Learning to report

Mind the Gap

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This is a column about Audrey.

When I was hired for the Arts & Entertainment Department, I didn’t know Audrey, or anyone else. I had never written anything about music before; I had never been to a concert before.

As a general rule, I like trying new things a lot. But when I was plopped down in front of a printout that declared me a reporter for an independent student newspaper, every iota of my surroundings suddenly seemed very unfamiliar — predictably, I was scared.

The first two concerts I wrote about for the department were Fitz and the Tantrums at the Fox Theater and Tom Odell at the Social Hall. For both of those shows, the photo department didn’t assign me a photographer to go with, so I went with some friends I had met in my classes. The process of going to the venue and picking up my ticket at will call was softened by the friendly familiarity of the people who came with me.

Then, I picked up a pitch for Lucius, playing at The Fillmore on a Thursday night. I got an email saying that Audrey would be coming with me to take photos.

I looked her name up on Facebook and saw her artistic black-and-white profile picture, her articulate posts about The Daily Californian Ink Initiative project — I was nervous. As the reporter covering the show, it seemed like I was responsible for how the night went — getting us there, getting our tickets, making sure she enjoyed the performance — but I had barely gotten used to understanding what a concert was myself.

Once we got into the city, she suggested we get Panda Express. I didn’t want to be late, so I looked at the time on my phone nervously at least five times before I said OK. When we got to the theater, our tickets were all mixed up at will call, and I didn’t have a press contact number listed anywhere in my emails, so I called both of my editors in a panic until the lady behind the glass told us she had been looking in the wrong reserved ticket box.

After the show, we sat on BART and Googled all the places we knew in Berkeley that served ice cream. We sprinted from the Downtown Berkeley station to get chocolate milkshakes before the last diner closed.

I spent a lot of the night feeling a little bit stressed, but once we were outside, huddled on a street corner with our milkshakes, I realized how much fun I’d had with her — she’d been patient when things didn’t go smoothly, she’d wanted to know what my opinion of the performance had been, she’d wanted to spend more time with me after the show was over. And, I realized, so had I.

I texted Audrey the next time I received a photo pass for a show, and I asked her if she could come to the next show with me, so we covered Tove Lo together at the Fox. And then it became a tradition: Too Many Zooz at the The New Parish, Pinky Pinky at Bottom of the Hill, Goo Goo Dolls at Shoreline Amphitheatre — I only wanted her as my photographer.

And our tradition of post-concert ice cream continued too: we got gelato on Shattuck Avenue after Tove Lo, skipped the opener of Goo Goo Dolls to get milkshakes at In-N-Out, left before the acts following Pinky Pinky to get ice cream at Swensen’s.

And so we became friends, naturally. And as we became friends, Audrey watched me become a reporter.

This summer, I was the music beat — to be honest, I was intimidated by the title. My mom was angry I took the position, one of my closest friends had escaped to a Belgian university for the summer and wasn’t often free to talk, and I had never been required to write so much about music in such a short amount of time before.

But Audrey came along with me to most of the shows I signed up to write about, and she helped me enjoy the process of being a writer more. I stopped taking notes at the beginning of every song in the set and I spent time talking to her before a band came onstage instead of looking up their background on Wikipedia. I tried to write about my opinions more definitely — without the scattering of “sort of’s” and “perhaps’s” normally omnipresent in my pieces — and I started to feel like I really belonged in the Daily Cal.

I think that’s what being a reporter really is — feeling like you belong there. It’s not using the word “soundscape” or “ambiance” in every article like I did at first, or filling a notepad with a list of song lyrics for songs I didn’t know the name of so I could look up the exact order of the setlist when I got home. Whether or not Audrey noticed any outward changes in how I covered shows, she unwittingly helped me feel like I was capable of being a reporter.

Olivia Jerram writes the Thursday arts & entertainment column on experiencing art through other people. Contact her at [email protected].