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Thursday, July 26, 2012

MTA meetings and Dara the amateur journalist

Monday, July 23, 2012

"This is 42nd Street Grand Central..." the 4 train announcement says as loads of people rush on and off the train. Thankfully I got off without being pushed. I forgot how crowded this station gets in the morning. As I exit the station my legs begin to buckle. "Oh legs don't fail me now!" I say to myself trying to get up the stairs. My stomach is in knots while quickly walking down E42nd Street. Turning down on Madison Ave., I feel excited that I'm attending a place where news reporters go to cover stories. A place where important people work and discuss the future of our transportation system. I am going to a MTA meeting to cover a story about transit matters. My mom said to me before leaving the house, "Dara the journalist?" I smiled nervously saying, “Well, you never know.” After being searched by police officers and having a brief conversation with the security guard, I take the elevator to the 5th floor. Suited security men surround the area, board members sit at the long conference table, and the MTA Chairman sits at the front looking serious. People sit around me, some with notepads in hand. Maybe they’re writers like me, or people from the press.

My curiosity overwhelms me as I listen to the Chairman say, "This meeting has now come to order." For a moment, I feel like I’m in a court room. Members begin to speak, I take notes. I notice one of the security guys looking at me. Maybe he's seen me before. This is my second time being inside the boardroom. I thought to myself, "What would I say if he said, 'Miss what are you doing here?'" My stomach begins to knot up again. I stayed for three out of the many meetings scheduled. I had a lot of notes and  three booklets from each meeting I attended. Each booklet outlines what's discussed at the meeting along with charts, documents, and information that's new to an amateur like me. When it was time to leave, I headed to the ladies room. I pass by the press room where I see young professionals with laptops and cameras. I was fascinated. I couldn't wait to go home to write my article. Trying to translate all those facts and figures and condense that  information into a short article wasn't easy, but it was done.

Here's my story for
Wednesday, July 25, 2012

It's the MTA board meeting which is expected to generate a large crowd of community residents, NYC Council members, and lots of press. While putting on my blazer and looking in the mirror this morning, I asked myself, "Why am I going to this meeting? I am not a journalist, I don't work for the media. I'm just a freelance writer trying to get my feet in the door. I don't belong there." I then took out my makeup bag and applied on some eye shadow. Still looking in the mirror, I smiled and said to myself, "Yes Dara, you do belong there." Going up the stairs from 42nd Street Grand Central station my legs didn't buckle. I felt nervous but more excited. I said "Good morning" to the same security guard I saw on Monday,  and to the police officers who searched me. I felt confident giving the guard my ID when he said, "You can't go to the 5th floor, it's too packed." For a moment I lost my breath. I asked if I could just stand by and listen. He looked irritated but said I could go to the 3rd floor instead. When I entered the elevator I pressed 3. When the floor arrived, I didn’t get off and went to the 5th floor instead. Two nice ladies greeted me and said I could go inside. One of the suited security guys politely told me I couldn't stay and even apologized. I thanked him and I went to the third floor. I sat in a small room with a non-working TV. There were a few of us, some becoming frustrated. I was worried. It was minutes to 10am and I was missing out on what was happening. I began to pray asking God to allow me to get to the 5th floor. Moments later, a nice lady asked me and two others to come with her. Once we got to the hallway, she said, "I'm taking you to the fifth floor." I smiled and did a happy dance in my head.

It was a packed house with many cameras and people. I listened to speakers thank the MTA for restoring cut bus service, and suggestions on how to keep our system running effectively. I saw one reporter from Channel 7 news and someone who looks like a reporter from NY1. I looked for my favorite news station, PIX 11 but didn't see them. I knew my friend and reporter for PIX 11 was there. I smiled knowing we were only a room away from each other. I felt great knowing that the person I admire was there covering such an important event, and I was there doing the same. The Chairman thanked board members for their hard work and expressed his dedication to providing the best service for commuters. Afterwards, I asked the nice suited security guy if I could stay for the press conference. Since I didn’t have a “Press card” I couldn’t attend. A cameraman from NY1 overheard my request. While taking the elevator, he asked if I had a press card. I told him no and later said, “But someday I’ll have one.” As we shared our interest in journalism, I asked him if he could take a picture of me in front of the MTA building. He did and I thanked him for it. He shook my hand and wished me luck in my endeavors. I didn’t feel nervous anymore, in fact I felt confident. I can see myself doing this more often. My dad would be so proud of me. He’s always wanted me to pursue journalism as a career. I’m happy I have many interests and grateful to be pursuing them all, even if I am just an amateur.

Here’s my story from

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