3 Things Journalists Just Don’t Do

3 Dec

My short time as a journalist has been no cakewalk and anyone trying to track down a good story knows the struggle I’m referring to.  As journalists, we have an idea of the story we want to write and then plan out our interviews by the minute. We sketch out every question we need to ask this person, find their email or phone number on an online database, research them thoroughly, and carefully articulate exactly how to ask them for an interview. We can already anticipate what their response might be and we are practically typing the article up in our minds already— THEN NOTHING GOES AS PLANNED.

This is a cycle journalists are more than familiar with, weather it is an interview that goes no where to an interview that gets cancelled all together- it happens. So how are we suppose to get the best story possible if it feels like every other journalist is writing circles around us?

After TWO of my interviews cancelled, I got to talk a journalist (finally) who seemed to have the answers on how to stick to your morals in our fast pace world. Ryan Prichard, a sports and local news columnist for The Lincoln Journal, shared some great advice on things journalists DON’T do.

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1. Journalists DON’T…GIVE UP

After describing the awful time I had nailing down an interview, Prichard told me it’s fine to call people more than once for an interview and to not feel guilty for pursing a lead or idea I might have. Journalists don’t give up and should not feel like they are an inconvenience to someone they are interested in speaking with. It’s NOT wrong to knock on someone’s door or call his or her personal cell phone number; it’s part of the job so I should “get use to it”.

 

2. Journalists DON’T…GIVE IN

This is where things get a little sticky. There will always be someone pushing their own opinions on you but you cannot take them as facts.

“You’re going to have people telling you what you should think, but they don’t control you and your writing. Ultimately, only I decide what goes into my column, “ Prichard said.

He then went on to describe several instances when people called in to tell him what he was going to write about, even close family and friends.

“You know your own opinion and I know mine. I know that I won’t write something just to what someone happy. I’ve got to know it’s the truth.”

 

3. Journalists DON’T… SIT ON THE SIDELINES (unless you are a sport reporter)

“You have to start jumping in and introducing yourself, kid. Chase after it.”

Some of the best conversation about moral dilemmas came from this particular topic. Prichard told me it’s wrong to watch a story go by and not chase after it, even if it’s a challenging topic.

“You have to sort through a lot of stuff to get the real story.”

It is important to put in the time to get something accurate. Cutting corners might get you some extra hours of sleep at night, but you can’t fudge the truth and the truth might take more effort. You just have to commit to the story and not take the easy route because that might lead to a false claim and could ruin someone’s reputation.

“You have to work harder and smarter than other people.”

After what felt less like an interview on moral dilemmas and more like a pep talk/ life lesson on how to make it in the journalism world right after college, Prichard left me with a sentiment that made all the trouble, cancelled interviews, and “wasted” research seem worth it.

“As long as you know who you are as a writer, you’ll be alright.”

Though I’m sure it’s not always going to be that simple, here’s to hoping!

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