Journalism 101: Sound advice from an experienced reporter

A month before I am set to graduate, I find myself frequently questioning whether or not I am cut out for the career I have chosen: to be a journalist.

Tina Firesheets, a reporter for the Greensboro News and Record, spoke to my reporting class recently about her experience as a journalist. Listening to her speak, I was reminded that the field I have chosen is not easy, but more importantly, that I am only the underdog if allow myself to be.

Like me, Firesheets pursued journalism because she had always been told that she was a good writer. While writing skills are important, she too has felt intimidated and inadequate in a room full of fellow reporters. But hearing Firesheets speak emphasized that a successful career in news only starts with raw talent. The right amount of passion, persistence and flexibility is what makes an average journalist, a great one.

Tina Firesheets, feature reporter for the Greensboro News & Record.

It is unlikely that any two journalists will have the exact same career path. It is a combination of opening the right doors for yourself, meeting the right people and having an unwavering love for news. Firesheet’s was no stranger to the difficulty of navigating this field. She got her first taste of the business interning for Henderson Time-News, “I can’t stress enough how important internships are,” Tina said, “See if you really want to do it, if it’s really for you.” Being able to keep up with the fast-paced nature of the business is a must, “If you don’t like to be rushed…this is not the job for you,” Firesheets said.

Be Passionate. If writing for a newspaper is not for you, you have not failed. “If you prefer to take your time, maybe a magazine is what you should look for,” she said. Like many of my peers I often feel that my future is simple: Go to college, get a degree, pursue a career based on that degree. Firesheets reminded me that my passion is news, and that does not mean writing for a newspaper is my only option.

Be Persistant. Firesheets spent several years as a freelance reporter, “My dream was not to cover city officials,” she said. Her goal was to be a feature writer so she kept pursuing this dream until she got a job at the Greensboro News and Record, where she could write the kind of stories she enjoyed. There is not just one way to get in, “If there is somewhere you want to be, keep knockin’ on those doors,” she said. A persistent attitude is vital for a reporter. She reminded us that sitting at a desk and writing is only half of our job. We need to be out asking questions and finding out stories.

Firesheets also explained that female journalist need to work a bit harder to be taken seriously. We must be smart, prompt and prepared, “It is very important to look confident and do as much research as possible,” she said.

Be Flexible. The world of news is unpredictable and so is the life of a journalist, “It tests you, and you never know what you are going to write about,” said Firesheets. You can never know what will be asked of you or what you will find, so it is important to be open-minded and willing to work with uncertain conditions. Things happen…you’ve always needed to be flexible in this industry, but even more so today.

Listening to Firesheets talk, I remembered the certainty I felt when I declared my major two years ago. No one ever promised me being a journalist was a a glamorous or easy job. It is about fulfilling my burning curiosity, using my writing as a vehicle for awareness, and it is the endless satisfaction that if I look hard enough, I can learn something new every single day.

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One thought on “Journalism 101: Sound advice from an experienced reporter

  1. Hannah – Be a careful editor of your own writing – “persistent” is misspelled, and there is a word missing from the sentence, “…that I am only the underdog if allow myself to be.” Also, link to the newspapers and at other places that are appropriate. Good summary of points.

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