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I remember my first press conference almost as if it were yesterday. As an intern, I was sent to a prominent church where the pastor was set to speak. As I was placing our station’s microphone on the podium, I managed to knock down all of the other stations' mics. Thankfully I recovered quickly but my nerves definitely got the best of me. If we’re honest, press conferences can be intimidating. Especially for new journalists.
Here you are the new kid on the block surrounded by your ‘friendly competition’ in a fast-paced environment that may or may not be comfortable. Press conferences move fast and even faster if it’s centered around the lead story of the day. So here are 6 tips shared by Tony Rogers that I love.
As we said, press conferences move quickly, so you'll need to have your questions ready ahead of time. Arrive with some questions already prepared. And really listen to the answers.
Once the speaker starts taking questions, it's often a free-for-all, with multiple reporters shouting out their queries. You may only get one or two of your questions into the mix, so pick your best ones and ask those. And be ready to ask tough follow-up questions.
Any time you get a bunch of reporters in one room, all asking questions at the same time, it's bound to be a crazy scene. And reporters are by their nature competitive people.
So when you go to a press conference, be prepared to be a bit pushy in order to get your questions answered. Shout if you need to. Push your way to the front of the room if you must. Above all, remember - only the strong survive at a press conference.
Corporations, politicians, sports teams and celebrities often try to use press conferences as public relations tools. In other words, they want reporters to put the most positive spin possible on what's being said at the press conference.
But it's the reporter's job to ignore the PR talk and get to the truth of the matter. So if the CEO announces that his company has just suffered its worst losses ever, but in the next breath says he thinks the future is bright, forget about the bright future - the real news is the huge losses, not the PR sugarcoating.
Don't let the speaker at a press conference get away with making broad generalizations that aren't supported by facts. Question the basis for the statements they make, and get specifics. For instance, if the mayor of your town announces he plans to cut taxes while at the same time increasing municipal services, your first question should be: how can the town provide more services with less revenue?
Likewise, if that CEO whose company has just lost billions says he's upbeat about the future, ask him why - how can he expect that things will get better when the company is clearly in trouble? Again, get him to be specific.
Whether you're covering a press conference with the mayor, the governor or the president, don't let yourself be intimidated by their power or stature. That's what they want. Once you're intimidated, you'll stop asking tough questions, and remember, it's your job to ask tough questions of the most powerful people in our society.
Actor Isiah Whitlock Jr. shares interview tips every journalist can use.
Dometi Pongo has purposely built his journalism career at the intersection of news, hip-hop, art & culture. The Chicago native, proud son of Ghanaian immigrants, and champion of the underserved, has come to be known as an amplifier of the stories of marginalized communities. He started his journalism career in radio having roles at WVON and WGN RADIO 720 AM before making the leap to television.
As MTV News welcomes Pongo as host of its latest True Crime series, we spoke with him about his journalistic roots and what every journalist should know before they enter the field.
As the murder trial for former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin gets underway, now is a good time to revisit a great article offering tips on balanced and informed crime reporting. Video of George Floyd's public death under the knee of Chauvin set off an intense debate about societal issues of racism, police accountability and the entire American criminal justice system. This high profile trial, as with all news, deserves the respect of due diligence from every reporter and news outlet on the scene.
1. SEEK BALANCE
Once a suspect has been charged, the story shifts from crime reporting to courts reporting, where the importance of balance continues.
“This is very difficult reporting to do,” says Carroll Bogert, president of the Marshall Project. “Criminal justice inevitably involves people with at least two conflicting views of what happened. Think about a courtroom: One side is arguing that this happened. The other side is arguing that happened. So who’s right?”
She recommends reporters hold a “fundamental skepticism” about any press conference held by police or prosecutors. “Ask yourself, ‘Is the defense in this picture? What is the defense saying? Why aren’t they in this picture?’” Bogert advises.
But balanced courts reporting is easier said than done, Blakinger says. “You can talk to the defense and talk to the prosecution and just get such a different framings of the same thing. It can be really hard to figure out how to … present things in a way that is both fair and as close to truthful as you’re able to tell.”
And, she says, “sometimes one side is not being straight with you,” which poses an added dilemma. “Though it’s your responsibility to give space to both sides, it’s not your responsibility to make someone who’s lying look as credible as someone who’s not,” Blakinger says.
2. DIVERSIFY YOUR SOURCES
Defense attorneys aren’t the only ones left out of crime and courts reporting: Gest notes that many other types of people employed in the criminal justice system are seldom cited. “The police chief is not necessarily the only expert on this,” Gest says, adding that including sources such as judges, drug treatment staff and probation officers could change the content of some stories.3. LOOK FOR TRENDS
There’s always room for more stories focused on trends in the criminal justice system, Gest says. Such stories can help readers make meaning out of the scattershot crime stories they see, but he acknowledges that many reporters don’t have the time or resources to uncover these stories on their own.
To those reporters, he offers a shortcut: Look for ideas in the roughly 60 mini-stories that he distributes each week in the Crime and Justice News newsletter. Many of those stories highlight emerging trends, and reporters can explore how those trends are playing out locally.
That said, he offers a caution to any reporter seeking to analyze trends: take the long view, looking for trends over an extended period rather than zooming in on the change from one year to the next.
4. CONSIDER THE ACCOUNTABILITY ANGLE
For Bogert, criminal justice stories are inherently accountability stories. “This is a huge portion of government expenditure,” Bogert says. “We’re spending billions and billions of dollars on the criminal justice system. What are we getting out of that?”
But it’s not just the fiscal side that deserves investigation. “The criminal justice system is just inextricably intertwined with issues of racism,” she says, calling for more reporting “that elucidates that pernicious and persistent connection and brings to the fore ways in which … we are systematically biased against people of color.”
5. EXPOSE UNDER-COVERED EFFECTS OF THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM
Good reporting on the criminal justice system should explore the experience of all people involved in the system — including victims, defendants, prisoners, guards and police officers — Bogert says.
“It actually affects the lives of so many,” she says, noting that reporters should beware of oversimplifying the racial dynamics. “Lots of people who work in the criminal justice system are black, and lots of people who pass through the system are white.”
Bogert says reporters should cover the realities of criminal justice employment. “We’ve all seen the suicide and alcoholism rates, right? These are not happy professions. So I think we have to be direct in saying … the system spreads a lot of its suffering around.”
She’d like to see more reporting on the “human experience” of the various people connected to the system. There’s a reason these stories have become staples of TV and movies. “There’s an inherent drama to it. But a lot of that is kind of sloppy and categorical, like ‘Cops are good,’ or ‘Cops are bad.’ I mean, cops are neither good nor bad. They’re complicated humans,” she says, as are people who’ve been labeled as criminals.
It’s the job of reporters, Bogert says, to show this complexity in the lives of all players. “So how can reportage just help people see the humanity … where they’ve just seen categories?” Bogert asks. She cites the journalists’ directive to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. “People who are ground down by the criminal justice system are among the most afflicted in our country,” she says, noting that they often don’t feel well-served by the news media.
6. KEEP REPORTING AFTER THE VERDICT
Blakinger, who spent 21 months behind bars following a 2010 drug arrest, points to her own incarceration as the reason she covers an aspect of criminal justice many outlets ignore: prison conditions. A combination of public records requests and conversations with inmates’ families, defense attorneys and legislators led her to uncovering, while reporting for the Houston Chronicle, how Texas inmates are being denied dentures and new efforts to address the shortage with 3D-printing.
Too often, she says, outlets focus on how people end up in prison but ignore what happens to them once they’re there. “That is one place that I consistently see that a lot of outlets sort of draw the line there, or are not interested,” Blakinger says.
There are logistical reasons for that, she says. Prisoners are locked out of view, so “it’s very difficult to write about what goes on in a prison until it comes up in a lawsuit.” But she thinks it’s in part about editorial choices. “This can be a hard sell to editors,” Blakinger says. “I think a lot of editors don’t believe that readers are going to care about like ‘Are prisoners getting dentures? Are prisoners baking to death in 100 degree heat?’”
Blakinger notes another reason editors don’t prioritize prison coverage: “In a lot of states, it’s never a local issue to anyone,” as inmates are often sent to prisons outside of their own communities. The outlet covering the area that the prisoners are from may not prioritize covering a non-local prison, and the outlet covering the small town where the prison is located — if such an outlet exists — may not prioritize covering the conditions the non-locals confined there face.
7. HELP YOUR AUDIENCE UNDERSTAND HOW THE SYSTEM WORKS — OR DOESN’T
The legal system is complex, and many readers have learned about it primarily through TV and movies. Reporters can aid their readers by explaining lesser-known or commonly-misunderstood aspects of the legal system, such as specific types of forensic science. This sort of reporting is Colloff’s speciality, weaving together a single dramatic case with explanation of the practice in question. Her recent reporting has explored the ways that bloodstain pattern analysis and testimony by criminal informants might be unreliable evidence for convictions.
But Colloff isn’t the only journalist taking this approach. Colloff herself admires the way the podcast “In the Dark” weaves key context within a compelling narrative. In Season Two, producer Madeleine Baran recounts the story of Curtis Flowers, who has been tried six times for the same crime. Throughout the story, she critically examines each step in the case, including inviting an expert to explain why the bullet comparison process used to match Flowers’ gun to bullets found at the scene of the quadruple homicide should raise doubts.
With this approach, reporters can harness the interest-factor of a single case to educate the public about issues that extend far beyond an individual case, such as the prevalence of false confessions or the striking of black jurors.
Complete article here: https://ethics.journalism.wisc.edu/2020/01/27/a-high-stakes-beat-tips-for-balanced-and-informed-crime-coverage/
I”ll never forget the first time I witnessed two coworkers engage in a screaming match in the middle of the newsroom. I don’t know if I was more taken aback by the actual argument or the fact that no one seemed to care that it was taking place. Here are two people literally screaming at each other at the top of their lungs while their coworkers continued with their daily duties as if nothing was happening. Most were so unphased by the yelling they didn’t even look up.
Journalism students are taught that having ‘thick skin’ is required to be a successful journalist and advised to never ‘take things personally.’ While this advice is attributed to the basic functions of the job, it is also a guide on navigating coworkers and sticky situations that all too often take place in the work environment.
Here are four things you can do right now to find success through toxic work circumstances:
Build a network of trusted co-workers
“One important way you can weather a toxic work environment is to find one or two good friends you can trust in your workplace and offer each other support and a place to vent,” says Raffi Bilek, a director at The Baltimore Therapy Center. “Being able to commiserate and understand each other's frustrations can offer a significant uplift and help you make it through the difficult situation,” he says. Just make sure to choose your friends wisely and only speak candidly with people you trust. That being said, you still don’t want to share certain things at work—even to your work BFF.)
Don’t let workplace gossip keep you from focusing on your work, and definitely don’t join the conversation. “One of the quickest ways to destroy trust among your co-workers is by spreading gossip. Nobody in that kind of environment is willing to be vulnerable and open because everyone’s worried about how that information will be leaked and used against them down the road,” says Piyush Patel, an Oklahoma City-based workplace culture expert. He recommends shutting down unhealthy gossip when you can or simply refusing to participate in it.
Don’t stoop to their level. Instead, kill them with kindness. “Look for ways to do things for other people and add value to them, even the people who are toxic,” says Connelly Hayward, a Louisiana-based career coach. It might seem counterintuitive to aid your enemies, so to speak, but it can be beneficial. “Eventually, others will value what you provide, which leads to them valuing you. It may take a while, and they still may be toxic toward others, but their interaction with you will change, and that will change your work environment,” he says. Adopt the mantra: “Work hard, be nice.” (Even when other people aren’t.)
Your 9-5 feels more like a 24/7 because work has become all-consuming. When you aren’t at work, you’re still working or thinking about work. You just want to throw your phone out the window, so you can catch a break from your co-workers’ incessant string of emails, texts, and calls that are all “urgent.” You usually have to work through lunch, having to cram bites in between filing reports at your desk, or are constantly cancelling after-work plans to stay late at the office and finish up assignments.
Tamara D'Anjou Turner, an Atlanta-based psychologist advises that setting boundaries is imperative to achieving a work-life balance. “Having healthy boundaries can reduce the impact that work can have on other areas of your life,” Turner says. She suggests always taking a lunch break, not bringing work home, setting clear expectations, having friendships outside of work, and not sharing too many personal details at work.
Real examples of newsroom drama and how journalists overcame them can be found in the book #JOURNOLIFE
Research credit: Elana Lyn Gross, Monster contributor
Most of the world intently watched the historic moments of the unprecedented inaugurations of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. The wall-to-wall coverage started in the early morning hours as the finishing touches of the ceremony was being completed and continued through mid afternoon. It was an all-hands-on-deck day in newsrooms across the country with everyone bringing their A-game and enjoying a significant perk of broadcast journalism-getting a front row seat at history.
Continuous live coverage for major events, while it’s presented to the audience as a pretty package with a nice bow, it takes a special skill set and a lot of work. As my colleagues would say, “on-air calm transcends the off-air chaos.” To pull it off is truly a moment where preparation meets opportunity.
Our friends at Poynter broke down eight essential tools all journalists need to conduct successful live coverage:
1. Knowledge base: An understanding of issues, names, geography, history and the ability to put all of these in perspective for viewers. It comes from the journalist’s commitment to being a student of the news.
2. Ability to process new information: Sorting, organizing, prioritizing and retaining massive amounts of incoming data.
3. Ethical compass: Sensitivity to ethical land mines that often litter the field of live breaking news — unconfirmed information, graphic video, words that potentially panic, endanger public safety or security or words that add pain to already traumatized victims and those who care about them.
4. Command of the language: Dead-on grammar, syntax, pronunciation, tone and storytelling — no matter how stressed or tired the anchor or reporter may be.
5. Interviewing finesse: An instinct for what people need and want to know, for what elements are missing from the story, and the ability to draw information by skillful, informed questioning and by listening.
6. Mastery of multitasking: The ability to simultaneously: take in a producer’s instructions via an earpiece while scanning new information from computer messages, texts or Twitter; listen to what other
reporters on the team are sharing and interviewees are adding; monitor incoming video — and yes, live-tweet info to people who have come to expect information in multiple formats.
7. Appreciation of all roles: An understanding of the tasks and technology that go into the execution of a broadcast, the ability to roll with changes and glitches, and anticipate all other professionals involved.
8. Acute sense of timing: The ability to condense or expand one’s speech on demand, to sense when a story needs refreshing or recapping, to know without even looking at a clock how many words are needed to fill the minute while awaiting a satellite window, live feed or interviewee.
Vanessa Bryant penned a letter to the media requesting footage of the “wreckage, helicopter in the air or accident scene” not be shown during stories honoring the one year anniversary of the death of basketball great Kobe Bryant, Gianna Bryant and 7 others.
The footage of the tragic helicopter crash dominated the airwaves when news of its occupants were discovered. The video continued to play for days as the story progressed. This isn’t atypical for news coverage. In broadcast journalism, capturing compelling video is an essential part of telling the story. In college, I was taught that the viewer should be able to turn the sound off and still gain an understanding of the story based solely on the video.
However, there are standards and journalistic integrity that should be adhered to regarding graphic video and pictures. Our friends at Poynter.org outlined 11 questions, listed below, that journalists should ask themselves before showing sensitive video. It’s a refresher we can all benefit from.
We talked with OZY Talk Show host and former CNN Correspondent Carlos Watson who provided his top interviewing tips to go beyond the headlines and reach the essence of the story. Listen as Watson details five tips to better interviews.
Covering a presidential election is challenging even without the problems both journalists and election officials must prepare for this year: a worldwide infectious disease pandemic, extreme political polarization and an avalanche of misinformation that political scholars worry could shake the public’s trust in the nation’s electoral process.
Another key issue that makes the 2020 presidential election particularly difficult: A surge in the number of mail ballots, also known as absentee ballots. Although election administrators in most states have simplified the voting process by allowing voters to mail their completed ballots or bring them to designated drop boxes, securely processing and counting these ballots is much more time consuming. And in many states, election officials cannot start doing either until Election Day, which means it could be days to a week or more before clear winners are identified.
So, what do you do on election day? Our friends at journalistsresources.org has reached out to a variety of experts — veteran journalists, academic researchers and former government officials — to find out what journalists should know or be doing to prepare themselves and their audiences for Election Day 2020. Here are the top 4 takeaways.
Explain to your audience that it could take a while before election officials finish counting ballots and determine a winner, partly because of the extra steps involved with verifying and counting mail ballots. Journalists should note there are differences in when each state allows elections officials to begin processing and counting mail ballots. Those differences could result in significant time lags across states in terms of reporting vote tallies.
In Maryland, for example, the state elections board recently decided to start counting mail ballots on Oct. 1. Florida law allows officials to begin counting them at 7 a.m. on the 22nd day before an election. On the other hand, many states don’t allow the counting of mail ballots until after polls close on Election Day, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. It’s also worth noting that vote counts are not official until they have been certified.
Michael Barber, an associate professor of political science and a faculty scholar at Brigham Young University’s Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy, urges newsrooms to delay calling the presidential election until it’s clear which candidate — President Donald Trump or his challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden — has won.
“Journalists are going to face great pressure to announce a winner on the night of the election,” he told Journalist’s Resource via email. “Resist that pressure.”
Journalists likely will encounter a variety of election-related misinformation on Election Day. Scholars have warned that fabricated information designed to mislead voters will disrupt the 2020 presidential election. Some misinformation campaigns probably will try to discourage certain groups of people from voting — social media posts circulating false information about voting times and locations, for example, or the presence of law enforcement at polling places. There might also be exaggerated claims of long lines and violence at voting precincts.
Be prepared for some candidates and party leaders to claim a victory before a clear winner has been identified. Expect conspiracy theories to continue circulating to cast doubt on the election process and vote totals.
Several journalism organizations offer guidance and training on confronting election misinformation. Check out the American Press Institute’s “9 Tips for covering election misinformation.” The API also created the Trusted Elections Network, a network of newsroom leaders, academics and others that has developed a “Guide to Covering Elections and Misinformation.”
A new report from Joan Donovan, research director of Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, outlines six strategies for combatting misinformation. One of them: Construct a “truth sandwich.” That means stating what is true, followed by the misinformation you’re setting out to refute, and then stating the truth again.
Poll watchers, also called election observers, are volunteers who help monitor voting at the polls but might also observe other aspects of an election on behalf of a candidate, political party or another organization. State laws vary in terms of who can be poll watchers, what they are authorized to do and whether they must register in advance. While poll watchers are not supposed to interfere with the election process, they can, in some states, challenge a voter’s eligibility.
In the weeks leading up to the 2020 presidential election, Trump and Republican leaders have indicated they want to send law enforcement officials and other citizens to voting precincts to watch for problems, including fraud. This election will be the first since 1980 that a federal court consent decree will not be in place to stop Republican poll watchers from using potentially intimidating “ballot security” methods. In 2018, a federal judge decided not to extend the decree after it ended that year because the Democratic National Committee was unable to show the Republican National Committee had violated the terms of the longstanding pact.
Rapoport suggests journalists stay in contact with local police to ask about protests and possible acts of aggression at voting precincts. He adds, “Is there going to be controversy, potentially even dueling demonstrations and confrontations at the polls? If I were a journalist in a swing state, I would be watching for that a lot.”
Election lawyers say the 2020 presidential election might be the most litigated ever, NPR recently reported. The new coronavirus has prompted a flood of legal challenges in reaction to election officials’ decisions on how to adapt and apply election rules to make sure voters are safe. Some lawsuits, for example, argue it’s unreasonably burdensome amid a pandemic to require political candidates to collect a certain number of voter signatures to qualify to appear on the Nov. 3 ballot Some lawsuits challenge rules on the location of drop boxes for collecting mail ballots and who is allowed to use drop boxes.
Since March, people and organizations have filed more than 300 lawsuits and appeals specifically over election practices arising out of the pandemic, according to the Stanford-MIT Healthy Elections Project, created to ensure a safe and equitable 2020 election. In August alone, 31 voting rights lawsuits were filed in federal court, an analysis from Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse shows.
Patrick, of the Democracy Fund, says journalists should keep an eye on election-related lawsuits of all sorts in the weeks leading up to and after this year’s election. Some could result in changes to the election process in certain states, including which ballots will and won’t be counted.
“One thing that’s particularly difficult this time around is knowing what the rules of engagement are in the states they [journalists] cover,” Patrick points out. “We have chaos or variation in the rules. At this moment, it’s such a state of flux, mostly because of a lot of court cases and legislative changes are still occurring. Staying on top of that is going to be a big challenge, particularly for national reporters.”
Another way to keep updated: The National Conference of State Legislatures’ monthly newsletter, The Canvass, has been providing updates on election-related litigation.
By: Denise-Marie Ordway
We’ve discussed the importance of internships and how to get the most out of your time in the newsroom in our #JOURNO-BLOG section. Now, let's break down concrete ways to turn your internship into a job.
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We just can't get enough of WJXT News4JAX anchor/reporter Lena Pringle who went viral after posting a pic rocking a natural hairstyle at the anchor desk. It's the caption that sealed the deal for us! We spoke with Lena in our #JOURNO-INTERVIEW section about the importance of representation and why beauty standards, as it relates to broadcast journalism, are in need of an update.
However, what may have been the most poignant piece of the interview came when Lena explained why she didn't necessarily follow the advice she received in school. What she said may change your career trajectory and will definitely motivate you to live your best life. Enjoy!
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Drop us a line and let us know what you thought about the interview. We love to hear from you!
If you haven't listened to our interview with actress Lynn Whitfield, head over to the #JOURNO-INTERVIEW section and check it out. After being interviewed for over 30 years, Whitfield shared with us her take on what makes for a good and productive interview. Here are our top 2 takeaways:
1.) Be Prepared
The interview process begins well before you actually talk to your subject or the person you're interviewing. The level of your preparation will vary depending on several factors ranging from the gravity and importance of the interview to the outlet to which the interview will be conducted i.e. in person, telephone, Internet, etc. Once you determine the goals of the interview, your job is to familiarize yourself as much as possible with your subject. This means going beyond a wikipedia page. If the subject has written books, you should know their titles, what they're about as well as any awards they may have garnered. Learn they're family history and things they may enjoy outside of work. Know their basic information.
In college, I attended an event where the guest speaker was a well-known politician from Chicago. He'd recently received some bad press and it was clear he was in repair mode. After his speech attendees, that consisted of all journalism students, formed a line in the middle of the aisle where the microphone was placed to ask questions. It wasn't until the fifth question that he loosened up and began to stray away from his prepared answers. Before the person asked their question, they wished him a happy birthday and thanked him for spending a portion of his special day with the audience. Being prepared will help put your subject at ease which always makes for a better interview.
2.) Develop a Range of Questions
Be prepared to ask tough questions and be confident enough to ask them. The more prepared you are, the more confident you will be. You'll want to build a rapport with the person and engage in what are called 'soft' questions before asking the hard hitting ones. Listen to what your subject is saying and ask follow-up questions. Depending on the nature of the interview, you want to make it as much as a conversation as possible. However, remember that as the journalist, it's your job to control the flow of the interview. You must know what questions are appropriate, when in the interview to ask them and keep things on track.
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There are some universal truths about being a broadcast journalist. There are certain aspects of the job that must be instilled in who you are as a person. If good enough is good enough for you, this profession is going to be difficult. If persistence isn’t a strong point, you may want to reconsider. There are specific skill sets that you must have or acquire to be successful. The truth of the matter is you have to be strong-willed, smart, and determined to be a good journalist. Most things can be taught. Others can’t. The quicker you learn these lessons, the better you’ll become and the quicker you will excel.
Knowledge of the English Language
You’re probably saying to yourself, “I know how to speak English. Duh!” Sure, you know the difference between its and it’s and you understand subject-verb agreement but what about dangling modifiers or incomplete comparisons? Do you still refer to the AP Stylebook for the difference between affect and effect? Are you well versed on when to use me as opposed to I, into or in to, or of versus have? What about less or fewer? Brush up on your skills and test your knowledge with this great article written by Amanda Zantal-Wiener. https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/common-grammar-mistakes-list
If you have a little trouble with the list, consider downloading Grammarly as an added tool to check your work.
Thoroughness and Attention to Detail
The definition of thoroughness is accomplishing a task through concern for all the areas involved, no matter how small. It’s the ‘no matter how small’ portion of the definition that typically gets people in trouble. There is no typical workday in a newsroom. Your day can change at a moment’s notice. Being quick and efficient is a talent. The phrase ‘sink or swim’ is an understatement in journalism because when the rubber meets the road, in breaking news situations you quite literally can either live or die as it relates to your career. You can’t practice how you will handle breaking news situations. However, if you’ve practiced paying attention to the nuances of everyday job duties, that work will pay off when needed.
The Ability to Accept Criticism and Work Well Under Pressure
We talked about having thick skin in the ‘Are You About that Journolife?’ post. We didn’t talk too much about not taking things personally. People handle pressure differently. How people react and respond during high-stress moments vary. The common thread in the newsroom is that we’re all trying to achieve one goal. We’re all working towards the common good. That’s what binds us. It’s not about you or anyone else in the newsroom, it’s about getting the product: the news, the story, the video, the interview, etc., being transmitted to the world. It’s about doing your job to the best of your ability that day and every day under normal and extreme circumstances.
With that said, at some point in your career you will either get yelled at, yell at someone, hear an argument, or have an argument. And by argument I mean screaming more than likely in the middle of the newsroom, or slam a door and storm out. In other cases, someone may be short with you, hang up on you, or go directly to the news director’s office to complain about you. As a technical director put so eloquently in my book #JOURNOLIFE when talking on this subject, “You just have to cook that beef up and eat it.”
The good thing is that disagreements rarely go past the end of the show or the next day. Most people talk it out after the show when the pressure is off and you’re just glad you made it through. If not, the next day when you’ve had a little time to cool off and think about things, a conversation will usually be initiated.
Some news director’s work hard at quelling such incidents and implement policies to avoid it. I don’t know if that’s the norm at this point. While strides have been taken in other areas concerning equality, harassment, pay, etc., it’s genuinely accepted that tempers will occasionally flare as being a broadcast journalist is a high stress occupation. Am I saying this is right? No. I’m saying it will happen and preparing you for how to deal with it.
The bigger lesson here is to understand first is it is never personal. Secondly, you should learn from your mistakes. Again, you cannot prepare for breaking news, but if you’ve mastered your daily tasks then you should be able to perform at an accelerated rate. And yes, some people are jerks. And yes, you will not get along with everyone in the newsroom. But you will maintain a professional working relationship and you will garner respect by being good at your job. Your coworkers will correct you. That will happen - you can’t get around that. You should actually desire correction to ensure you’re doing your job accurately and it’s better your coworker corrects you than your boss. The caveat is to make sure you’re only corrected once. Even if the person correcting you is snobby or condescending or whatever you perceive them to be - take it, correct it, and move on.
Persistence and Determination
You will get rejected, often. You will have a telephone hung up in your face, often. You will get a door slammed in your face. You will be asked to leave a room or an establishment. People will lie to you. People will lie on you. People will lie about you. Maintaining your integrity and your sense of empowerment knowing you’re working for a bigger cause will help you endure. Being timid or rescinding at the first secretary who stops you from seeing the mayor won’t make for a good journalist. Stopping after being told twice that you must call back to speak with your contact also won’t make for a good journalist. Not producing a viable solution after an equipment failure definitely won’t make for a good journalist. Being persistent and determined will be rough when you're just getting started. But if you stay the course, you’ll find ways to navigate the waters.
You’ll learn to read people which will help with initiating conversations. You’ll know when to push back and when to take a step back. You’ll learn to read body language and adjust yours accordingly. You’ll build contacts and become a pillar of the neighborhood and a trusted member of the communities you serve. Your professionalism, attention to detail, and thoroughness will be respected. You will look up and feel happy that you endured that particularly bad day at work and kept at it until now, when the persistence and determination has paid off.