had my first GA shift today and I’ve already learned lessons!
1. Buy the right type of equipment. (Subhead: Bring it with you. All the time.)
2. Verify sources, for your sake, your credibility’s sake, and for the sake of those around you.
I got to the newsroom already a little flustered because honestly, it was just one of those mornings. I had a pitch all set up from the night before and although I thought about it, I made the poor choice of NOT bringing my audio recorder. So, when I got to the newsroom, I honestly shouldn’t have thought twice about the fact that my GA editor told me to go get it. So I went. I got the recorder (and also had to buy some batteries), and then I realized along with my editor that there was no .mp3 compatible place on my recorder, which is essential for our multimedia piece. So, I was stressin’ at this point. We were going to get some staff equipment last minute for me to use until, lo and behold, the people at the event I was going to cover said we couldn’t come. I learned quickly how much you’ve gotta shuffle on a moment’s notice. The only thing was that this was all unavoidable, had I been completely prepared! Needless to say, lesson learned.
Then, I picked up a story about some “report card” that was released by an education group. Now, I’ve covered this before, but I didn’t initially realize that this group was actually one of the ones that heats my blood. I won’t go into it now, but basically and essentially, this source was VERY sketchy and not verifiable. It wasn’t worth the effort of publishing a piece about it, because the source was shady and I had a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach about it. That bad feeling wasn’t too bad at first, but around the late afternoon (and once I’d done some heavy reading, researching and nit-picking as a journalist should), I just couldn’t ignore it. I talked to my editors and we immediately pulled the piece. I wasn’t comfortable putting my byline on work that used comprised data, and I didn’t want to compromise the Missourian, either. I should have spoken up earlier, but in all honesty, I didn’t realize the extent of the shady-ness of the source of this document. It was frustrating because a majority of my day (and GA shift, to be specific) was devoted to picking through this 100+ paged document for anything useful or at least enlightening as to what the real intentions of this group were. There was definitely an ethical decision in my horizon at the point in the day when I realized I couldn’t justify using the numbers from this document, but I also couldn’t go into why the source was so indefensible, for the sake of time. But journalism isn’t all about getting a clip at the end of the day. Honestly, I’ve learned just as much today than I would have with some huge feature or a moving life story. LESSON: VERIFY SOURCES. Had I not done that today, who knows. Probably no one—these sources are sneaky—but I didn’t see any other choice. Because there was no other choice. Gotta stick to the truth.
Shout out to the graphics editor who made the graphic. I know it took a long time and honestly, it was a great graphic. I’m sorry it had be done in vain! I don’t know how I could make it up to her. I am indebted.
Also, I’ve gotta thank my editors supporting me today. It really meant a lot to have that type of backing when things just don’t seem to go your way. But I do believe something good will come out of this experience. *Cue in suspense.
My friends outside of journalism ask why I’m willing to put so much of myself into this. It’s because even when I make a mistake and my heart sinks, or when I wake up and I’m unimaginably exhausted, or when I seem to stray from my other friends, that I can’t imagine doing anything else. It’s been hard to accept defeat and mistakes, but I’ve gradually realized that that’s part of any learning process. I listened to a TED talk the other day about learning to accept failure and be open to regret. We’re told to not regret and blindly move through life. That’s not to say that I don’t have a positive attitude towards my life; I do. My positivity is one of the things that really keeps me going. But I’ve learned, and as the TED talk described, that the low points (even if they’re as minuscule as writing ‘they’re’ instead of ‘their’ and then quickly deleting it, horrified) really are necessary to grow. That’s also not to say that you should strive for failure—it’s just a matter of having high aims and rolling with the punches along the way. I think that’s the best way to grow, and I still have to work on it. But this day really has helped. To quote one of my favorite books, “The most beautiful thing about the desert is that somewhere it hides a well.” Or to be more banal, “Shoot for the moon and you’ll land among the stars.”
I think I use too many cliches. Oh well. Onward and upward!
Postscript: I did get some content in today. Events!