Lessons from J4804

This will happen. A lot.

My peers and I have survived a grueling semester of reporting — a tip of the hat to the faculty and J4806 students who saw us through it.

Younger Jschool students who will end up taking J4804 often ask what the class is like. To be quite honest, it’s probably the most intense class of your undergraduate career (well, unless you’re double majoring in neuroscience).

But now that I’ve finally reached the light at the end of the tunnel, I’m turning right around to look at what I learned along the way.

1. Don’t be afraid to call people
I have a huge phobia about phones. The only people I ever want to call are my parents — everyone else is stuck with texts or another form of electronic communication. But for team stories, you only have a week to get things done and — if you want to save yourself a panic attack later — it’s best to call sources ASAP. Besides, the people you call (usually) won’t bite your head off. Most of my sources were more than happy to help. With this, it’s useful to build solid contacts with sources you think you’ll need later.

2. Don’t forget the details
Sure, you shouldn’t sweat the little things. But as a journalist you must pay attention to them. From correct word choice to something a source mentions in an interview, focus. I know I’ll always remember “more than” versus “over” thanks to this class. While that may seem insignificant, just getting that one thing right will make your work better. You wouldn’t be at Mizzou if you didn’t want to be the best, right?

3. Once it’s done, it’s done
Work your little heart out on your team stories, but once that 5 p.m. deadline hits and you’ve put it in the Finished folder, let go of any negative energy you might have. There’s no sense in staying upset/mad/frustrated/etc. Just wait for your critiques, read them and absorb what exactly you should work on to improve next time. Yes, you’ll probably get upset while reading them, but let yourself be angry the first time you read it. Then take a deep breath and read it again. Remember, these aren’t personal attacks — the professors want you to do well just as much as you do. Besides, journalists need thick skin anyway (have you seen comment boards online?!).

So, little journos, keep these three golden nuggets of wisdom in mind whenever you think you won’t make it. Because you will make it — trust me.

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One thought on “Lessons from J4804

  1. Can’t wait to pass on you newfound wisdom to DS staffers. Does it surprise you to hear that we have a giant red “keep calm and carry on” poster in the staff room? But we do our share of momentary freak outs and calling home!

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