Someone (I’ll learn ALL of your names ASAP) asked me at orientation yesterday how she would be graded in the reporting class if there weren’t any tests. (I’m paraphrasing because I wasn’t taking notes and I haven’t AC’d because I didn’t get her name OR her phone number, oh, dear…). I referred again to the grading rubric, and then I said something like this:
Every time you are in a situation this semester, whether planned or unplanned, that demands that you pay attention, being consciously observant and analytical, and every time you could be news-gathering in any sense and you have that moment of recognition that calls upon you to do journalism, you are being tested.
I also said something like this (but not all of this, but this is the rest of it):
You’re walking across campus and you see something happening, so you get closer and there it is, NEWS, right in front of you — anyway, it looks like news — so you pull out your smart phone and you shoot some pictures and a little video, then you pull out a notebook and hit record on that app on your phone and you start interviewing people about what’s happening, or what just happened, and you get their names and ages and phone numbers and you do a few more interviews. Then you call the newsroom (573-882-5720, but you already had that number saved in your phone, hint hint) and you tell the ACE (that’s the assistant city editor) what’s happening and she/he says WOW THANKS, stay right there, we’re sending a couple more people… And the story is yours. The pictures and the video bear your name. And you’ve Tweeted an image or two at @comissourian and you run back to the newsroom, sit down for a quick bit of writing, and then some editing, and then some more writing. And the ACE and the city editor look at you and say, WOW THANKS good job. That’s a test. And you just got an A for the day.
That’s reporting. That and so many other things. It’s a state of mind for the semester. And probably a way of living, if we’re being honest.
Welcome to a new way of life, at least for the next 16 weeks. I’ll let Katie Roberts have the last word. Katie was in the class last semester. (We had a great time on the Wednesday GA team.) This is how she responded to the question I asked everyone to blog about at the end of the semester: What do you wish you’d known at the beginning of the reporting semester that you know now?
This applies to life, not just the Missourian, but it is good for future reporters and future adolescents to realize this: Life goes on. No matter if you dreaded going to the newsroom every morning or if you were leaping out of bed to get there, life went on. Time went on. It is December 10th for the people who hated every minute of this experience and it is December 10th for the people who thrived at the Missourian. So the solution to this is: Live. We all get the same 24 hours in the day, live. Enjoy it. Because once it’s over, it’s over. Something Caroline said to us at the first beat meeting (seems like yesterday) really stuck with me: Put your all in for this one season. It’s just one season.
So my advice is to work. Work harder than you ever have before. Try things you wouldn’t otherwise. Grow as a person. Where else can you mess up so badly and not get fired for doing so? Where else can you get screamed at by your editor then walk out of the room to a table of some of your bestfriends and just laugh because it was just another one of those days. Where else do you get alumni-supplied food and free cupcakes and endless amounts of laughs? No where. The time is going to pass. Make the most of it.
Now here is a list of everything I have learned from the Missourian thus far. ….
- It’s ok to cry. CRY. If you didn’t cry, you didn’t do it right. You should be so invested in your work that you cry. Something you write needs to pull at a heart string.
- BEWARE OF YOUR SURROUNDINGS. Literally. When you are interviewing a teacher in a recording studio in the basement of a high school…ask questions. It leads to really awesome stuff.
- If you don’t know, ask. It is better to know than to assume. You know what they say about assuming…
- Talk to the people next to you. These students are going through exactly what you are. Bond over that. Invite them to lunch. Ask them how their day is. Compliment them on their writing. You are in the newsroom because you feel comfortable talking to complete strangers. These people shouldn’t be complete strangers by week 3… I promise.
- Go. to. the. gym. – I shouldn’t have to elaborate, but I will. The Missourian isn’t easy. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying. So take care of yourself. Take care of your mental, physical and emotional state. I have found the gym to be my church. Find your church.
- Laugh. Laugh that you aren’t getting paid. Laugh that you have to pay to park. Laugh that you are basically slave labor. Because what else is there to do about that messed up situation?!
- Columbia is an amazing town. Being on the education beat has really opened my eyes to that. There are so many amazing things going on and SHOUT OUT TO MICHELLE BAUMSTARK FOR ALWAYS BEING THERE TO TELL YOU WHEN AMAZING THINGS ARE GOING ON. Go cover Ag Day or Bubble Soccer or whatever else these schools have going on because it will be rewarding and it will be worth it, that I can promise.
- Find an ACE you can trust. When your editor is swamped and you need a story done like an hour ago, make sure you bond with someone that you can lean on to get your story to print. Luckily for us, we had some amazing ACEs this semester. Make sure they know who you are and have mutual respect. They have been in your shoes and yes they probably do know better.
- Do journalism on the weekends. It just makes sense. You have all day, the source has all day…it’s a great time.
- HAVE FUN. Why are you here if you don’t like annoying people with phone calls, talking to people you don’t know or making deadline?
My time at the Missourian can be summed up in one word: rewarding.
No matter what I may have said while it was happening (shout out to my mom for always listening to me complain…you are the real MVP) looking back it was the most rewarding thing I could do with a semester.
The Missourian has given me some of my greatest friends. It has given me friends that I can look back on these years and remember the nights we went and ate food truck food, watched James and the Giant Peach or spent the night in Hyvee Chinese, or the girls who did my hair for semi formal. They’re the people I spent all day on GA days joking with Katherine. They are the people I would walk to Hitt Parking lot with or make cupcakes with on Sunday nights. They were the ones I talked journalism with. They were the people who understood, because they were going through it too. When no one else understood why I was too busy to do meaningless things with or was too tired to function, they understood. They were tired, emotional and anxious just like me. I found my people this semester, and I am so glad I pursued this incredible thing we do.
Stay Humble. Work Hard. Be Kind.