Tuesday, September 28, 2010

From the Classroom to the Newsroom: An Insider’s Scoop from a Student’s Perspective

Let me paint you a picture of a typical day at “News 12 Connecticut.” It’s nine o’clock in the morning. The reporters rush into the newsroom, pour themselves each a cup of coffee, and file into the conference room for the morning staff meeting, followed by us – the interns. After everyone settles, the assignment editor walks in with a large stack of press releases and begins handing them out for us to read through. Some of the press releases describe very local stories; “Three new kittens need homes at the Milford animal shelter!” Some of them describe national tragedies; “One man was allegedly thrown overboard by his wife on their honeymoon cruise!” One thing I did notice is that the reporters look at each press release the same way—there is a story to be told.
I sit in the corner eagerly awaiting my assignment while secretly hoping I would be asked to cover the big crime as opposed to taking a trip down the road to see the kittens. “Adrienne,” said Bill, the producer, one morning, “why don’t you head out with Dave first. They’re going to talk to the attorney for the Smith family…it’s the story about the honeymoon murder.” Yes! I screamed in my head. A national story! Of course, I wasn’t always assigned to the national stories. Afterwards I did have to go out with the photographers and take pictures of the poor kittens. When Dave and I sat down with the attorney, I listened carefully to the questions Dave asked him. “What is the story with Jennifer (George Smith’s widow)? Why was the press so interested in her drug use and how does it tie into the crime?” The attorney responded with an extensive explanation using law terms that I had never heard of. Was I stupid? Was I missing something here? I wanted to know what the drugs had to do with the crime just as badly as the public did!
When we left the firm, Dave asked me if I understood what the attorney was saying. “I have to say, I really couldn’t follow it,” I replied. Dave told me that that’s why reporters sound like they’re being aggressive at times. They’re trying to get the people they are questioning to respond in a way that the public can understand. I had never quite understood the real challenge of news reporting until this very moment. Reporters are not merely bystanders of a note-worthy event who just happen to have the privilege of recording what they see. Reporters are, in fact, looking at each story with a very specific lens. They are searching for something others are not, and they are responsible for telling each story in a way that will engage people from all walks of life. After all, not everyone is an attorney. I had begun that morning eager for the juicy stuff. I was excited to see fingerprint samples, blood stains, and horrific accounts of the event. I thought that these assignments were what the best reporters got to tackle. I was wrong. A good reporter is one who can cover a story about kittens at a local shelter and tell the public everything they need to know so that they understand what’s going on and care about it, too.

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