The past 16 weeks have been grueling. From pitching ideas to interviewing to producing the story, there was never really a moment when my reporting class stopped. Like one of my professors says, “Journalism never stops.”
Until this past Thursday after my last deadline, I breathed deeply for the first time in a very long time. I’ve held my breath story after story expecting the worst to happen.
Through it all, I’ve become a much, much better journalist, and I love reporting a lot more than I did at the beginning of the semester. Four hundred words isn’t enough to reflect on all that’s happened this semester. But there are a handful of lessons I’ll continue to develop over the next two months while I’m in Colombia.
- Take on a challenge and be confident in doing so. I’m capable of doing journalism. I’ve proved that to myself this semester. Often times, I found I was the one holding myself back because I feared I wouldn’t be able to get it all done. If people have trusted you with a story, it’s because they know you can do it. So do it.
- Double check and triple check everything. If you don’t know something or aren’t 100 percent sure about it, bold it, underline it, italicize it, whatever. And then go back to verify you have it right. Good journalism requires accuracy.
- Organize your time. Work backwards and divide up a project into smaller pieces. And actually get those done when you’ve said you’re going to.
- Don’t forget why you do what you’re doing. I love journalism because I get to talk with other people, learn about what they’re doing or challenges they face, and then I can tell their story. It’s not about me: it’s about the people who read what I produce and the people I write about.
- Challenge yourself, but realize you’re going to fail at something along the way. This one is simple. But it’s still difficult to actually practice. After years of success throughout my education, it was hard to fail at something every week for two months. But without those mishaps, I wouldn’t have seen the leaps and bounds I made this semester.
- Don’t let one thing consume your life. As my friends and family can attest, it wasn’t often that I wasn’t thinking, talking or working on 4804. The more you live, enjoy and learn, the better person and journalist you will be.
- Invest in your relationships. The people you care about the most will be there at the end of the day. Sixty years from now, I’ll look back with more fondness at the memories I made with my friends, families and other interactions more than the hours of work I put into a story.
Hard work does pay off though. Four of my six stories have been published.
But I can’t dwell on past success. There’s a lot more to learn and do. It’s really only starting to sink in that two weeks from today, I’ll be flying out from Miami to Bogota, Colombia. I’ll be living in a city of 8 million people for two months, and be working with an organization that continues to produce great conversations and information about freedom of the press in Colombia.
I’ll continue updating my blog about what I’m learning and experiencing over the next 10 weeks, so please comment if you have a question about Colombian culture or journalism. I’d love to find out the answer!