Top Ten Hardest Things About Being A Reporter

If you've ever thought about being a reporter you may want to know you can never truly know what it's like until you've done it. (And thanks to Flickr for the perfect picture to the left... exactly what it's all about!)

After completing my reporting shift this past week, I took time to reflect upon what I think is the hardest parts about being a reporter. Of course this can vary from one reporter to another, but for all of us there are some certain things we can agree upon to be difficult. In this list I'm about to show you, these are things that maybe only I believe to be difficult, but for some I can certainly say all reporters believe these aspects to be difficult.

And now... in no particular order... I bring you: "The Top Ten Hardest Things About Being A Reporter!"

1) Interviewing talkers who want you to know anything and everything. On a hard deadline it can be difficult to sort through a plethora of information and so most of the time, unless it's a follow-up, we just want the basics and good little facts or stories that make our story unique. If we have to cut you off, it's probably not because we don't like talking to you, it's just we only have have a small amount of time. Speaking with very talkitive people also means, as a broadcast journalist, you must be very good at picking out the most important facts in your story... you only have a minute to a minute thirty to tell your story!

2) Going from talkative people to people who don't want to talk at all! Sometimes it can very difficult to find sources. This is why it's good for journalists to build up a list of sources. This can mean taking the chief of police out to dinner or even just asking how their kids are doing the next time we see them. Building personal relationships with our sources is key to building trust with others. If they can help us, hopefully sometime there will be a time when we can help them!

3) Video poor stories. It's nothing new... to tell a good story a broadcast journalist must have good video and as we all know that's very rarely possible. Sometimes you get stuck with stories containing an abundance of numbers or stories where the action has already happened and all the evidence is cleared, such as covering a robbery the next day. This is where the creativity comes in. How can you find video that will tell the viewers exactly what you're trying to say? Who can you talk to that will make your story come alive?

4) Chasing down a story that turns out not to be a story at all. It happens to all of us. We see something or find something we think could turn out spectacular. We start making phone calls after phone calls until we find out there was no story there at all. The best thing to do in situations like these is to wait pitching the stories to your assignment editor and find a day in advance if it's really a story. If you pitch it and they like it... by the time you finishing making your phone calls, finding out it's not a story at 2 p.m., you'll be running around like a chicken with your head cut off looking for a new story to get done by 5.

5) Keeping your cool on camera, when really everything isn't cool at all. Everybody has their bad days, if someone told me they didn't I'd never believe them. As a broadcast journalist though, no matter what kind of day you've had (and you can be sure we have lots of bad ones!), you're expected to come on camera with a smile on your face, your makeup and hair all pretty, and ready to present your story in a calm professional manner.

6) Deadline... and working well under pressure. It's 30 minutes to showtime and you just sat down to write your story. You grab some quick SOTs, write your story as best as you can, voice it, crash edit it, and transfer it just in time. There might be a few jump cuts and some passive voice, but you just hope it isn't too districting to the viewers. Unfortunately, days like these aren't too uncommon in the news world. As a journalist you are expected to have a story everyday no matter what. I'm a perfectionist, and I've learned you definitely can't expect to have a master piece everyday.

7) Everybody knows... technology can be amazing, but it doesn't always work. If you get into broadcast journalism, you must expect this. Cameras break, tripods break, computers crash, etc. And as I said before, no matter what happens with your equipment or your story, you're still expected to have a story done by its deadline. Your microphone breaks while you're out on an interview? Find another way to capture the sound. You're computer crashes right before show time? You better have saved it and checked it into another editing bay. Always know your options and never freak out when something breaks.

8) Working those not-so-regular hours. When you 9 to 5 workday folks are out to the beach on a hot Saturday afternoon with your family or talking a nice evening jog on a weekday, it's a safe bet to say new journalists will be in the newsroom working. Unless you've worked many-a-years in the business, a normal workday isn't 9 to 5 (and even veterans won't get out until 6:30 p.m.). It's more like whatever-your-boss-tells-you-to-do workday. This could mean on Sunday's you work mornings from 5 a.m. to 1 p.m., Monday's 3:15 a.m. to 11 a.m., Tuesday's 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Wednesday's 3:15 p.m. until 11:15 p.m. and so on... Your assignment manager can call you in early if he wants or can keep you late if there's breaking news. If you want to be a journalist, expect to miss birthdays, Christmases, anniversaries, New Year's Eves, and any other big event.

The way I look at it though, even if I have to miss all those holidays, I still have the best job in the world.

9) Facing difficult stories on topics such as death or trying to cover a story we know nothing about. I'm a very curious person and love to learn new things everyday, but even sometimes I get a little freaked out when I'm expected to cover a story I know nothing about or don't know who to contact to understand it. We have a limited amount of time to try and talk to everybody we can to make the story unbiased. We also must use that time to find out all we can about the story. People expect us to experts on every story we cover. The truth is, we aren't experts, but we do the best we can in giving you the facts on what we know.

As for facing difficult stories and interviewing those who have just dealt with a tragedy, I've covered the topic of disconnecting yourself from your story before in this blog. Click here to read "The Art Of Detaching Yourself From Your Stories."

10) Being a girl and a one man band sometimes I wonder if they expect us to be she-mans. In the real world tripods and cameras are each thirty pounds. Sixty pounds on my back everyday is a sure reason for a call to the chiropractor. But even if I wasn't a girl, it wouldn't matter... being a one man band is hard for anyone. In just a short course of a few hours, one man bands are expected to do one million and one jobs. Okay, not that many but sometimes it feels like it. We are expected to find our own sources, set up interview times with our sources, research our story, talk on the phone and take notes while driving to the locations (could be right in town to a few hours away), shoot all our own video while also trying to interview multiple people and think out what our story is about, tweet every so often, have our web story up before our story airs, write, script and edit our own stories, and finally be that cool, calm, and collected I told you about before when the show airs.

This is just some of the stuff we do... all in a sweaty day's of work.

To all the reporters out there... what would be on your list?


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