The newsroom is a strange and wonderful place. It’s a little noisy sometimes because lots of people share one, big space. Reporters are on the phone interviewing sources, ACEs are talking to editors about whether to send someone to a fire, photographers are talking to design people, and sports people are talking about food. And sports. Not necessarily in that order.
Try working in a place like this. No really, try it.
It is important that you grow to love the ambient noise of the newsroom. The chatter of reporters – talking to editors, other reporters, into their phones – the budget bell at 3 (three? Do I have to blog AP style too?), the occasional ringing of the telephone (not always occasional, I must caution) and the sound of the ACE editing away furiously your hurriedly written story, must be the soundtrack of your life.
I tend to say it this way: To succeed, make the newsroom your default location. When you’re not in class, come for the daily, 11 AM meeting (or you might miss a shout-out about something wonderful you did or a fascinating, impromptu ethics discussion). Bring your lunch, find a corner and do some research for a story.
Here’s what will happen: You’ll hear other reporters doing interviews and learn from the way they introduce themselves, pitch their story and ask questions. Someone will ask you what you’re working on, you’ll answer, and the person will give you something new to think about — or maybe even the name and number of someone you should speak to. It’s networking, and it happens in the newsroom.
Siddarth also said this:
Learn how to talk on the phone.
This is the thing you will do more than any other thing in your reporting semester. When you’re not talking to people on the phone (which is mostly how you’ll be talking to sources, especially those of you who are automobile-challenged, like me), you will be actually sitting at the phone, which is a weird thing to do for anyone born after 1990. Perhaps the most challenging thing you will ever do in your entire life will be to call and talk to a grieving sister or father. In the age of social media, you must learn how to be social, friendly (but not creepy), crisp and professional on the phone.
And there’s just no way around it. Make the phone your friend.
Quoting the title of a movie I very much admire, Siddarth also had this to say in his inimitable style:
There will be blood.
You will forget to ask how the cake in the new cupcake store is made, when the next service will be held in the church, where the body was found, what amendment supports the city’s latest move, why the tariffs have been increased. You will, in other words, screw up. Your editor will be disappointed, might yell at you, will secretly gnash her teeth. You will spend multiple weekends chasing leads and sources who turn out to be useless. You will finish writing a story at 7 p.m. just to be told to talk to 2 other people and/or write a new lead and 2 more nut grafs. I have 4 words for you, lonesome warrior of unsung nights and uneaten breakfasts: It will be okay.
And it will. Listen carefully and appreciatively to advice and suggestions, say YES (a lot), do the work and you will be okay. You might even do really well.
See you in the newsroom.