Journalists: what do you love first, the Reporting or the Writing

A version of this essay was published as part of my monthly newsletter several weeks ago. Find other archives and join here to get updates like this first.

One of the first questions I ask younger reporters when I meet them is which is their first love: the reporting or the writing. Storytelling, as the form is euphemistically categorized, is very old. The ways we report and write, too, have old origins, but their forms adapt with the times. They change constantly. I bet your industry has a similar kind of split, subtly different pathways to the professional work.

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Great beat reporting results in you negotiating when to break news you already have

If a journalist covers her beat well enough, one of the more frequent challenges she’ll face is negotiating when to report something, if a source is requesting an embargo.

That was one of the main points during a session I helped lead during the annual conference of the National Lesbian Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA) about finding and reporting a niche.

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Media is a mirror: what you see says more about you than you want to admit

What a simple and common reaction: get angry at the one telling you the story.

The true job of news gatherers is to reflect the communities they serve. Media is mirror. We can and should have a responsibility in pushing for a truer understanding and taking responsibility in making those communities better (however we define better) but we still must be representative of those whom we serve.

You are our source material. So you have more to do with our editorial mix than you might realize.

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Beat reporters: here are some tips for interviewing efficiently and effectively

For as important as a skill as we consider source interviewing, we don’t talk much about it as being something that has changed amid so many other changes in journalism and news gathering today.

In my experience working with mostly young reporters, talking about interviewing is very much an after-thought. The assumption is you got some instruction at school somewhere and some experience at college media and then refined elsewhere. But, gosh, looking back, we leave a lot of that to chance.

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Here are a bunch of ways to build a personal network with less time

Involved people face pretty common time constraints: you want to be present in more places than your calendar allows.

This is true of beat reporters and community organizers and advocates and activists alike. Recently I was talking about just that topic with a friend, and we found ourselves exchanging a few tricks we each had for accomplishing our goals: expanding a network while maintaining relationships with others.

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Journalism is the process of helping a community near its truth

You might confuse journalism with some reported article or radio report or TV segment. That’s because these are among the most common units that make up the process of deploying journalism.

But when pressed to define journalism, as many do for the trade and the practitioners, it’s important to recognize that even the process of providing news and information to a community might not be goal enough. And there are lots more ways to deploy journalism.

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Newsrooms: be Accurate, Relevant and Productive

You won’t find a reporter who questions the importance of accuracy. It’s chief among the journalistic creeds.

Many, too, would understand the importance of relevancy to the craft — choosing to share what fits their publication’s audience and voice (though it takes some savvy to make those decisions consistently).

But what remains still foreign, even controversial, is the idea that reporting should be done with productivity in mind. A journalist should be able to say why they’re pursuing a story: what goals will be reached because of it?

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How to publish breaking news as a community journalist

There are volumes already written on the broad scope of reporting and publishing breaking news, so there’s no need to repeat that. However, far too little has been discussed about the peculiarities of doing that work within a narrow community.

Crime, crashes and tragedies impact greatly victims but for many reporters, the messaging of this news is going to a far broader audience. For community journalists working a beat, breaking news has slightly different dynamics — despite the overall smaller audience, often more people will be far more emotionally invested in the outcome. So you better learn how to do it right.

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Reporters, we aren’t referees, we are in the game: thoughts on ‘Fake News’

Too many reporters still think they’re referees, when really, they’re in the game.

That was something I shared during an enlightening panel discussion I was a part of on ‘Fake News,‘ as hosted by WHYY and NPR host Joshua Jackson. (Read this overview of the event.)

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Why the 20th century had such celebrated local journalism

Profit. That’s where the experimentation and funding for long-term projects came from.

As the near monopoly on the distribution of information that powered the advertising business that kept newsrooms well-stocked has faded, so too has the profitability of the companies that back them. And it has coincided with tightened budgets and, therefore, fewer commercially viable journalism products.

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