The past couple of weeks have been a flurry of setting up interviews, taking photos, building an audio slideshow and prepping to make my first video. I’ve already gotten to work with a few different people at this point in the semester, and I know I will work with at least a few more before I turn in my last assignments for J2150.
One of the aspects of Columbia and the J-school that I really enjoy is how the town feels like a giant training ground for journalists. I like to refer to it as “the world’s biggest journalism experiment.” Think about it, though. In addition to having local TV newscasts and a daily newspaper, the city has the Missourian, KBIA, Vox and KOMU. While it may never be published in a public news source, every semester Columbia residents interact with journalism students in other classes. One of my favorite experiences so far happened last semester in J2000, when I did a semester-long project to create a public awareness campaign for fair trade. I had to speak with members of my target audience, so I basically ended up going into coffee shops around the city, walking up to random people and asking if I could interview them about fair trade.
This semester has definitely been different in regards to the people I contact. I’ve been doing my half semester project on the Columbia Art League. I’ve spoken with people in charge of the Art League, the editor whose book was the basis of the current exhibition and artists whose work is on display. One of the things that consistently surprises me is how willing people are to work with me. I’ve engaged with staff at the League multiple times and will work with them more before the project is over. Next week, I am going to one of the artist’s houses to watch her create a piece. Honestly, I’m impressed with how accommodating most of my subjects have been.
I think there’s really something to be said for the way the J-school makes all of its students do the journalism they will be working with for the rest of their lives. And I really think Columbia is a great place for that. It’s almost like everyone, student and city resident alike, has an understanding of what the school stands for and how it operates. Obviously I don’t get every single interview I want, but I think that’s a valuable part of learning too. It’s being able to find a better way to get information when someone tells you “no.” But at the same time, no one is ever completely surprised when I call to ask about an interview for my latest journalism assignment.
I think that as a beginning journalist, the environment both the city and the school provide is pretty amazing. I’m consistently pushed to talk to new people and come up with creative ways to tell stories. Talking to new people and interviewing them is always a huge encouragement for me, helping me gain new skills and realize I can be a competent journalist. I get to spend the next three years learning about how to report in a medium-sized town, learning to navigate both the large and small scale complexities that come with finding stories. Columbia is a huge opportunity to learn just what it takes to make it when I leave school and work at a newspaper. I’m reminded of a video I saw once about how important it is to have real experience before I graduate:
I think Columbia provides me with a really great opportunity to learn what it takes to do journalism in the real world. The next couple of years can be an invaluable way to gain the experiences I need to move forward in my journalism career.