10 good habits for new reporters and journalists

This term I’ve been teaching Reporting II at the University of Oregon. Here are the 10 takeaways (actually 14, like the Spanish Inquisition I cannot count,) that I gave my students. They’re applicable to anyone starting out in the field of journalism.

  1. Use the resources. My slide packs are online and they offer recaps, tips and hints on topics ranging from data journalism to health media, police and crime reporting. Remember / write-up the lessons from the journalists we spoke to.
  1. Read. Read. Read. Expose yourself to good – and diverse – sources of journalism. Read it critically. It’s amazing what will sink in.
  1. Give yourself permission to be descriptive. Reporting doesn’t have to be dry. Use your descriptive writing skills to bring work alive.
  1. Vary your language. Try to avoid ending every quote with “said” and repeating the same words in any given sentence/paragraph.
  1. Remember your audience: Write as simply as you can. It’s an art form. Anybody should be able to read your work and understand it.
  1. Format matters. Great content can be killed by poor formatting; and in digital environs lack of subheadings and hyperlinks.
  1. Use the right platform for your story: Storify, Medium, WordPress etc. if you can, pick that platform that’s best for each piece.
  1. You’re more networked than you realize: Look at how many great stories you got from existing networks or classmates. Repeat + Grow.
  1. Diversity of approach: A house style / format doesn’t need to cramp your style. Look how your assignments varied from one another.
  1. Keep your portfolios and social media presence up to date. You never know when it might be needed.


Bonus learnings

  • Always take notes. Even if you’re recording an interview. It helps to memorize key points.
  • Always record that interview. Just in case your subject disagrees with what’s been said. Have an accurate irrefutable account.
  • Thank your sources: when your story is published, share a copy / link with them. They always appreciate it.
  • If you’re having problems/filing late tell your Editor ASAP: They can help you. And may be more flexible than you realize.

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