If my first week back at the Missourian was a taste of what my semester will be like, my second week was a high-calorie, fast food dinner. (Work with me on this figure of speech people; I’m trying my best.)
I worked a couple of shifts on the city desk last week, each a bit longer than the first week, with more content and more reporters looking for input. It was definitely an experiment in high-pressure time management — I’m attempting to simultaneously edit reporters’ stories, field questions from reporters working on stories, listen to the scanner, check my email, keep my city editor up to speed, check news sites for updates and manage to help move all the copy through the desk at a reasonable pace.
Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of help. I’ve really enjoyed working with the editors on the city desk, who have answered all of my random questions, read the more complicated copy and put up with my slightly bizarre sense of humor. Having editors who are older and wiser than me has been extremely valuable in helping me get grounded in my new job.
Outside of my work on the city desk, I’ve been settling into the other part of my job as an assistant city editor: working with my beat. The beat editor was out of town last week, so my job was to coach 17 reporters through their first pitches, identifying strong ones and weak ones and guiding them toward getting a draft of their first stories.
On Tuesday afternoon, I slid into the newsroom, coffee in hand and a pitch meeting schedule in my backpack, ready to tackle my task. I’ll admit, I was a little nervous. I’d pitched several successful stories before, and I knew what made a good pitch and what made a bad one, but I was afraid that when it came time to evaluate another person’s idea, I’d have more trouble.
Once I started meeting with reporters, however, I found that, as usual, things went better than I thought they would. I was able to discern the strongest pitches, say no to the weak ones and identify what the reporter still needed to find to make the pitches in between work.
And after several days of working with reporters to get their first stories off the ground, I’d started to feel a lot more comfortable with my ability to judge good ideas and to find the holes in ideas that needed more work.
One of the things I’ve been realizing through all this is how much I’ve grown as a journalist since I sat fidgeting in the newsroom in my first weeks of 4450. After two semesters at the Missourian and an extremely valuable internship experience, I’m finally (thankfully) comfortable in my ability to write and report. I pulled up some stories from my portfolio the other day and realized how much stronger my work has become.
I don’t know, I guess it’s kind of cool to realize that after getting some experience under my belt, in my own small way, I can help other people take a step in that direction, too.