A new kind of challenge

(This post re-blogged from the spring 2013 advanced reporting blog.)

When I decided to switch beats from education to community a week before the semester started, one of my motivations was a desire to do something different than I did in 4450. I wasn’t exactly sure what that was going to look like, but I knew the switch would be good for me.

And so far, I can say without a doubt that I’m getting what I was looking for.

When I did education last spring, most of my stories were based around information — figuring out how ideas and plans and concepts work, how to explain those things, what people thought about those things and why they felt that way about those things. It was a great experience, and it laid some incredible groundwork in my journalism. I needed those stories to really understand what it means to report, to be accurate and to learn a lot in a short period of time. I’m probably going to be using what I learned for the rest of my life.

As far as my beat shift goes, this semester of reporting is about as different as I can get. I’m still writing about ideas and concepts and such, but my stories are very tangibly anchored in people — their stories, the things they do and why they do them. I spend a lot of time with my stories and my sources, instead of trying to build a story from assignment to publication in a couple of hours. Sometimes I almost feel guilty when another reporter heads off to a meeting after I’ve just set up an interview to talk to some really interesting person for an hour and a half in a coffee shop.

Last spring, I grew in a lot of ways. I learned what it takes to find news and report it quickly and efficiently. This semester, my challenge is very different. I have to really spend time digging into my stories. My writing has to be top notch, because I can’t hide behind a slew of information. I have to step up my interviewing, because I can’t hide behind a checklist of “how does this work”and “when did/will this happen” and “how much is this going to cost” (that last one being my personal favorite because I got reminded to ask it a lot). I have to spend time crafting exactly how I’m going to say something, and I have to dig into the gritty details in interviews so I can fully convey the stories I’m telling.

The ways in which I’m being challenged now are very different than the ways I was challenged to grow last semester. I’m being stretched as a reporter and a writer, often in ways I didn’t expect. It’s still only three weeks into the semester, so I haven’t wound up in the thick of trying to do 15 different things yet (although this seems to be starting), but I’m already seeing the little ways I can grow and learn.

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