Throughout the semester, I must write a weekly post for credit in my Editing and Production class. Certain redundancies may occur in these “4806 Updates”
Yesterday I had my first beat meeting for the sports beat at the Columbia Missourian. A hearty man with one of those baritone voices you always hear in movies by the name of Greg Bowers asked me why I was there.
That’s the great thing about journalism. No matter who you are, or what you do, you ALWAYS feel welcome and appreciated. As I began to explain my purpose and goals for the semester, he silenced me with an abrupt “let’s talk later,” as sports reporters began to pour through the door.
About half of them tripped on my macbook charger. As they sat down, it occurred to me everyone else had those archaic reporting devices that our industry seems so keen on retaining. What do you call those again? Oh yeah, notebooks and pens. Is it bad that I’ve never used one outside of an interview?
Out of the 12 people in the room, I sported the sole laptop. The feeling reminded me of texting in high school classes, trying to discretely type without making any noise so as not to alert the masses to my covert purpose. I pulled my computer off the table and into my lap, tilted the screen down to about 35 degrees, and typed all the fascinating things that came out of the two editors mouths. Most of the memorable, blog-worthy material came from Bowers, but Hodder dropped the first cutting editor line.
A reporter covering a local sport with one nationally ranked team and one abysmal team in town asked a question about an event he attended for the abysmal team.
Hodder pounced: “I’m wondering why you decided to cover them when [the lauded, top 25 team] had their first game of the year.”
This is where some of those principles we students absorbed throughout our careers here at one of the best journalism schools in the world started to clash with real world logic.
A defense surrounding a desire to be unbias and objective spilled out of his mouth and landed flat on the table. I saw his point, and I would imagine others in the room did as well, but people have a way of judging the merit of a thought or principle based on the reception it gets from the experts. In this case, the editors clearly know a whole lot more about this business than we do.
Bowers jumped in with something I had always known but never realized. As we move from our introductory journalism classes on up, the J school inculcates us with the importance of facts and information. Professors often mention entertainment almost as a footnote. Afterall, our first obligation is to the truth. Those charged with molding some of the up-and-coming young minds in this industry emphasized our need to entertain as much as inform to keep people reading, do you think anyone might take that the wrong way? I do. Now that we’re older, though, hopefully we’ve established the skills to handle the balance.
“Information is everywhere. Entertainment is not,” Bowers said.
He lamented the fate of a crime reporter, who must always gather the facts after they happen. The closest a crimer can get is talking to someone who was there. But sports reporters, they have the good fortune of generally knowing when their news will happen and witnessing it from start to finish. Exceptions exist, of course, like the situation of Derrick Washington or other disciplinary issues on the Missouri football team that sports reporters must treat the way a crime reporter would.
I realize I’m just talking about a whole bunch of perhaps monotonous newsroom goings on, but this is my first time in a sect of journalism about which I truly feel passionate. I held onto this guy’s words like they meant everything. With a voice like that, how could I not?
My favorite nugget: Don’t confuse observation with opinion. We go through looking for fact fact fact fact fact. Well we want lots of observation, where appropriate, to reveal what kind of person you’re talking to.
Do they talk quickly or slowly? Does that tell me something? Maybe.
Is it revealing to know what car he drives, what CD is in the player, the fact he even HAS a CD player in his car now that you all have ipod connectors? Does it tell me something about him to know what kind of pictures hang in his house? The clothes he wears?
Maybe, maybe, maybe, maybe and maybe! When you put it all together, you have a complete picture of someone.
Naturally we young all worry about overdoing it, about watering down a good news story with too much needless mumbo jumbo about this and that. He told us to go for it—the editors will let us know if we “goofed it up.” It’s easier to tone it back then to try and inject it in way after the fact.
I had several story ideas and potential complementary pieces I really wanted to throw out there, but they told me to come back tomorrow. Now it’s tomorrow, and I still haven’t had the chance. I’m excited though. This is what it’s all about. I’m finally where I really want to be.