Tina Firesheets, retail and general assignment reporter for the Greensboro News & Record, visited our upper-level reporting class Monday to provide us with some advice about finding success in the field of journalism.
Firesheets first became interested in journalism in high school, where she worked on her high school newspaper. However, it wasn’t until she spent a week with students from a small town in western Carolina that she discovered her true passion for the industry.
Firesheets attended Brevard College for two years before receiving her B.A. in Communications at The University of North Carolina in Greensboro. The summer after her freshman year, she had her first internship with Hendersonville’s Times-News.
As an aspiring journalist, I was excited to hear Firesheets’ advice and felt fortunate to have the opportunity to personally interact with a seasoned journalist. Below are 10 tips that resonated with me from her visit to Elon.
1. “If you don’t like being rushed and having to do things really quickly, this is not the job for you,” Firesheets said. “If you want more time, maybe a magazine is the thing to work for.”
But Firesheets also explained that if you are naturally curious and enjoy meeting new people, journalism is a great field because it gives you the opportunity to temporarily step into someone else’s life. You also get to learn about a variety of topics that you may not have otherwise explored.
2. “Internships are necessary — be on the ball when it comes to looking for internships.”
Internships are crucial in that they can help you figure out what you want to do after you graduate, she said.
3. “Don’t give up — there is more than one way to get into the industry.”
After college, Firesheets applied to the Greensboro News & Record multiple times but was never offered a position. She began freelancing for local magazines and then for the News & Record entertainment magazine, and found out about a part-time opening at the newspaper through her editor at the magazine
4.”Always be on time,” Firesheets said. “Be early if you can.”
Often times, you might not be familiar with the area you are traveling to, so you have to allow for something to go wrong such as not finding a parking space or being delayed in some way.
5. “As you do the job, it’s more fun to do the reporting and the research than the writing.”
Firesheets said went into the field because she was told she was a good writer, but over time she’s discovered the other components to developing a story can be just as rewarding as the writing. Firesheets also explained that how much energy you can get from your sources often determines how easy it will be to write the story.
6. “Talking with my editor helps if I’m conflicted or don’t know how to start the story,” Firesheets said. “Sometimes you get so embroiled in what you’re doing that you’ve lost your ability to think as an outsider.”
Talking to another reporter or one of your peers can also be extremely valuable, she said.
7. “You got to say what you got to say, quick.”
Firesheets said her stories range from 40 to 65 inches, but even those are longer-form pieces written for the Sunday paper. Interesting details can’t always go into the story if they don’t fit, so being flexible in terms of cutting your story is a necessary trait to have.
8. “If you think (a story idea) is interesting, and you tell other people and they think it’s interesting, that’s enough reason to write.”
Be creative when it comes to finding stories, she said. Sometimes, you are assigned a story by your editor, but other times it is up to you to come up with a great story idea. Look in the ads section of the paper — that’s where some of the most unique stories can come from.
9. “Put a sports jacket and tennis shoes in the car.”
You never know when you’ll have to dress up for a formal interview, or dress down to go report someplace outside.
10. “The more prepared you are when you go into an interview, the more respect you’ll get.”
It’s obvious when you don’t know what you’re talking about, Firesheets said.
Although I am still in college, much of Firesheets’ advice is still extremely relevant. I am looking forward to implementing her strategies for coming up with story ideas, and I will undoubtedly follow her instruction regarding internships and interviews.