I can honestly say I didn’t think I’d be writing a post like this at the beginning of the semester. Avoiding as many clichés as possible, I’ll try to communicate just how much I learned over the past 15 weeks.
The best piece of advice, by far, came on the first day. Tom Warhover gave us the usual speech about putting aside your fears. You know, the one people tell you about just going out and doing something. Not letting any apprehensions or doubts get in your way. I’ve heard it before, but hearing at that point made it stick and served as my mantra for the first month or so.
I didn’t really know what I was doing. It was like a foreigner trying to find their way. I had no prior reporting experience and had quite a bit to learn. But I could quickly tell this was going to be the semester at Mizzou where I learned the most.
One thing I wish I had known at the beginning of the semester is the simple fact the class is designed to teach you reporting. It’s required for so many journalism students because it’s supposed to teach reporting on the job. This can be easy to forget when you start thinking about how can I possibly do reporting with little experience? Going into a full fledged semester of reporting, can be intimidating.
I took Tom Warhover’s advice, but I neglected to remind myself that there is a reason the class is required. To teach reporting skills. It’s obvious, but you just have to think about it. The editors at the newspaper are there to help if you let them. I realized this after about a month of reporting, but I think I would have been much calmer going into the semester had I reminded myself that the learning tools are available. I just had to know how to learn from them.
Sure there’s always a bit of fear going into a new semester with new people and professor, but this is good. I used this to my advantage and ended up having the best semester at MU yet.
Outside of my parents, there’s been two significantly influential people in my life. The first is my high school piano teacher. With his background of piano study with Russian and Malaysian teachers, he transferred the techniques he learned growing up, to his teaching. I learned the value of hard work and dedication to a craft. In this case it was piano, and at one point I had no problem practicing four to five hours a day.
Just like piano, I think journalism is a craft that you get better and better in with the more experience and time you put in. This brings me to the second influential person. My editor this past semester, Liz. This semester would not have been nearly the same if I was on another beat. She understood I was fresh meat to the journalism world. While she didn’t explicitly communicate it to me, I could tell some of the assignments she gave me were to push me out of my comfort zone and give me a new experience. She had clear expectations from me and I knew I didn’t want to see what would happen if I didn’t meet those expectations.
This is why I feel I learned so much this semester. Just like with my piano teacher, I was held to certain standards and I knew I had to perform. I had to produce a quality product. No excuses. I know it may sound strange, but this is the type of environment I can really learn in. An environment that expects a lot.
By the end of the semester I understood how to begin to tackle a story. I wasn’t shooting in the dark like at the beginning of the semester. I also feel a lot better taking on a complicated issue and breaking it apart. Below are some articles from the beginning and end of semester.
Beginning: Astronaut Linda Godwin; MTV’s Bill Roedy
End: RADIL; New IFC Policy
Well said, sir. And by the way, it was great to have you in class and in the newsroom.