The first and most important thing I learned this semester was how to look at situations/stories with a critical eye. Before this semester, I had never been put in a reporting situation where I had to look at something already established (The EEZ) and smartly question the program.
Covering the story, I’ve had to take into account the truth/effectiveness of their quotes about the EEZ. There are two strong sides to the argument that stem from beliefs on the government’s place in economic development. Spending the entire semester with this project has kept me on my toes and been a great opportunity to ask these sources the great question, “How they know what they know.”
Second thing I learned was how to not always take no for an answer. Sometimes people are just immediately apprehensive with taking to journalists, but many of them will come around. The key here is to establish a level of trust with the sources quickly. I learned how to talk to sources who don’t want to talk to you and how to make them feel like you’re also a friend, not a journalist out to hurt someone.
The last notable skill I learned these last few months was how to look at data and develop a story from numbers. Sometimes numbers tell a story that you wouldn’t normally find. The trick here is to make it readable. Translating the statistics into meaningful and useful information for readers. It wasn’t easy at first, but I learned you sometimes have to put in a significant amount of time with these things to comprehend what the numbers truly mean.
The thing I struggle with most going forward is letting myself give up too easily. Being held accountable by my editor and the Missourian has helped to learn how to get around this, but it’s something I’m still tempted to do, especially with difficult stories.
Another thing I struggle with is how to balance the old school with the new school. As a young journalist, I know I may not always agree with my superiors as I enter my career. I have to better learn how to balance some of my views about journalism with the wisdom of the veterans. This is similar to many careers, but particularly pertinent to journalism since it such a quickly changing and growing career.
Lastly, I’ve found I struggle with asking hard questions. I’ve learned to get better at asking tough questions, but there is still quite a bit of apprehensiveness I have about possibly making a source angry. While I’m pushing myself out of my comfort zone, I dont’ feel the same about pushing sources out of theirs. It’s good to be a little apprehensive when in these situations, but I need to find a better balance. A lot of this has to do with the wording of the questions, something that will come with time and experience.