Before I started taking Journalism as one of my elective courses, I felt like it would be a fun class to take, and maybe I would be able to pursue a career in something related in the future. I never expected it to take so much time to get a hang of the basics though.
One of the first things we went over was what makes something news, and it is indeed an interesting question that led to several philosophical and pretty decent answers regarding the actual content of what we call news. We talked about how news should be new of course, and how timeliness is always a big factor in how important the story will be. The whole class figured that news had to be interesting as well as have quite a bit of variety in it as well, otherwise who would read it? The importance of the story also matters, if it was a start of a new war or perhaps hyperinflation, the general public would need to know such things.
This led us to discuss the actual structure of the news story, and as we went along and learned about the most important parts of a story and the information in them, I began to notice the same structures in every news story I read after. I could dissect the news I read and actually understand why some things were included earlier in the article as opposed to later. I also learned about different types of stories such as opinion stories and editorials. Part of the reason I made this weblog was to practice writing and posting things up so I could get used to writing things others would read and gain some insight from, much like the news we read on a day-to-day basis.
Some other things we went over were ethical basics, no posting anything private without permission and the usual 4th amendment related jazz, but I was surprised to find out that we still have the right to publish quite a few things especially as student journalists. nobody, especially in the administration is allowed to tell us what not to publish, otherwise that would violate our 1st amendment right to press. Censorship also played a big part in our discussion on whether or not we could publish certain things, and that is a whole other complicated mess that is subject to quite bit of criticism when it comes to defining something as obscene or acceptable, raising a lot of moral questions and debates varying from background and beliefs.
Something that I found a bit frustrating is interviewing people for a story. We practiced interviewing in class, but I found it rather difficult and tedious to ask the right questions to get the information I needed for the story we were going to practice writing. Oftentimes the interviewees would give very vague, general answers, prompting a bit of unnecessary aggression on my part. What we learned as a class was that it’s not as easy to go about conducting investigations for a story as they make it seem on TV or in stories of journalists, it takes some patience and skill on the part of the journalist. Another important aspect of the interviewing I found to be helpful was to see how different people will react to questions you ask them, some being more open than others, and some simply shutting down, allowing us to adjust the way in which we asked the questions and studied the body language of each person.
Despite leaving out huge chunks of the actual content learned in class, these were just a few of the things about class that stuck out for me so far in the short amount of time that has passed since we started. I’m really looking forward to an interesting year of stories and news and just having fun with being an investigative journalist for however long this lasts.
P.S. It would be really cool if there was any journalists out there willing to give me any tips on maybe pursuing a career in this field and how I could possibly become a good journalist, at least as a student writing for the school newspaper 🙂