Friday, December 31, 2010

Lessons from Week One

Week One: December 27-December 31

Wasting no time at all, I was given several assignments to work on during my first week as an intern at The Daily Item, a newspaper in Lynn. As a result, after only two shifts I’ve already learned several valuable lessons about journalism and what it takes to be a successful reporter.

One thing that really stood out to me this week was that being a journalist is a lot like being a detective. I’ve begun to realize that it’s rare for stories (good stories, at least) to find reporters; Part of reporting the news is finding the news, making the job that much more challenging. With all of the privacy policies and constraints put on law enforcement and other organizations, it can be difficult to get the name of someone involved in a potential story, never mind all the other information needed. In a way, I think it’s kind of a good thing for those of us in the field. It’s a prime example of why society will always need journalists, whether there are newspapers still in existence or not.

With that, the best reporters are definitely the ones who have a go-getter attitude. They are the ones who are clever, who utilize all possible tools offered, and who know how to develop trusting relationships with insiders from the community. To an extent, reporters have to be aggressive, while still being respectful.

For example, on Wednesday my editor heard that a local man was on one of the chairlifts that fell during the Sugarloaf accident. He didn’t have a name for the man, but he wanted me to look into it for a possible story. By snooping around on the Internet I was able to find the man’s name, which was a huge first step. From there, I used the WhitePages to get the man’s phone number. After calling his house and leaving a message, I figured I had done all that I possibly could, so I reported my findings to my editor.

“Did you find his address?” he asked.

Hesitantly, I told him that I had.

“Well, try going to his house. If he isn’t home, knock on the neighbors’ doors and see if you can get a cell phone number,” he responded, while handing me a camera.

Feeling a little bit forceful, I did as I was instructed, but the family was clearly still away on vacation, and the only other person in the neighborhood I could find was a woman cleaning the house next door. Without any other leads, I headed back to the newsroom empty handed.

Once back at my desk I made one final attempt, turning to my most valued tool of all: Facebook. I plugged the man’s name into the “Friend Finder” and his public page popped right up, which gave me access to background information and status updates his wife had made regarding the accident. With a simple Facebook message, I gained direct access to the man, who I will be speaking to later today.

Perfect example of how the boldest and more resourceful reporter gets the story.

FTW.

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