Making connections as a student journalist will be vital in the future

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.

  1. I couldn’t agree with you more, as far as making connections goes. It sounds like you’ve progressed a lot as far as getting in there and getting people to like you or trust you enough to give out information. I’m still struggling with that. I’m not at all shy, so the actual act of interviewing people isn’t my issue. I have more of a problem asking people the right questions, or asking them questions in forms they’re willing to answer. I most often have difficulty interviewing members of the police force. Whenever I ask them for an interview, they agree to it reluctantly. Then, during the interiview they give me the absolute shortest answers possibly. And forget about them ever volunteering information to me. I have to really go at any bit of information I might want. If I don’t ask specifically, they won’t say anything about it.
    I think it’s really cool that you’ve been able to interview people who float around in the public eye. When they get really big, you’ll be able to say you had connections back in the day. Nifty.

    • It was tough at first to get people to give me the kind of answers that I wanted (especially with someone like Luck) because I just didn’t know what I was doing, but the more you get into it and the more you talk to people, you figure out the ways to get what you want out of them. The big thing I’ve found is to just get to the point of what you’re trying to ask, be specific and don’t beat around the bush. People have been a lot more likely to say something if you just tell them what you’re wanting to know. Of course, sometimes they’ll tell you they don’t want to talk about it, but at least you went out and asked about it.

      Another thing that helps get them to open up to you is to make sure they feel comfortable with you. I’ve started getting a lot better recently with making small talk with who I’m talking to before we get started with the interview. It doesn’t seem like much, but I think it gets them feeling a little better about answering your questions.

      Thanks for reading!

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