I’ve learned quite a bit in my time as a student reporter.
As I wrote in my last post on this blog, getting to write at a newspaper while you’re still in school (especially in sports), gives you a really cool opportunity to pick up a lot of things that you wouldn’t normally be able to learn. Every time I’m at a press conference or covering a game, I’m around a bunch of people who have earned their stripes in this industry over the years and, for the most part, are very good at what they do.
Just by sitting and watching them, you can learn a ton. But in my time that I’ve gotten to spend with other writer, I’ve learned that one of – if not THE – most important part of our job comes from the ability to make connections with people.
As a journalist, what we do in this field relies on the fact that we’re able to be personable enough to meet people, make a good enough impression on them that they’re going to want to talk to us and then continue that relationship on later down the road – whether it be a professional relationship as a fellow colleague in the industry or as a source later on down the road for stories.
And that’s just another thing that has been great about getting to work at The Daily Athenaeum for the last few years. I’ve gotten the chance to meet and talk with a lot of people who have helped me a lot recently. The obvious goal when you’re trying to make these connections is so that one day, if I can find a big boy job as a sports reporter, I am able to go back and see all of these connections that I have been able to form with people over the course
I’ve used people like Athletic Director Oliver Luck and Sports Marketing Director Matt Wells, as well as other administrators as sources for multiple stories and have been able to build up a relationship with them to where they have been able to help me with just about any story that I’m trying to cover. Also, once you get in with a program enough and build relationships with coaches that you’re working with just about on a daily basis, they become more comfortable with you and will sometimes tell you things they wouldn’t tell other reporters.
With that information, it lets you write better stories and maybe even break stories that other outlets might not be getting.
All of this has helped me as I’ve continued to grow as a writer. I remember the first time I interviewed anyone for a story was when I was in high school and I had to talk to my school’s football coach for a story for our local newspaper. That nervous kid who went into the interview and read each question straight from the list that he had and didn’t do anything else is completely different from the interviewer I am today.
A lot of that is thanks to the connections I’ve been able to make and advice I’ve learned from other writers that I’ve talked to and observed during my time at The DA.
When I first started, I would’ve never known what to do with myself at something like the AAU basketball tournaments that I cover over the summer where you literally just have to walk up to someone after they’re done playing and start talking to them with the hopes that they’ll answer a few of your questions. Now I’ve found out how to go about these situations that, if they’re not handled correctly, could be really awkward and I’ve been able to thrive in them.
By covering basketball and sports here at WVU, I’ve been able to build connections with some of the best high school basketball coaches and players in the nation that I’ve been able to keep contact with and track them as basketball recruits (which seems weird, I guess, but as a guy who wants to make a name as a basketball reporter, stuff like that is huge). I’ve also built relationships with coaches and student-athletes here at West Virginia and other schools.
I wouldn’t be able to do this without my work at WVU and the student newspaper here. It’s shown me what it’s going to take to be successful in the area of networking with people who want to use as sources and other people who you want to build relationships with.