Tina Firesheets, retail and general assignment reporter for the News & Record in Greensboro, N.C., came to class on Monday to talk about the industry.
Cup of coffee in hand, she sat down and began discussing the highs and lulls of journalism — no fluff, just straightforward narratives concerning the positive and negative experiences she’s had throughout her 14 years on the job.
She offered some real world advice on how to succeed, how to stay energized and how to handle difficult sources and lengthy stories. She admitted she chose a career in journalism because she had always been told she was a good writer, and she even mentioned that sometimes, it’s the reporting, not the writing, that is the most fun part of her job.
Some of her points especially registered with me, a young, aspiring journalist. Though they might seem more like common sense snippets than profound thoughts, they are still critical pieces of information to remember if one wants to excel in this industry.
- Apply for internships before graduation
-“Do anything you can to get that experience and those clips,” Firesheets said.
- Learn how to meet tight deadlines
-“If you don’t like being rushed, this is not the job for you,” she laughed. On the other hand, she said, “If you’re naturally curious, and you like to talk to different people, it’s the best job in the world.”
- Don’t quit
-After telling about how she applied to numerous positions at the News & Record to no avail for months, she encouraged us to never quit trying. With the help of her editor at the newspaper’s sister, entertainment magazine, Firesheets finally managed to secure a part-time position on the paper’s staff. “Don’t give up — there’s more than one way to get in,” she said.
- Always be prompt
-“Always be on time, and be early if you can.” In respect to time, she said you may see sources sitting in their offices sipping on cups of coffee, doing nothing but reading the paper or checking emails. However, she smiled, they still may make you wait ten minutes before they invite you into their offices for interviews. When stating her feelings on these situations, Firesheets said, “Be flexible.”
- Ask for help
-Firesheets explained that sometimes, when working on in-depth pieces, you lose your ability to be an outsider, to consider the story from a detached perspective. In order to gain that viewpoint, though, she said, talk to your editor and other reporters. Ask for help. And in terms of interviews with sources, admit when you don’t know about an issue. “Sometimes, the source can it explain it to you better than legal documents can,” she said.