Undergrad Adventures: Reporting III

 Reporting III, or how I learned to stop worrying and just get ahead.

Reporting III, or how I learned to stop worrying and just get ahead.

To finish out my journalism minor, I decided to take Reporting III this quarter. This particular class is centered around how to be a beat reporter for a city, and what kinds of stories you should be looking for. You know that I’m into the arts and cultural criticism side of the business, so this was a different take for me. But for all of the headaches this class has caused me (on the “not having enough business hour time to do the assignments” front), the insight is worth it.

Public affairs reporting is hard stuff. 

The assignments have included, amongst other things, a city report, a crime story and a longform piece. And I have to commend the people who do this for real every day. I had (and am having) a difficult time tracking people down and getting them to talk to me about potentially sensitive issues, from confirming police blotter items to asking questions about crime reports. I give infinite kudos to the hardworking men and women who have made this their lives’ missions.

The difficulty has also has proven to me just how important it is to get public affairs stories. It’s important to know what’s going on at city council meetings, or reporting on crimes in the cities. The people deserve to know what’s happening in their own cities, and the reporters who make sure that happens are really doing a public service. It takes dedication and persistence, which are two traits a lot of people don’t have.

Sidebar: It’s a good thing this is my last quarter of undergrad, because this schedule has been terrible.

Being on campus from 8 or 9 a.m. to 6 or 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday with a packed schedule has been killer for me truly flourishing in this class, and I wish I would have known how this class was going to go before I signed up. I know I’ve been a broken record to some of my peers about my time table, but it has actually created most of my problems this quarter — having a cold last week (the reason for no Link Party on Friday) is a byproduct to that. I prefer to conduct my interviews in person, and being unable to leave campus has really put a damper on my progress with the final project. If this had been a year ago, I would have told myself to never do this again. However, it’s taught me that I actually do have a limit as to what schedule I can mesh well with, and I hope you can translate it into advice to not let yourself do the same. Or do it, if that’s what works for you.

Following the growth of the profession and where it’s heading is so important. 

I have appreciated the guidance of the professor, who was an incredibly accomplished journalist when print culture was still the dominant paradigm. But I have to say, the most important takeaway from me for this class is that it’s imperative to stay ahead of the curve.

This is not a knock on the professor. Some of the advice he’s given us has been directly applicable or transferrable, and that’s been great in a department that doesn’t seem to cater much to the journalism option. But the ways he went about getting sources and writing stories are slightly different from how today’s journalists do it, and the expectation of content delivery and how to deliver it is significantly different.  I realized that I don’t want to get stuck in the transition from print to online, or from online to whatever is afterwards. I think the way to stay out of it is to try and be a sponge, soaking up skills (it’s insane that the department doesn’t require a class in basic HTML / talk about the rise of data journalism / the future of websites like Buzzfeed or Vox) and working hard. Embracing the digital front and learning everything there is to know about it / listening to the conversation people in the industry are having are crucial to understanding how the future may look. I really wish I would have gotten more technical training earlier in my college career to put myself at the front of the pack, but it’s something I ‘m going to work on and strive towards.

What are your thoughts on the future of journalism? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

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