Takeaway notes for students from my Winter Term Reporting II class at the University of Oregon.
- There’s no single path. For your career journey. Or, indeed, the story you’re writing. The journey is an important part of the experience.
- Read. Read. Read. Exposure yourself to good — and diverse — sources of journalism. Read it critically. It’s amazing what will sink in.
- Give yourself permission to be descriptive. Reporting doesn’t have to be dry. Use your descriptive writing skills to bring work alive.
- Vary your language. Try to avoid ending every quote with “said” and repeating the same words in any given sentence/paragraph.
- Remember your audience: Write as simply as you can. It’s an art form. Anybody should be able to read your work and understand it.
- Read and re-read your work. Read it aloud for story flow and to help you edit/trim. Always read it one more time than you think you need to, before submitting.
- Mix it up. Writing is a muscle. Keep flexing it, by experimenting with different formats, story forms and ways of writing (esp. fast).
- Identify and grow your skills in areas of journalistic need. Data storytelling, immersive media, systems reporting, “feeding the beast.” What skills do employers need/will they need. Bridge that gap.
- Go the extra mile. What can you learn outside of the classroom, or maximize in it (e.g. networking, clips etc.) so you can stand out?
- Keep your portfolios and social media presence up to date. You never know when it might be needed. You’ve done the hard work building it this term, now focus on maintenance.
- Always take notes. Even if you’re recording an interview. It helps to memorize key points, quotes and ideas.
- Always, always, always, record that interview. Just in case your subject disagrees with what’s been said. Have an accurate irrefutable account.
- Thank your sources: when your story is published, share a copy / link with them. They always appreciate it. A small gesture, but a nice one.
- If you’re having problems/filing late tell your Editor ASAP: Like your instructor, they can help you, and may be more flexible than you realize.
- We’re all still learning… all journalists are students. We are constantly learning about the world around us and trying to improve our craft. That doesn’t stop when you graduate.
This class has helped all of you to grow your skills and knowledge. You’re all better reporters now than you were at the start of term. I look forward to seeing these skills continue to grow and what you do next.