You Do What?

“I just don’t understand why you do that.” –Allie Webber, EXSS Major

“Just like you wouldn’t get what all I do in the B-School I don’t get what you’re doing [in the J-School].” –Julie Neveleff, Business Major

“You have to carry that stuff all the time? I thought someone else did that for you.” –Mia Movahead, Business Minor

“Can’t you just make up something?” –Mary Ehrenberger, Psychology Major

“That’s due when?” –Celia Bettinsoli, Biology Major

These quotes represent a cross section of my friends who just “don’t get” why I “do journalism.” Even a short time in the J-School has proven that most students outside of Carroll Hall truly do not understand exactly what journalists do. (But then again, I do not understand what economists do so who am I to pass judgment?)

Susan King, Dean of the J-School, tweeted an article from Nieman Lab about training non-journalists for a newsroom. Something, it seems, that will inevitably come with the fast-paced changes in media. The technologically savvy individuals of the world will fill positions at news organizations as the industry moves in that direction. Nieman’s piece specifically discussed Knight-Mozilla OpenNews’ fellowship program for developers and coders. OpenNews is basically a network of techies and journalists that help prepare journalism for the “next step.”

Like my friends, the article said that most of the non-journalists were surprised about what journalism was and all it required. So I did an experiment.

I read my friends a scenario detailing a typical day in a television newsroom using my experience as an intern at a local CBS affiliate in North Carolina. I then asked them what surprised them the most.

They said they did not realize that…

  1. The work was that fast paced.
  2. Journalists did “all that” in one day.
  3. Multimedia journalists had to carry their own equipment.
  4. Journalists write their own stories (as in someone doesn’t just tell them what to say)
  5. Mistakes in the news come with serious consequences.

The OpenNews fellows had similar concerns, they were surprised that…

  1. You get multiple attempts at coding but only one shot at perfection in journalism.
  2. The standards are high, like really high.
  3. Asking questions is a good thing in the newsroom; better to ask and get it right than pretend like you know what you are doing.
  4. Journalism is very unpredictable.
  5. Time management and multitasking is expected.

Common themes seem to be that perfection is required and you only get one shot to deliver quality work.

So while it is exciting that journalism is growing up and moving onto different platforms, it is important to remember that nobody does a journalist’s job better than a journalist. However, recognizing the challenges that non-journalist face in the newsroom will ultimately help guide the industry to solutions for the future.

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