Consider this anecdote about checklists (it’s from an article in Bloomberg Businessweek):
In 1935 the (B-17) bomber crashed on its first test flight because it proved too complex for the skilled test pilot to manage. The U.S. Army Air Corp ordered planes from Douglas instead, and Boeing nearly went bankrupt. But some test pilots believed in the B-17. They came up with a takeoff checklist to guide a pilot through all the crucial steps to get the plane airborne. Checklists in hand, pilots went on to fly the B-17 for more than 1.8 million miles without an accident. The army ultimately ordered 13,000 B-17s, giving the U.S. a decisive air advantage in World War II. And pilot checklists became universal.
I’m a big believer in checklists. Whenever we can, we should make them for processes. And for you, there’s a process beginning as you start working as a reporter. Your beat editor, the ACEs and other people — including me — will be telling you things you ought to do to get started quickly as a reporter and do a good job (get a good grade).
That’s why we created the New Reporter’s Checklist. Check the tasks off as you complete them. It will get you airborne as fast and efficiently as possible. Have a nice trip.
The New Reporter’s Checklist*
☐ Create a profile in Blox that will appear on the Missourian’s website.
☐ If you didn’t create a TRAX account during orientation, please do it now.
☐ Read and fill out the grading rubric; give it to your beat editor.
☐ Pick up your Missourian badge as soon as you find out it’s ready.
☐ Learn how to use Blox, how to hyperlink correctly and how to write a summary (that short, compelling paragraph that appears below the headline on the homepage). Write directly in Blox; use Firefox.
☐ Subscribe to the reporting class blog where all required reading will be posted and where you are expected to learn about upcoming assignments and events. Go to reedkath.com and click on SUBSCRIBE.
☐ Create a blog using WordPress or any other blogging software you like. If you already have a blog that you would like to repurpose, make sure that there is nothing objectionable on it for you as a Missourian or Vox reporter. SEND YOUR BLOG ADDRESS TO YOUR BEAT EDITOR. Write a “Hello, world!” blog post.
☐ Find the Missourian Intranet so you will know what’s on it, including key phone numbers. (We may move those numbers to another site very soon; stay tuned.)
☐ Find the Missourian library (not the J-School library), and ask to see the City Directory; it’s a handy tool on GA shifts. Have a look at what else is back there. Introduce yourself to Sandy, our librarian.
☐ Find the bulletin board in the northeast corner of the newsroom and look at which phone numbers are there. You will need them.
☐ Learn how to transfer a phone call. The instructions are under the glass near the phone at the front desk in the newsroom. Read them carefully.
☐ Think about your own phone; if you have a non-573 area code, people may not call you back (especially city officials). Consider getting a 573 area code phone number through Google voice that will forward calls to your existing number (no, you do not have to give up your old number).
☐ Change your voice mail message so that it sounds professional. Speak slowly and clearly. Consider including “Missourian reporter” in your voice mail message. Your friends will stop teasing you within days.
☐ Change your Mizzou email address so it isn’t an “alphabet soup” email address; these are very hard for sources to get right. Go to this link to make an address that is some variation on your name: http://doit.missouri.edu/e-mail/personalize.html
☐ Have a look at your Twitter, Instagram and other social media accounts. Can you use these in a professional capacity? The peer review will help you decide, but start thinking about what you might want to do. Read the social media guidelines posted on the reporting class blog, reedkath.wordpress.com
☐ Follow @CoMissourian on Twitter; like us on Facebook. Follow @journtoolbox on Twitter for super-smart reporting tips.
☐ Begin following other news organizations, journalists and other key people from your beat on Twitter and via other social media like Instagram and Tumblr.
☐ Create Google alerts for key words applicable to reporting on your beat. Examples: If you’re a sports reporter, “Kim Anderson.” Public life beat? “Mike Matthes.” Subject words are also useful, like “Affordable Care Act.”
☐ Go to the web page of the city’s Public Communications Department and subscribe to the city’s news release service. You can check the boxes for the types of releases you want to receive. This will keep you in the loop on much of the breaking news coming out of city government.
☐ Sign up for Nixle messages from the city that will alert you to traffic accidents, weather statements and other potentially newsworthy public safety matters.
☐ Spend 10 minutes with this graphic, and test yourself on effective Google searching. Bookmark this page. It will save you time.
☐ Write your own budget lines and code them correctly. Remember to send them to your editor or the ACE on duty as soon as you know you have a viable story.
☐ Put these Missourian phone numbers in your phone right now:
- Main number, (573) 882-5720
- ACE desk, 882-7884
- Interactive copy desk, 882-5586
- Photo department, 882-1690
Use the appropriate number to alert the newsroom to news and/or errors you spot on the site. Also, email firstname.lastname@example.org
* Your editor will check to see whether you’ve completed this checklist at the first grading session, so you might as well get it done.