As a student journalist, a nearly graduated one at that, I’ve worked extensively with student and professional journalists… as well as student and professional sources. The media is subjected to daily scrutiny and judgment–something that is inevitable. People expect their news to be hand fed to them and they expect it to be perfection, but rarely do they stop and think about what it takes for that news to go into their email inboxes and in the stands.
Well, let me enlighten you: IT TAKES A LOT OF WORK FROM A LOT OF PEOPLE.
The constant judgment weighs heavy on young journalists who literally only want to get the truth out. I mean that’s pretty much the definition of a journalist.
So, I have a few suggestions for those so quick to criticize, those who might not be familiar with working with the media. I’m not saying journalists are blameless, but if you (the sources of the story) play your role perfectly, you can more easily rest assure we will too.
*disclaimer: these are my own personal opinions developed working with student media, working as an intern in professional environments and personal experiences.*
Dear people, please….
1. Talk to us like we’re stupid.
OK, not literally. What I mean is pretend like we have no clue what you do, who you are or literally anything about your business/work/whatever you’re being interviewed about, because we probably don’t know much, HENCE THE INTERVIEW. I mean, don’t be condescending (that’s one way to get your name spelled wrong–joking, but we’ll want to), but if you want something in the story, and you want it to be clear, tell us. Tell us twice. And then follow up with an email. Yes, it is the journalist’s responsibility to double check with you, but it’s a two-way street.
2. Remember we have deadlines.
And editors. And lives. And sleep deprivation. BUT MAINLY THE DEADLINE THING. Before you scroll past our email that says “Important and urgent: please respond! Thanks!” or screen our phone calls, remember that we have a quick deadline and the less time we have, the more opportunity there is to err–perhaps on the spelling of your name (kidding again…). Also you have no ground to stand on if you criticize a story written by a student journalist hours before it publishes. A journalist who still has classes in the morning and sorry they named you a freshman and not a sophomore. Wait, no I’m not sorry at all.
3. Bite your tongue, for your own sake.
Before you take to public criticism of a news organization for a small inaccuracy that in the grand scheme of things doesn’t matter, remember that if you discredit the news org publicly one time, your friends, followers or subscribers will see it and lose respect for the news org. But then, what happens when this news organization writes another story about you or your work–one that you like and want to share–will your friends, followers or subscribers even want to read it after you discredited the org? Maybe… but if you would’ve followed the “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all” you wouldn’t have to figure out. Instead, let the news org know privately and WE will run the public correction. Hey, we’re saving you from looking like a judgmental jerk. YOU’RE WELCOME.
4. If you don’t know what to say, say everything.
You can’t be made at us for not running something you never told us. Refer to No. 1, and pretend we live under a rock. If you don’t know how to concisely present your opinion/business/whatever we are interviewing you about, just spill the beans and we will find out what to write about.
5. Remember that we are still learning.
At the end of a long news day–and I do mean long, each mistake we make, whether published or caught during production/editing, we are taking them as learning experiences. We are getting paid in experience–because lord knows internships and campus reporting pays little to nothing at all. The newsroom is our classroom and unfortunately, I don’t get to come to your classroom and tweet about an answer you got wrong on your test, so I mean that’s a little unfair.
Ultimately, just try to understand where we are coming from and how much of our hearts and souls we put into that paper you’re bashing with your friends. Please and thank you.