Welcome to the reporting class. I know you’re probably feeling some anxiety about this whole thing — that’s totally normal, and don’t be fooled by that person sitting near you during orientation today who looked so calm: Everybody’s nervous. It just doesn’t always show.
So how to manage these nerves?
First of all, forget what other people told you about this class unless they told you it was great, they learned more than they have in any other class in the journalism school, and it was actually really fun.
Second, do not obsess about how other people in this class are doing. Or that someone gets published before you do. Focus on your own work, talk to your editor or an ACE when you need help, and get on with it.
This brings me to the third thing: Do not put off “jumping in.” You are getting on a train that is leaving the station. We want you on this ride with us. We will help you get comfortable. But if you wait too long, everything will start to move too fast, and you’ll feel that you can’t catch up. It’s scarier than ever, if you’ve put off that first step. (Trust me on this.)
Remind yourself (#4) that this class lasts only 16 weeks, and that’s really not very long in a lifetime. You have 16 weeks to absorb everything you can about reporting and amass a terrific portfolio of work. This is what makes the Missouri School of Journalism different from many others: We give students the opportunity to work as professional journalists in a real newsroom, with the chance to do big stories. You’re about to have a serious byline.
And number five: No matter what you plan to do, knowing how to report will provide you with an excellent foundation for many kinds of work. Our students go on to do many things, not all of them in journalism. One of my students, who went to work for a national moving company, told me how much it helped her that she’d learned to talk to strangers, communicate clearly, organize information and adapt to many different situations.
So push the nerves aside, listen carefully, ask questions and say “YES!” Or, as one of my former students, Morgan, who now has a kick-a– job d0ing investigative reporting in southern California used to say, “Fake it ’til you make it.”