6 things I’ve learned in my first 6 months as a reporter

It’s been six months since I’ve started my first “real” job as a digital reporter at my hometown newspaper, the Kearney Hub.

Six months! Where does the time go? I’ve learned a lot in that time–things about myself, the world world and the profession/industry of small-town journalism.

Here are my six biggest takeaways from the journalism side of things.

  1. Every journo has a great story (or seven).
    Whether it’s a story they broke or a funny detail from an interview, a group of reporters has seen it all. I love listening to veteran journalists talk about their careers, from things such as covering the county fair to murder cases.

    It’s also interesting to see who they have interviewed, from lawmakers to celebrities such as Taylor Swift and Ellen DeGeneres. (So far, the most famous person I’ve interviewed is Justin Moore. And the Lincoln kid who got stuck in a claw machine. I met him and his grandfather at the scene of a playground fire in Omaha. The interview didn’t make it in the story, but the kid was pretty cute.)

  2. In addition to reporting, I work on the digital side of things. This ranges from web management to taking videos to implementing the social media plan. Here’s the thing about social media–it’s a lot harder than it seems. I thought my past experiences managing social media campaigns prepared me for this, but I was wrong.

    It takes a lot of time and a lot of creativity/wordsmithing. It takes some of the fun out of social media. My Tweetdeck and Facebook pages are up all day at work, and at the end of the day, I never want to look at Facebook again. But not Twitter–I’m addicted to Twitter.

  3. “Regular” people are very interesting. Oftentimes, they aren’t “regular” at all. I’ve met some phenomenal individuals–selfless athletes, a generous seamstress, a gregarious breast cancer survivor–and written stories about their lives. The process fascinates me. It’s bizarre to sit down with a person you’ve never met and have this emotional experience where they tell you their hopes and dreams and the intimate details of their life. Then, when the interview is over, you will say goodbye and probably never talk again. It’s very strange.
  4. There are a lot of good writers in the world. Look at a newspaper, be it the Hub, the Omaha World-Herald or the New York Times–the pages are filled with superb reporting and writing. But good writers are not necessarily great communicators. This surprised me. I first experienced this as an intern, but figured it was because I wasn’t a full-fledged employee. Actually, it’s like that everywhere, in every field–sometimes communication breaks down. Who knew?
  5. I imagine that being a reporter is like working in sales: it takes a lot of initiative. You have to call people on the phone (something my fellow millennials despise) or, if you are ignored, show up at their place of business. Aren’t there? Maybe you have to leave a note and business card in their mailbox.

    You have to pitch your idea to a source, get them to agree, and then have them tell you all the details of their life. Sometimes, individuals or businesses will turn you down, declining to participate. (That always baffles me.) Some stories are magical. They grab your attention and spill out of your brain so quickly your fingers can’t keep up. Others aren’t so captivating, but still need to be shared.
    (One difference between sales and daily reporting–there is no commission.)

  6. I like making people feel emotions. I get a strange satisfaction when I learn that people were moved by something I wrote. If you aren’t in the news business, chances are a reporter is invisible to you. So when I read internet comments such as “(subject of the story), you made me cry,” I feel like I’ve doubly won–I’ve told the story in an unobtrusive way and I elicited a response from a reader. There’s nothing quite like it.

Bonus thing I’ve learned: Everyone should want to be a reporter. It’s awesome.

Bonus skill I’ve learned: How to type while holding a pen.

Are you a reporter/journalist/work in the media biz? What did you learn in your first six months on the job?

Not in the business? What did you learn when starting out in your job?



Will Twitter outlast the Times?

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...
Will Twitter outlast the NYTimes? Image via CrunchBase.

In this recent article from CNNMoney.com, Peter Thiel, Former CEO of PayPal, said that Twitter employees need not worry about their jobs 10 years from now. Employees of the New York Times, however, should fear for the longevity of the newspaper.

Granted, Thiel was mainly discussing the business side of things, and the newspaper industry is currently going through a major struggle to keep its revenue up. However, the fact that professionals say such a thing shocks me.

I have always thought of the NYTimes as “too big to fail.” If the public has a need for a newspaper, and I would argue that it most certainly does, then the public will have a newspaper such as the Times to keep it from being thwarted by politics and those who would deceive the American public. However, now I see that perhaps this is too much of a Pollyanna-esque view.

This means a few things. 1) In the future, I should keep my job search wide. If a newspaper isn’t around, which I believe is not true, then I need to have other skills that make me marketable. 2) I should buy some stock in Twitter when/it it comes out with an IPO. 3) I should consider a career at Twitter.

After the AP Twitter hack last week, the social media site has come under fire for not adequately protecting its journalists who use the micro-blogging platform. It seems to be stepping its game up, however, by posting a new position on its jobs page. The title? Media– Head of News and Journalism. 

What can I, a journalism student in this social media-savvy century, learn from this? If Twitter is taking Journalism seriously, then the rest of the world should, too. Traditional print media may be going through a rough patch right now, but the industry as a whole will be here to stay. (I hope.)

Are you going to apply for the job? If you were given this position, what would you do to increase the relationship between Journalists and Twitter?

State of the Media 2012

Social Media Week 2012 SP
Social Media Week 2012 SP (Photo credit: Fora do Eixo)

Write a blog post reflecting on what the report’s findings mean to you as a professional and as a consumer. Do the findings reflect what you have observed and experienced in your own life? What does it mean for how you will do your jobs now and in the future?

The 2012 State of the Media report card was recently released by the Pew Research Center for Excellence in Journalism. A portion of the report was focused on the influence of social media. (You can read it here.) Being a journalism student who is in a social media course, I found the report to be very interesting and (hopefully) pertinent to my future.

My primary reaction to reading this report is a sense of hopefulness about my future. While I am still unsure about what I want to do with my life, or if I even want to work in the field of Journalism, it is reassuring to know that there are people who like social media, and have found a way to make their livelihood doing it. An estimated 184 news organizations around the country have social media editors, up from 100 in early 2012. This is exciting! It means that what I am learning can actually be applied and potentially get me a job someday.

The social media-related jobs do not necessarily end with those 184 editors. The report mentioned Vadim Lavrusik, a 2009 college graduate who is the Journalist Project Manager at Facebook. Check out his website– it is interesting. His resume is crazy-awesome.

The report also noted the increasing numbers of people who get their news via a website or mobile device. While it seems obvious to me that these numbers will only continue to grow in the future, it is important to note that they will probably never reach extremely high numbers. After all, not every household in America has a computer or internet access. Not all people can afford a smart phone. Some people just prefer a newspaper or broadcast. I think it is important to keep expanding and exploring into the digital and online world, but it is equally imperative that these original mediums are not cast aside. Those who cannot go to Omaha.com should still be able to find quality reporting in their morning edition of the Omaha World-Herald.

Mentions and refers were mentioned in the report. I think this is something that I need to keep in mind when doing professional social media. As a consumer, I generally ignore a designated hash tag or link on websites or in the bottom of a TV screen. However, this report seems to say that people use them, which means that I should begin utilizing them as well. I also believe that my generation will eventually get used to phenomena like this and will begin to ignore them with greater frequency in the future.

One final thought: The report mainly focused on Facebook, in regards to advertisements and traffic generators. I personally am on Facebook frequently, but I rarely use it for purposes such as this. I will post the occasional article on there, but I use Twitter much more for news purposes. Am I alone in this?

And now on to read the rest of the Pew report…