Saturday, June 13, 2015

Why I Enjoy Being a Reporter

I'm an editor, so most of my work involves reading through other writers' pieces and correcting them for clarity, grammar and content. Sometimes I get to write my own articles, but they are often aggregate pieces. Every once in a while, I get to attend an actual event and report on it. One might think that I enjoy being a reporter just because I like to write. However, I have other reasons. If you're considering a career as a journalist or are just curious about what it can be like, read on to find out why I enjoy being a reporter.

1. I get to go to a different place for each assignment. My journalism adventures have taken me to hospitals, schools, hotels, libraries and even a nursing home. These places might not sound too fascinating, but they are often populated by interesting people and events. One time for a story about education innovation, I drove to a school in Owsley County that my GPS couldn't even locate. I drove in that general direction and made a 2-hour trip, somehow finding the school with some vague directions from the school secretary. Finding the locations can be stressful sometimes. You may wonder why such a geographically and directionally challenged individual would enjoy new places so much. Besides the excitement of seeing new things, I also enjoy entering a new environment because doing so allows me to ask questions without feeling dumb. I just show up at the right address and ask the first person I find where I'm supposed to go.

2. I get to learn about a variety of topics. A few weeks ago I reported on a panel discussion about local foods, which I previously knew nothing about, and today I attended a conference about how to stop bullying. The speaker said that the cause of bullying is not low self-esteem as previously thought. Instead, the bully often is the jock or the cheerleader or the lawyer's kid. Instead of a lack of self-esteem, there is often a power imbalance. The true cause of most bullying is narcissism, which is getting worse in today's children. Knowing stuff is cool. I thoroughly enjoyed learning throughout my education, so it's awesome to continue learning for my job.

3. I get to interrogate people. I used to think that everyone held conversations by rapidly exchanging question after question—until I spent a significant amount of time with someone who rarely—if ever—asked questions. I've discovered that most people patiently exchange remarks and do not ask tons of direct questions. I like questions and always have a lot of them, even for strangers. As a reporter, my name tag, camera and anything else that labels me as a journalist give me free reign to randomly approach pretty much anyone at an event and ask whatever bizarre queries I need for my story. It's great.

4. I often get free coffee and food. They say that a college student's favorite word is free. I think my favorite word will always be free. At many of the events I cover, I get free coffee, free lunch, free donuts and even free pens. One time I even ate an $80 plate at a dinner party. Like, you know, I ate the food on the plate, not the actual plate. Anyway, when I attend events, I eat while gleefully striking up weird conversations with people I'll probably never see again or just sit alone and shovel the food into my mouth. Everyone knows I'm a reporter and don't know anyone. For all they know, I'm observing the way the attendees eat their food, watching, waiting, pondering my story.

5. No one expects me to behave like everyone else at the event. Or if they do, they never show it. I think it's because people are so used to seeing movies with scenes featuring jittery, loud-mouthed reporters who skitter after the poor protagonist, shoving microphones in his face, asking rude questions and taking obnoxious photos. In comparison, I seem well-behaved. Sometimes I come late or leave early. I sit wherever I want. I get up and take pictures with my giant camera. I'm usually the only person in the room with a laptop; of course, I'm using it to take notes. Usually I'm the youngest person in attendance. Unlike the rest of the attendees, I generally don't talk to anyone unless I'm interrogating someone for my story. And that's OK. I'm a reporter, and I'm working. They understand I don't have time to socialize.

Journalism is cool. I really had no idea what it was when I declared it as a major. It's so much more than writing newspaper articles. I don't even write for a newspaper because both publications to which I contribute are online. Any questions? I like questions.

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