Just as I did, Tina Firesheets pursued a career in journalism because she “was always good at writing.” However, she spent most of her time talking with my journalism class on Monday morning, stressing the importance of every other aspect of the business, one’s that I too had put second behind writing when considering a journalism major.
Firesheet’s career in journalism began at the Henderson Times News soon after she had graduated from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She eventually started doing free-lance writing for the News and Record in Greensboro, and worked her way into a full time position. She has been with the paper in Greensboro since 1998.
Firesheets has experience writing with several beats, such as entertainment (which is where she started), and at one point she had her own column for a few years. She claims that she thoroughly enjoyed having a column as it allowed her to write about just about anything she wanted. But regardless what she was writing about, she emphasized the importance of reporting, and the level of time management and communication that a reporter needs to maintain while on the job.
Just as Firesheets thought going into college, I also assumed that journalism was about writing, and I knew that if I could learn to write well, I would be set. Right? Firesheets explained that being in the newsroom on a daily basis helps define what it means to be a journalist. She said that reporters have to be “flexible,” as the next story may involve something unfamiliar, or even uncomfortable. It’s the reporter’s job to research and learn about whatever the topic may be, as this is what makes a good story; a certain level of understanding is required to write about any subject.
Firesheets also explained why time management is so important, and because reporters are constantly working on a deadline schedule, communication is key. One example she offered involved lying to sources in order to guarantee their cooperation and eventual inclusion in the story. Rather than telling a source that the deadline is 5 pm (only to have them meet with you at 4 pm leaving you with no time to actually write the story), she will tell sources that the deadline is 1 pm, giving her plenty of time to work with, and making her job much easier.
I’ve dealt with these problems a little bit over the last couple of years, but not to the extent that she, or any other professional reporter has. Until someone such as Firesheets squares up and says, “this is how it is,” I can’t understand the validity of these ideas, or the weight that they carry.
This is what stood out to me in class on Monday; Tina Firesheetz managed to instill a sense of curiosity and fear in me. I’m fearful to one day face this chaotic business, but I’m also curious to see where it takes me. I’m extremely indecisive, so the thought of learning about a variety of topics and issues through direct experience with the equivalent variety of people and places sounds great, Tina Firesheets merely reinforced my excitement.