Journalism alumna applies Scripps training to challenging world of reporting
When I graduated from Ohio University in 2019, I never expected that, a few short years later, I would be writing about politics. I cover campaign events with presidents and talk to politicians on a daily basis about some of the weirdest topics, from why one politician allegedly punched another to whether or not COVID-19 vaccines contain luminescence agents that make people glow. Yet here we are.
As a student, I thought I would be living in a different country covering foreign affairs or talking to people in a dangerous, war-torn environment. To my surprise — and to my parents' relief — I have settled quite comfortably in Las Vegas covering politics for the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
However, through the education I received at the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, it didn’t matter that I did not end up where I thought I’d be. The classes I took exposed me to all types of journalism, from Professor Debatin’s environmental reporting class to city council coverage that sought to hold public officials accountable. They prepared me for whatever path I decided to take.
In addition to valuable out-of-classroom journalism experience, The Post gave me a glimpse into the daily grind expected of reporters at news organizations, as well as the sense of camaraderie often present within newsrooms that make the tough parts of the job worth it.
Still, there are some lessons that only time in the field can teach you.
First: Save every phone number of every source you encounter. There were countless times in which I talked to people for what I thought was a one-and-done story, only to realize after losing their number that I needed to talk with them again. For instance, perhaps the sheriff of a small town you talk to for a story about body cameras ends up being elected a state senator or an assemblyman. You never know what position that person will have in the future, so it’s worth saving the number just in case.
Second: you’re going to make mistakes, and it’s not the end of the world. As a journalism student, I learned to fear “the correction,” as inserting an error of fact could result in a ‘zero’ grade for an assignment, and in a class with only a few assignments, the fear of making a mistake and failing a class was real.
That fear was so prevalent that it led to anxiety in the real world. When submitting five stories a week, some of which were a thousand words long, I feared incorrectly writing a date or an individual’s title and would sometimes question whether I belonged in journalism.
While accuracy is what we all strive for, it’s important to remember that, eventually, we’ll make a mistake. When that happens, you can recognize it, correct it and move on. Dust your hands off, and get back to work (This is something I’m still learning).
Three: Journalism is extremely important and impactful, so much so that it can sometimes be dangerous. Exposing instances of corruption or illegal activity might not always seem like a big deal; in fact, many reporters churn out these pieces with only their deadlines in mind before simply moving on to the next story.
Sometimes, there can be serious consequences for reporting. In my newsroom, for instance, one of our reporters was murdered last year, allegedly by another individual who took offense to what they perceived as negative coverage.
Although I never met this reporter, their death was a wake-up call for myself, and many reporters and editors in the newsroom, to take threats seriously. We also learned to talk with each other and to lean on our colleagues during that tough time.
It’s also important to keep your and your family’s privacy in mind as well, and consider making your family members on Facebook private and removing location tags from your social media accounts.
Finally, do not stress about the path you have outlined for yourself. Take opportunities as they come to you and explore new options. I started my career after college covering crime and breaking news on Cape Cod, MA, where I took walks on the beach and shucked oysters. When an opportunity came to move across the country to cover politics and live in a new city in the middle of the desert, I had to see what kind of new adventure that would bring and what could be learned. Now I hike in nearby national parks and load up on huge food portions famous in Las Vegas.
Perhaps that extreme change might not be for you, and that’s also OK; however, it’s vital to approach every new opportunity as a way to grow. If you don’t think you have the experience to do something new or different, you’re wrong. From your time at the E.W. Scripps School, you gained skills that can be used in so many different ways, and you’ve learned how to best adapt to new surroundings and challenges.