Take a second to really internalize this: You just joined the staff of the Columbia Missourian as a reporter. From today until the second week of May, you are the community’s eyes and ears and news “translator” — someone who can help others understand what’s happening. When news breaks, we hope you’ll see it, record it with your smart phone and a notebook, and share it. When you think you’re onto a deeper, more complex story, we hope you’ll get to work on it (and ask for all the help you need because that’s what we’re here for).
If you don’t know anything about this place you live, better fix that. If you’re not a consumer of other local news sources, better add that to your to-do list.
Here’s what most reporting students say about the experience of working for the Missourian: It’s difficult, but it’s fun. You will learn so much, it might blow your mind.
But there are three ways it can go wrong — three things you might be tempted to do that will make it hard for you to succeed:
- Make the mistake of thinking that because there are no grades for much of what you must do this semester, you don’t have to do them. You might think, there are no tests in lecture so you don’t have to listen (bad idea — lecture is where we unpack what you’re learning and work on specific skills). You might think you don’t have to complete all those tasks on the reporter’s checklist. But you do. And you should.
- Make the mistake of thinking you don’t have to show up in the newsroom, which scares you, that you can just show up for your GA shifts and beat meetings. Doesn’t work that way. The students who do the best throw themselves into the experience and spend time in the newsroom, getting to know people, how things work and picking up stories that need a reporter. They come to the daily 11 a.m. meeting and participate. Totally engaged students don’t just do better, they have more fun.
- Make the mistake of thinking you can spend the first two or three weeks of the semester “working up the nerve” to do reporting. This may be the very worst of all the possible errors you might be tempted to make because it will instantly set you back and add stress to your life by forcing you to play catch up later in the semester, when you realize you really do care about doing well and learning as much as you can.
Keep up a steady effort from the start, ask questions, volunteer for assignments and this reporting thing will be totally manageable. Also, get enough sleep, stop bingeing on Netflix, get exercise, eat right… all those things will help, too.
Be like these guys. Note their steady and happy effort.
That could be you on the left and your new, best reporting buddy on your right.
Good luck. Let’s have a blast.