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2-1 What Makes a Good Journalist?

Journalism isn't an 8-to-5 job.  The aspiring journalist will find himself working long hours to develop his story.  At first each word may be extracted and placed on paper with great anxiety.  There is no easy road to writing well.  It takes time and practice.

Additionally, many newsworthy events don't occur during normal "duty" hours.  The editor may assign a reporter to cover an evening event.  Or, the reporter may be assigned a beat and find a newsworthy event that will keep him past "closing" time.  Sports usually take place after normal work hours.

Army and civilian reporters alike may have specified work hours.  They are nevertheless expected to work at whatever hour the newsworthy event takes place.

Journalism requires a commitment of time --time to work, time to write and time to polish and improve skills.  It requires dedication to the craft of writing, and to the task of informing, educating and entertaining the audience.

Military newspapers are notorious for being short-staffed.   The new journalist will progress more rapidly if he uses initiative to find and write more than his editor assigns.  A professional journalist will not sit by and relax as deadline nears simply because his stories are done.  He will help finish the product for the printing process.

As a reporter moves through his daily routine, whether on his beat or off-duty, he will be perceptive, inquiring and observant of his environment.   His constant questions must be: "What is happening?", "Who is doing it?" and "Why?"

So, when a hot air balloon is forced to land next to the reporter's home in a post housing area, the reporter should get photographs and interview the balloonists.

When a reporter sees a rugby match, and the newspaper staff doesn't even know the post sponsors a rugby team, the reporter should gather the essential facts and photographs.

Notice that in the above two examples the reporter is doing the photography.  Unlike many civilian papers which employ photographers and writers, the Army newspaper will seldom have a photographer assigned.  And, when Army Signal Corps photographers are available from post photo labs they are too often unable to provide photographic prints in time for deadlines.  Therefore, the Army journalist must learn to do his own photography and film and print processing.  This requires as much practice as writing.  It also means the reporter's camera should be constantly available for the unexpected story.  But, this kind of extra work pays dividends: The paper is more comprehensive and the reader is better informed.

No one can write intelligently about any topic unless they have researched it.  Fast-breaking news stories leave little time for background research, but the reporter must find and report the facts.  However, when a reporter is assigned to cover a speech or meeting he can check into the background of the speaker, the purpose of the speech and the results and topics of prior meetings.  An enterprising reporter might arrange to get an advance copy of the speech so he can be more aware of how the speech is delivered.  Indeed, the reporter can write much of the story prior to the actual speech.  Reporters must be cautious, however, for the speaker who discards his speech for another, or for speakers who make important impromptu remarks during the course of their speeches.

 

David L. Heiserman, Editor

Copyright   SweetHaven Publishing Services
All Rights Reserved

Revised: June 06, 2015