I'd like to talk today about my employment experiences working as a journalist for different news organizations, particularly, the cool things I've gotten to do, how I've grown, how I've been jaded, where I, and most journalists need to develop, and some of the ways to develop in this reputed bad press press business.
My journalistic past, present and future:
There's a job fair on November 10, 2005. I'm attending. :-D I like NYC and where the Setonian has pointed me: The New York Times.
So today's about me--where I've been as a journalist. My experiences as a journalist on the job for various organizations. Here goes...
High points of Setonian reporting:
Why a high point?
1. Places Setonian with other news organizations
2. Celebrity experience
3. Event coverage
4. Great on resume (I think it helped me get my internship.)
1. Take a tip and make something great out of it.
2. Interview experience.
3. Test in diligence.
As an investigative reporter, I didn't regularly cover the everyday newsroom stories (i.e. obituaries, fires, car crashes, etc.). I was, for the majority of the summer in an air-conditioned office with the senior writers on the staff.
It was a great position. My former editor pushed up the hierarchy for me to get some of the best stories, and I did get a great deal of them.
Court reporting is difficult for the novice. Defendants, lawyers, names, titles, issues, laws in question, evidence... It is mind-boggling; however, with practice, it can be formulaic.
-Don't go it alone. Chances are, you won't get a chance to go alone as an intern. The Trib sent out my editor with me on my first assignment, and I paired up with David Hunt on the second article.
-Take a recorder.
-Don't write down everything--it's okay if you miss an amazing quote. The lawyers have enough rhetorical ammo; you'll get another one.
Often, people can't separate you from your work, so you must assess your affiliations in order to keep yourself neutral. I've struggled with this over the past few years. In order to keep myself clear (to a certain degree) from conflict of interest issues, I don't join campus politically-affiliated or associated organizations. That's not only my decision, but also the guideline given by the Trib.
Though you may be able to keep your affiliations separate in your mind (or think you can), your fairness in covering certain topics such as a political party, an issue such as abortion, or a sports team or university office, can be affected.
Though you may think you don't have a bias, it still can exist. It's especially seen in the topics you approach and the questions you ask during interviews.
Formulaic vs. Creativity:
Formulaic stories have a definite structure. They are usually constructed in strict inverted pyramid style or mimic the previous days' stories, for example, obituaries.
Creative journalism? To some people it sounds like an oxymoron, but to me it isn't. It's even more challenging than creative writing because you have to take someone's real story of extremes: pain or despair or elation, and make it comprehensible for a public who has not been through the same situation. Non-fiction is often more bizarre than that Kurt Vonnegut or Shakespeare drama on your bookcase. You are responsible as the conduit to make everyone who reads your work say, "I understand".
These stories have a definite formulaic or creative structure or a mix. Though I like to think I'm creative in everything I do, there are some stories that adhere to a certain structure, as set forth by the organization, tradition and the type of story it is.
So, what do you think these stories demonstrate: formula, creativity, a mix of both elements or something else?
Jerry Springer's (ahem) Amanda Cochran's final thought:
I've heard it said you either have ink flowing through your veins or not. I do, and there's no refuting it. You may not be interested in journalism, and that's fine, because if I get a paper cut, it's a lot harder for Shout to get it out for me.
But seriously, journalistic basics are foundational for a critical thinking about everything. By studying journalism, you carry with you tools for assessing arguments, and a dogged determination to find the truth in yourself and in others.
I love this work, but it is work. Living up to the standards of this difficult, competitive field is taxing. I have a long, long way to go.
Realize that not everyone's a good journalist, and that's okay, but everyone can benefit from the mindset of one.
Many thanks to Dennis Jerz and his class for the invitation to speak.Posted by Amanda Cochran at November 6, 2005 4:37 PM | TrackBack