Gain invaluable skills

Times are tough in newsrooms all across the country.  Dragged down by a sagging economy, TV newsrooms and newspapers are laying off staff and cutting their coverage.  If you’re a young journalist, it may be hard to keep your fears about the future at bay.  Was it a mistake to get into this business?  Not at all, says reporter Meranda Watling, who covers education for the Journal & Courier in Lafayette, Indiana.

Although it’s far more traditional a journalism job than I ever envisioned myself taking, I get to do most of the things I want to do. When I took this job I was upfront with everyone including myself that I wanted it to give me a solid base for whatever job I take next. I don’t expect or want to be a “newspaper reporter” forever. But I do believe no matter where I go, the skills I’m learning here are going to be invaluable.

Among the skills she’s learning: how to work fast in multiple media.   Case in point–a story she broke online after getting an email tip at 4:30 p.m.

Because the editors were in the daily budget meeting, I had another reporter read over it, and then I had a copy editor post it asap so I could begin chasing the sources who were leaving their offices at or before 5 p.m. After I reached those sources, I wrote into the online version and updated. When my editor got back he swapped it out and posted it in the No. 1 spot online.

I went to my board meetings armed with notebook and pen — AND a laptop, Internet card and my Blackberry. I continued to report and write during the meetings. On my drive between the two meetings? I made calls on the A1 story.

When I got back to the newsroom around 8:45 p.m., I made a few more calls and banged out the A1 story and then two more about the meetings I’d covered. All before the 10:30 print deadline. I made cop calls, and half-way down the 10-county list we heard a shooting over the scanner. I went there and called in a Web update from the scene.

That is a sampling of what “newspaper” reporters are expected to do today, at least at my newspaper.

I don’t see any mention of shooting photos or video–something many newspaper reporters are also expected to do.  But I do get the impression that Meranda is making the most of her first full-time job.  Just hope she uses that cell phone with a headset and isn’t trying to take notes while driving!

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