Note to Self

As I’m untangling what is around me, I’m finding more and more that I would really like to record the important lessons I learn as I watch my journalism journey unfold before me. I don’t want to forget these lessons, and, more importantly, I want to be able to internalize them. I want to get so good at my job that I won’t have to keep looking back at the post that I’m making now. But honestly, what good journalist doesn’t remind themselves every now and again? I hope, in the long run, that I’m able to more-or-less compile my own personal check list and pointers.

So here goes nothing — or more accurately everything.

  • Every time you talk to someone, get their contact info (email and phone are best).
  • Remember that not everything you’re told in the field is factual.
  • When facts are relayed to you in a speech, or in a powerpoint, or really anywhere, always check them before running it in your story. Even if it’s not necessarily a statistic or a number, always go back and fact-check with your sources on important information (dates, places, regulations) before the article gets published.
  • Know that sometimes your job as a journalist requires cutting off other topics simply so you can have one complete, legible story. More importantly, your job is to decide what matters the most. That fact alone will upset or even anger some people because they will feel left out.
  • Along with that, always ask yourself why you’re choosing to leave something out.
  • Consider your own position in society while writing a piece about a minority group or person. Are the pronouns correct; did you even think to ask? Are you just assuming that it’s something about their culture and not ours? (Not that there needs to be such a dichotomy.) Perhaps explicitly state what view point you are coming from within your article, and acknowledge that simply your place in society might mean that you’re missing something. Acknowledging your own privilege, and sometimes faults, goes a long way.
  • Off of that note, try to expand your horizons when finding people to quote/talk to (AKA seek out those who are often looked over in the media, give them a chance to speak out, too).
  • If you have time, try to ease into the questioning; strike up a casual conversation first, but also tell them who you are and what you’re doing early on.
  • Actively search for stories. Don’t question them, just think up some. Use your senses to brainstorm (sight, sound, smell).
  • Get out of your usual, go-to writing habits. Read articles, and when you find ones you really like, try emulating that style. Just try new writing styles in general.
  • When attending an event, make sure the story isn’t just about the speeches and the issues. The story has to be a 50/50 (or 60/40) balance between content of the event and the audience and their response and interaction with the topics. Otherwise it can look like an advocacy piece!
  • Think multi-platform
  • Be innovative
  • Consume media, be aware of what’s going on in the world
  • Don’t get into an accidental niche-media-consuming tunnel. Take off those (unconscious) blinders.
  • Always weigh if something is definite or just claimed. Make those differences very distinct in your writing.
  • ^Be careful with naming people.
  • Try to contact people ahead of time/before an event. You’ll get good quotes and more background that way. Plus you’ll be a lot safer when it comes to deadline.
  • If ever you don’t know something and it’s deadline time, WRITE AROUND IT. Do the write-around. Problem solved.
  • Don’t lose your creativity.

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