sniff out the right place.

Tip: If you have a crowd mixed with smokers and drinkers, you may want to split up. Coffee shops do not sell alcohol, and bars do not sell marijuana.

6. Sail away on a canal tour of the city

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A canal tour in a city like Amsterdam is a great way to see the entire city. I’ve been on two tours with the Blue Boat Company, and they’re great. You’ll see the harbor, the Anne Frank House, the Red Light District, and more; and you’ll be guided by an audio tour, if you choose to wear the head phones. There’s also hors-d’oeuvres and drinks on the boat. Seeing the city from the canal at night is absolutely gorgeous, and it’s a fun thing to do with a group.

Most of the canal tour boats are enclosed, so you don’t have to worry about rain or cold.

7. Shop at a street market

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There are more than a dozen street markets in Amsterdam, most of which are open daily. The markets are a great place to eat a little street food, and meet local vendors. At the markets you can buy cheese, waffles covered in chocolate, tulips, and locally made goods.

Checkout the hours and locations here.

8. Educate yourself about cheese at a cheese shop

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Dutch people are very friendly, and in a tourist trap like Amsterdam, most of them speak English. Don’t hesitate to walk into a shop and talk to local vendors. Be careful with cheese, though. Some of the street vendors will tell you you’re buying 3-year-old, high quality cheese, when you’re not. The real fromagers will talk to you about cheese, share their cheese wisdom, and excitedly give you samples of their best cheeses.

Tip: The longer a cheese has matured, the crispier and stronger it tastes. If a vendor tells you you’re eating three-year-old cheese, but it’s creamy like the cheddar you buy at Harris Teeter, he’s lying.

9. Eat an authentic Indonesian meal


This photo of Kantjil & de Tijger is courtesy of TripAdvisor

I don’t know how else to describe Indonesian restaurants other than to say that it’s stacks on stacks on stacks of food. Plates filled with spicy and savory Indonesian cuisine are served family-style. Lamb, pork, chicken and things I can’t describe. Sit down. Order a drink. And don’t ask questions. Just eat what you are served. It’s delicious.

A good place to try is Kantjil & de Tijger. 

10. Take a picture in front of the IAMSTERDAM sign

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Self-explanatory.

Tip: If you want a picture in front of the sign by yourself, or featuring your group, don’t go on a weekend. Wait for a weekday when there are fewer tourists.

11. Eat at an Argentinian steakhouse

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Argentinian steakhouses are everywhere in Amsterdam. I’m not sure why. I asked Google, but I didn’t really find an answer. Maybe the Dutch just love the way Argentinians do steak? Anyway, you’ll see one of these steakhouses down just about every street. I ate at two while I was in Amsterdam, and thoroughly enjoyed both restaurants. Gaucho’s is popular and has good reviews.

12. Snack on waffles and stroopwafels

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Unless you’re Buddy the Elf, waffles in Amsterdam are dessert, not breakfast. I got one smothered in chocolate. You can add candy and all sorts of goodies, too. Most of the street markets mentioned above have vendors selling these sweet treats.

Stroopwafels are like cookies with a caramel-like syrup inside, and you buy them in a package. They’re a great gift to take home to friends and family. I imagine taking waffles would get a bit messy.

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Tip: Place a stroopwafel on a cup of coffee while the coffee’s hot. The heat from the coffee will melt the gooey caramel in the stroopwafel. Yum!

13. Walk or jog through Vondelpark

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Vondelpark is Amsterdam’s version of New York City’s Central Park, and it’s pleasant to stroll through. You don’t realize how metropolitan Amsterdam is until you escape into this calm park.

There are several entrances, but one of the main ones is directly across the street from the Hard Rock Cafe – a prime tourist region. If you’re a runner or an outdoorsy person, this is worth your time..

14. Visit a tulip field

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I’ve never been to Amsterdam at Springtime, so unfortunately I haven’t done this, but it’s on my bucket list. Here’s a Guide to Seeing the Tulip Fields near Amsterdam.

15. Visit the Heineken Museum

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Personally, there are other things I would do before making this a priority. If you’re between 18 and 21 years old and can’t drink in the U.S. you might enjoy it. But if you’ve been to one brewery, you’ve been to this one. With that said, it’s inexpensive and you get three beers with your ticket. You also learn about Heineken’s history and how Hollanders drink beer.

You will not go to a bar or restaurant in Amsterdam that doesn’t serve Heineken. It’s their version of Budweiser.

16. Try Middle Eastern cuisine 

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The only Middle Eastern place I’ve been in Amsterdam is Bazar, pictured above. SO MUCH FOOD! Bazar is also one of the few places I’ve eaten in Europe with really great service. I highly recommend it, and so do those who have reviewed it on TripAdvisor.

17. Walk through the Red Light District at night

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Prostitution is legal in the Netherlands, making Red Light Districts (there are multiple) in Amsterdam a popular place to visit for tourists. This certainly is no place for families to tour together, but it is a cultural element of Amsterdam many don’t want to miss.

Women pose in small rooms or cabins illuminated by red lights, and they offer sexual services to men. Learn more about red light districts and prostitution here.

18. Checkout a relatively new street art display

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Artists Hero de Janeiro and Ottograph created an incredible street art display in the spring and summer of 2014. Get your cool #Amstergram pics here.

19. See what swims in the canals and more at Artis Royal Zoo

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Artis Zoo is a fun way to spend a few hours in Amsterdam, and it’s family-friendly. There’s an aquarium at the zoo, where you can see what fish and creatures live in the canals, in addition to your usual zoo things like chimps, lions, and llamas.

20. Drink your way through the House of Bols

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The House of Bols prides itself on being one of the world’s oldest distilleries. The museum and tour is right across the street from the Van Gogh Museum. This is similar to going to the Heineken Museum – you learn how vodka is made, and you get complimentary drinks with your ticket. If you’re choosing between the Heineken Museum, and this one, I would go to House of Bols. This is something you can’t get in the States, and the drinks are great!

Did I miss anything? Feel free to leave suggestions in the comments!

Why the world needs liberal arts majors, communicators

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Many liberal arts students will tell you that people believe their dreams and career goals are impractical or risky.

Healthcare workers, teachers, and entrepreneurs serve a clear and distinct purpose. Tell people you want to be a reporter or a history major or that you study communication, and the belief among many is that a career path in liberal arts is precarious.

Passion gets you farther in a career than anything else. I truly believe that. And if you’re passionate about something, the work demanded to be successful will come easily – so easily, you often won’t even realize you’re working. We’re all expected to provide a service to this world in order to earn a comfortable place in it, and, for that reason, I believe you should find a fulfilling profession – something that motivates you to wake up in the morning.

As someone who has wanted to be a news reporter since I was 14, I can personally attest to the skepticism of liberal arts. But liberal arts professionals and communicators are essential to understanding, empathy, connectivity and so much more.

I was recently reminded of this while interning for a week in Europe, when my family in Chapel Hill experienced tragedy and loss. Former UNC Basketball Coach Dean Smith died. Three young students were killed in a senseless shooting.

I was thousands of miles away from all of it.

It was the experience of being so far that served as a reminder of three things: 1) why I want to be a reporter, 2) what I hope to help change about news and media, and 3) why local news is a necessity for all of us.

My lifelines while I was in Europe were local newspapers and television stations in the Triangle, friends posting their reflections about the events on social media, and the conversations I had with the fellow UNC students who were in Europe with me.

It was difficult to be so far away while the community that feels like family at UNC mourned together without me. But having access to all of it via online news sites and social media was soothing. It allowed me to participate in the pain, and feel included in what was happening at home.

My career path isn’t risky or unfeasible. I’m not a five-foot-tall woman hoping to be a model for New York Fashion Week, or a female hoping to be a quarterback in the NFL. I’m a student and young reporter with a passion to share information, truths, and stories.

The need for communicators is as great as the need for healthcare workers and mechanics.

Every tribute to Dean Smith in the news, every story shared about Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Mohammad, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha serve as reminders of our human need for connectivity in times of loss and tragedy.

A liberal arts education provides students with the skills to communicate and to understand. Without it, our world would not be a globally connected place full of empathy and knowledge.

While our purposes in life are all different, we all have one. Next time someone tells you his or her major or profession, I hope you consider what role it serves in the world. I feel so lucky to be inspired everyday by people who encourage me to practice my passions, and I hope this post will encourage others to do the same.

The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he is always doing both. -James A. Michener

How to do Paris in three days

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I’m overwhelmed with nostalgia as my mind is cast back this week to my trip to Paris, France a year ago.

The time I had in La Ville Lumière was nothing less than incredible. It’s impossible to turn around without seeing something triumphant and beautiful. Paris makes you feel small in the very best way possible.

To remedy my reminiscent mind, I thought I would share how I chose to explore Paris in three days . From Sacré-Cœur to the Eiffel Tower, here’s how I spent my split-second trip in one of the most captivating cities in the world.

Day 1: Check-in, explore the area around your hotel/hostel

My friend and I stayed at Perfect Hostel in Montmartre. It’s exactly what you expect from a decent hostel. It’s about 35 bucks per night, there’s friendly service (aside from the creepy dude who works at night), free breakfast, and free WiFi. The bathrooms are shared and you’ll want shower shoes, the beds aren’t terrible but they’re not great. As a poor college student, I would  stay at this hostel again, but you get what you pay for.

The first night we went to dinner at Le Refuge des Fondues. When in Paris, overdose on wine, bread and cheese without shame. La Refuge is an American tourist trap, but it’s a great place to meet people and the atmosphere is fun. The tables are shoved together, so you end up talking to and getting to know the travelers next to you. Wine is served in souvenir bottles, which I can appreciate as someone with too many wine-stained shirts.

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After dinner, we walked around the shops near Sacré-Cœur, found the metro station closest to our hostel, and made a game plan for the next day.

Day 2: Walk off the wine, cheese and bread

On day one we took the metro, which is easy to navigate,  from Montmartre into the seventh arrondissement (Paris is divided into 20 arrondissements), which is home to many of the attractions on a tourist’s Paris checklist. If I remember correctly, we estimated that we walked about 10 miles in one day. Prepare yourself.

TIP: Don’t make the mistake I made and wear heels because it’s Paris, and you think you’re fabulous. Contrary to what you might think (or contrary to what I thought), you are not (I am not)  Beyoncé or Kim Kardashian. Be practical.

We got off the metro at the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, and began our journey. The Champs-Élysées is a straight shot to the Louvre, where thousands of tourists visit each day to see the Mona Lisa (and thousands of other works of art… but Mona… can I call her Mona?…  is certainly the most famous). To conserve time we took a picture in front of the Louvre, but didn’t go inside. It’s overwhelming and huge, and there are other art museums you can do in a shorter amount of time.

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From the Louvre, we walked to the Musée d’Orsay.  It is well-worth your time to buy a ticket and go inside, and you can get through it in about an hour. The museum was originally a railway station, so it’s neat inside. It’s home to the largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist paintings, and works from artists you’ll recognize like Monet and Van Gogh. This was my favorite museum. It’s where I found the painting below, and a quote that hit the spot in the midst of my first trip abroad.

“Artists, in their individual styles, were continually redefining the sometimes fantastical images of a foreign culture that satisfied the craving for exoticism of all those who set off in search of unknown lands.” -Musée d’Orsay on Orientalism; Painting is Charles Vacher de Tournemine’s “Éléphants d’Afrique”

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From Musée d’Orsay we grabbed brunch at a small cafe on a side street. We drank wine and ordered croque-madames, which is essentially a grilled cheese with ham, and a friend egg on top. But it’s French and more delicious than the sandwich your mom made you as a kid.

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TIP: Don’t eat somewhere in the midst of tourist land. Walk down an alley to a little cafe. It will save you money, and it’s more likely authentic.

After lunch we walked across the Love Lock bridge to Musée de l’Orangerie. This is another museum that’s easy to get through in an hour, and it’s worth the hour spent.  Here you’ll find the works of Picasso, Rousseau, Modigliani, Monet and more. Monet’s water-lily paintings stain your memory. Eight paintings cover the walls in two large oval rooms. I could easily spend hours in them with a book and a cup of coffee. They’re beautiful.

Off to the Eiffel Tower. We had big plans for this journey – plans to take advantage of the legality of drinking a bottle of wine in the public domain, and plans to get the perfect profile pic. Done. And Done.

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Spend time at the Eiffel Tower. It was amazing to see so many people from all over the world gathered in a single space – a space with which almost everyone is familiar and feels welcome. You’ll be surrounded by languages you don’t understand, but somehow you know you’re all having the same conversation. Differences and cultures and nationalities aside, the reaction to the Eiffel Tower is all the same.

Tip: Don’t climb the Eiffel Tower. It’s expensive, and time-consuming. There are better views of the city that are far more worth the climb.

Off to the Arc de Triomphe. The walk toward the Arc de Triomphe is cluttered with tourists scrambling with maps. But try to make it to the Arc at dusk, and take the time to climb to the top. It’s an overwhelmingly long journey up winding steps that seem like they’ll never end, but do it. It’s good for your gluteus maximus, and it will work off the thousands of calories you’ve consumed in wine, cheese and bread.

The view from the top is everything – to your right is the Eiffel Tower, to the left is Sacré-Cœur on a hilltop that protrudes just enough to request your attention, and in the middle is the hustle and bustle of the Champs-Élysées, seemingly calmer up high where the noise of street performers and honking cars are only a muffled hum. It’s the vantage point of your wanderlusting dreams.

View from the Arc de Triomph
View from the Arc de Triomph

After a day jammed with every tourist attraction in a three-mile radius, our energy was spent. We had high expectations for ourselves. Goals to go out, flirt with Parisians, sleep for three hours, and rally the next day. What we actually did was grab dinner at a mediocre cafe, lacking the energy to find something good, and then we passed out early in preparation of another day full of tourist attractions and walking.

Day 3: Take time to absorb

Our only plan for day two was to find Notre Dame Cathedral in the Fourth Arrondissement, and then to let ourselves get lost in its surroundings.

Notre Dame is as magnificent as you might imagine. It’s detailed and old, and it’s a piece of history you can be proud to say you’ve seen in person. We didn’t go inside, as we tried to save money… for wine, cheese and bread.

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Shakespeare and Company Bookstore is where we landed next. It’s just across the river from Notre Dame. Go inside. Read. Listen. Breath in the comforting smell of old books. Indulge.

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Latin Quarters is just a few blocks away from Notre Dame, so we found ourselves there after a long lunch. At mid-afternoon, we decided to go back to Montmartre and refresh for dinner and a night out.

Sacré-Cœur at sunset is one of Paris’ best-kept secrets. From the top of the basillica’s steps, the sunset glows pink, purple, orange, red and yellow behind the Eiffel Tower that stands beautifully in the distance. I tried to capture this sunset in a picture, but it’s impossible. Sit on the steps with a bottle of wine or a few beers, and absorb.

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This was our last night in the city, so we explored a little more. There are plenty of things you can do that are within walking distance in Montmartre. You can go see Moulin Rouge (we didn’t because it’s a bit expensive, but I’ve heard it’s fun). We walked around the streets behind Sacré-Cœur, watched French painters create their masterpieces, shopped for gifts for friends at home, and then bought a bottle of wine to toast to a great trip.

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Sacre Coeur
Moulin Rouge
Moulin Rouge

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Were Tom Ross and UNC’s Board too polarized to work together?

Three week’s after President Tom Ross’ unexpected resignation the UNC System’s Board of Governors still hasn’t said why Ross was asked to step down.

Carolina Week’s Kristin Leigh takes a look at the political powers at play in North Carolina, where she found connections that suggest Ross and the conservative board might have been too polarized to work together.

Watch the report above for details.

View this week’s full Carolina Week newscast here.

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