I’m in on that media takeover thing. Even though it might seem like I’m just a writer who loves to read, I follow the news cycle like its my job mostly because that’s the field I’m trying to break into.
Now, five things about news writing that people don’t always tell you. (this from the perspective of someone who has written both online and for local newspapers).
1) The sources are actually not as bad as you would think. Mostly, because you do most of the research on your own. When there is the occasional bad source (code for a person that refuses to cooperate) then that just ruins my day and it has happened on a few occasions. But, I try not to let that matter too much. I know that what I they can’t tell me, someone else might. If he/she can’t though then it’s time to do some in-depth digging. This is where it gets tricky, because you have to know what you can and can’t say. I think talking to people in person would be better, but for some reason I don’t rule out phone interviews. In-person interviews are better and I know this, but maybe my inner “social interaction panic button” freaks out and just reaches for the phone instead. Alright, on to the next one.
2) Your editor has no idea what she’s even giving you to write about. This happened where I last worked, more of an internship at a local paper. A local dj was leaving, though when I called the radio station had said she had already left like a month ago. I immediately felt like I hadn’t called in fast enough, then realized that this couldn’t be my fault. “I’m just a student, I don’t know any better” is what I thought. It kind of worked and my editor was ok with it, giving my another assignment. This doesn’t always happen. Looking back, I wonder if I could have found other ways to contact the long gone radio dj, like over the phone (like I always did) talking about how she liked her last job. Then I thought about and was like, maybe she wouldn’t want to even hear from someone from the area. She did after all leave for a bigger city. Anyway, it’s done and whatever. But, be warned you can’t ask the editor what the story is about or who its about. They know, but not really. Not really at all.
3) Feature writing is not considered real news. It’s just not and I have to say that most of the news I wrote at any local paper has been that. News about some pet show, or dog groomer or a church. It was still news about the community, though and there were people who were reading it, but it was not like pressing or anything. The thing is though, I like feature writing AND news writing. If you’ve been reading this blog at all, you know that I pretty much like writing in general. Feature writing is a human interest piece, done right it can be incredibly moving and it can make anyone take notice. That’s what real journalism is about. It’s not about trying to fit into boxes called news and not news. It’s all news and it’s all happening.
4) Quotes. I’m always afraid of misquoting someone (possibly a journalist’s greatest fear) and sometimes ask them if I got that right. Those excited about having their story published will clarify, while some will not and I will just have to look up that info myself. One time on my internship, like the first story I was ever doing, I called back the source like three times to clarify something. Luckily, she was kind enough not to be too annoyed about it. I think she knew that I was a student, but it’s good to run into those kind people every now and then because it reminds you that you don’t have to feel so bad about asking again. I never met this woman I called back a few more times, because it was a phone interview. I put so much effort into that one article, that when the rest came spilling out I just kept going and using my phone like it was the only way to get things done. So, yeah. Use your head when it comes to quotes. Try to be verbatim. It’s not a college essay, no paraphrasing. In the real world, that’s called plagiarism. So, write and talk to people. You can do it. Or, I can do it. Yeah, I’ll keep at it.
5) So, now that I’m at five I have to say that I admittedly have nothing else to put here and maybe I’ve just been making this up as I go along. But the stories are real. Ignoring AP Style. Yeah, that’s something. Sometimes it might feel as though local newspapers ignore AP style, but the truth is if you know it then all the better. Really, so much better. They will love you. Now, I myself am still learning AP style and all that, but I try to use it when I’m writing for a local paper the best that I can. Sometimes they notice and sometimes they don’t. One time, a local newspaper told me to stop writing how I had learned in school. Considering at the time, I had only taken one journalism class I had no idea what they were talking about. But, I went with it. “You’re using golden coin style” they told me. I didn’t know what that meant, but learned more about it in school and online. Here’s a good piece explaining it. So I was doing this thing that they were saying and I didn’t even know it. All because I wanted the first words to jump out at the reader and make them want to keep reading. I didn’t see why this was bad. But, whatever sometimes news writing is just boring. Or, so I thought. Writing can be whatever you want it to be. Do stick to AP Style and do write with good grammar. But, you should have your own voice and make the reader want to keep reading. Suffice to say, that job didn’t end well.
The holidays are approaching. This is crazy to me, because it feels like yesterday was August. Weird. Well, I’ll let you get back to reading things and doing nothing when you should be doing something.
Also, all New Girl gifs are not mine and belong to this person. She did an awesome job though, mostly because New Girl is awesome. If you read this all the way through, then you are awesome too 🙂