Part One: The mission.
Never has there been a calling so versatile that requires one to be prepared like MacGyver, full of encyclopedic knowledge and ready to cover a gruesome crime scene, even after a full day of reporting on political speeches and a community parade. Being a journalist has its attributes and its frustrations, but I wouldn’t trade my calling for any other position. However, my love for this field seems to elude some of my readers.
Newspapers are dying. The media is bought. All you cover is negativity. As a journalism graduate, who is now five years out with some experience, the same old rhetoric is dispensed ad nauseam and until recently I never thought to reply to their charges…until now.
“The more things change, the more they stay the same,” said Jean -Baptiste Alphonse Karr and he is correct at least in the reporting field. In school I soaked up the basics of my craft, but getting to the meat of the matter is the “good news” versus “bad news” debate. There is a broad misconception about what journalists do and how they do it. Yellow journalist and sensationalist are terms lobbed at media professionals that have weaseled their way into society’s mainstream consciousness. Our duty is to present all news and the fact that we do not cater explicitly to our customers, in the way they want us too, has miffed certain persons.
Car crashes, murders, assaults, fires and other unpleasant events happen and the information needs to be disseminated. Sometimes bigger news items must take precedence over local happenings, i.e. a state or federal politician visits the town versus an honorary awards dinner for a local club or organization. Love us or hate us those who work in the media have a duty to the public.
So here’s the skinny folks. News is news. I’m not talking about the tabloid droll that you find in the grocery store, they are not journalists and will never be, but the time honored tradition of actual research, recording events and talking with people who are physically present. Add to this a deadline, photography, source building and presenting it all in a neat little package and voila! The reader has glimpsed some of what reporters do on a daily basis.
For those cub reporters here are a few tried and true tips:
- Editing is a must. Don’t become discouraged if your story comes back with red marks. This is both a learning tool and an exercise in paying attention to details.
- Your articles will draw the ire of some folks. Get used to it. We are not here to be everybody’s buddy.
- Sometimes, people will not talk to you no matter how hard you try. Use other sources.
- If you are having trouble with your story, i.e. not sure how to approach it, need clarification on some information you have, etc., ask for help. I cannot stress this last point enough.