Saturday, September 7, 2013

How to become a more confident journalist? #Onearticleaday challenge

from eonline.com

Most of my journalism students this fall will recognize that photo without too much trouble. Heck, most of the world will probably know all about twerking and Miley Cyrus and the whole video of her gyrating behind, and whether she should have or shouldn't have done this. But I'm guessing not as many will know what this next photo is, nor why it is newsworthy:

courtesy Wired.com

Hint. It's Japan's new Maglev elevated train that is able to reach 310 miles per hour, at least in current performance trials. 
Why should they be worried if they don't know about this? Well, because as journalists, it's their job to interview all kinds of people, even at the last minute, such as when an editor hands you a news release or BBMs it to your mobile phone, and says that you will be interviewing the train's inventor tomorrow morning. Gulp! 
This past summer, in my work as a consultant in on-camera performance in a major national daily newsroom, I spent time with a talented, young editor who had to interview people about subjects that she wasn't all that familiar with, including the Arab Spring, and other business topics. The main issue that she and my young journalists face? Lack of confidence. They say they fear looking stupid in an interview or on camera because they don't know stuff about the world, or at least, they don't know enough stuff. And lack of confidence is a bad thing for a journalist. It makes them stumble, stutter, blank out, ask questions with a lot of ums and ers, and most importantly, ask superficial questions instead of more educated, in depth, probing ones.
My advice to young journalists has always been: READ. READ. and READ SOME MORE. 
You will become more confident as you get older, but meantime, READ!
You all spend hours surfing the net, watching funny cat videos, and searching for Miley Cyrus pictures.
So turn at least 60 seconds of your down time every day into a brain booster for your career: read something you normally wouldn't care about, such as an article in the Economist, or Maclean's, or Wired. Read an agriculture story. Read to really understand what fracking is. 
I am challenging all my students to take a #onearticleaday challenge this semester. They can even tweet the link to the article they read, via @centennialjourn, so other students can read it too. The more, the merrier. Let's see how much stuff they can learn on their own time this semester; stuff that will help them become more well rounded as journalists (and as human beings, too!). No, there are no marks attached, at least directly.