Journalism, And The "ME" Mentality
And The "ME" Mentality
In light of all the college graduations happening, and “first job” applications being submitted like crazy, I hope all new journalists…and maybe even some “experienced” journalists…take a few moments to read this. This is real talk about the career field you chose.
“I didn’t like the story I did today.” “I don’t want to pitch a story I don’t like or want to do.” “They MADE me do this story.”
Lately, I’ve heard these statements A LOT. In forums, in meetings, in classrooms.
Let me be clear: You’re going to do stories you don’t like, and cover events you don’t agree with. Pitching is part of your job. In fact, it’s a requirement.
No, sweetie, you GET to do this story. That means you HAVE a job.
Let’s get this straight. Journalism is not about you. It’s about the community. The readers. The viewers. Take yourself out of it.
You should always be thinking about the community. Don’t ever think that you’re irreplaceable. The fact is, everyone is replaceable. I can guarantee you there are at least 100 others out there who are dying to be in your shoes.
Before you make your pitch, think about these questions:
• What do residents care about? Does anything upset them? What do they love?
• What is the “biggest” thing happening in that community right now? How do they feel about it? How will it impact them, and the community as a whole?
• What are the short-term and long-term effects of a story? Will it cost them money? How much?
Notice a trend? The words “me” and “I” are not in any of those questions.
As journalists, (print or broadcast), we work for the public.
If you’re not in this business to help people, warn people of dangerous situations, help bring light to injustices, and share meaningful stories that the community cares about, then you’re in it for the wrong reasons.
Too often, when I ask journalism students what their ultimate goal is, or why they got into journalism, they say something like ‘oh, to be famous.’ WRONG ANSWER.
So many people are too worried about “making it to the top market.” And why? Reporting is the same no matter where a person does it.
Reporters inform the public. They work for the public. Just because one is in Glendive, Montana (210) and one is in New York, New York (1), it shouldn’t change their mission.
They’re there to help the public and inform the public to the best of their ability. There are great journalists everywhere.
An anchor or a reporter in Glendive may have more experience than one in New York, but their heart is in Montana. There may be a reporter in Texas who has won countless prestigious awards, and has received offers from networks, but they wanted to stay in Texas.
There could be a reporter in North Dakota, in Wyoming, in New Mexico, who helped bring awareness to a serious crime ring that ended with dozens of arrests and helped hundreds of victims. All of these journalists matter.
Don’t let the market ranking of a station degrade the work and purpose of that station in your mind.
Personally, I think less emphasis should be put on DMA rankings.
Granted, data and research are important and there are reasons it should be done. However, I believe that young journalists are being “advised” all too often that they “must” move up in markets, and that’s “the only way” to be successful. It’s not.
I am all for personal challenges, growing, and continuing to learn and push yourself in this business. But, that doesn’t always mean you have to move every one to two years. If your heart is still with your first, or second, or third job location, that’s perfectly okay, and it’s okay to go back there. It’s okay to stay somewhere for several years or retire there.
If you’re doing your job, informing and helping your community, then you’re doing great things. You are making a difference.
Whether you’re just starting out, or have been in the biz for years, I wish you all nothing but the best and hope that you all will find your purpose. ❤️