Seven Unexpected Lessons From Journalists

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It’s not just sports reporters who travel with the team and chronicle their every move, we were to learn. In fact, every journalist learns how to do this. No matter what you’re covering: federal legislation and congressional hearings as a reporter in Washington D.C., or the cultural festivals of India for your travel blog, your work is about building new relationships that help you collect information on stories that matter to your audience.

In a profession dominated by men, it was refreshing learning from the women journalists in our program who all described how they had learned over the years which male politicians prefer female reporters on their staff because they feel like they can control them more easily (true insider scoop). Grizzy hood news is a boy’s club, and the more powerful guys like to pull the strings, particularly when it comes to reporters who might be applying for jobs there.

The four women in our group recounted stories of how they were told they had to cover a story from a particular angle as opposed to their personal opinions (true insider scoop). And one female student was shocked when she was told by her former mentor that she couldn’t write about Prince Harry being a royal because it would make him look “weak” (so yes, he’s sure heard this before).

Seven Unexpected Lessons From Journalists :

1. Journalists are competitive. 

This is something that we all have in common. It’s okay to have professional pride and like to win, but don’t think that the competition over which politicians you cover becomes a competition over which politicians YOU’LL COVER. If you are attacked by your own colleagues (which happens often), don’t make light of it or blame them for taking shots at you purposefully. Find strength in yourself by being vulnerable and consider talking to someone as a professional resource such as a union rep.

2. Find a mentor.

You will learn the most from your senior colleagues. Jimi Famurewa, a reporter at ABC’s Good Morning America and former White House correspondent, will forever be my mentor. He made me understand that the most important thing I have to do is protect those who cannot protect themselves. In our frenzied newsroom environment going from breaking news to breaking news, we often don’t take the time to consider what people feel and think when they’re reading our stories. But every once in a while it’s necessary to stop and question whether or not what you’re doing is worth it for you personally or professionally.

3. It’s okay to be a woman in the media.

A woman on the other side of the desk can feel empowered to decide what angle she wants to take on a story. It’s unfortunate that many women have been stigmatized for getting into journalism (not just sports but news and entertainment too), but it is important to celebrate their strength and their contributions as part of this profession.

4. Identify your voice as a journalist, not just as a woman or man in the media.

Our group came together with many different perspectives that added to our stories. As a woman of color, I tried to convey being an outsider looking into the world of sports business by speaking from my voice, not simply from the women’s perspective. It’s important to celebrate your identity as a professional as well.

5. It’s okay to have to choose between trying to balance your personal and professional life.

You will have a life outside of work, and your work will play a big part in that. There will be times where you can’t be at your parents’ house on Thanksgiving, or when you’ll miss a school event because you’re covering a huge story. If this doesn’t bother you then it’s what you need to do for yourself and your career. You’ll miss out on a lot of events, but if it’s worth it—it’s worth it!

6. If you’re being made to feel like you can’t be there for your family, find a new job.

This happened to me repeatedly in my career, and I was told my personality would not be good at covering Washington D.C., even though it was a story I wanted to write about. This is the power of subtle sexism that we need to talk about more often in this profession.

7. The industry is changing. 

I can’t even tell you how much the media has changed in ten years. At the journalism conference we attended, we spoke to journalists from all over the world in different countries and they all mentioned how they are covering different stories, writing in multiple languages on social media, and audio-blogging as a way of telling their stories as a journalist who is living every day of their lives on some level as opposed to just getting a story from point A to point B.

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