What I wish I’d known at the beginning of the semester that I understand now about reporting is that it requires courage.
I’m not talking about the big stuff reporters cover, like war—most people know that covering dangerous conflict requires immense courage. But it also takes courage to pick up the phone and call a stranger, especially someone you know may not like you right off the bat because of your job title.
I’m not comparing covering war with calling a source—I’m just saying that sometimes little things that come up as you move toward writing a story, things you can control, can really get in your way if you let them. For me, it’s picking up the phone to call a stranger.
I really love writing—I always have—and I love what I’m able to do with words as a journalist. But on some days I majorly dread the whole talking-to-people part of journalism. One part of this is that I sort of naturally lean toward people-pleasing. I’m not a suck-up, I just really like it when people like me. Unfortunately, I signed up for people not always liking me when I began journalism school. So it goes.
And so I found myself falling behind on stories at times this semester. It wasn’t laziness, I just…had other things to do. Or so I told myself.
How long does it really take to call the court administrator to ask some follow-up questions about a meeting? What is there to be afraid of when calling a source for an accuracy check?
I’m just so scared of messing up. Not to psychoanalyze myself here, but I put a lot of pressure on myself. My parents know this from living with me through high school (and, let’s be honest, elementary and middle school). My editor knows this. My boyfriend tells me not to be so hard on myself. I knowI’m hard on myself.
And I guess I also learned this semester that I am going to mess up. It’s an occupational hazard if you want to do anything ever. And with each mess up, I learn something. I get a little more courage to go into tomorrow’s interview, to pick up the phone and call someone back right away, to move forward with a story on a risky topic.
I may not yet be the ultra-spunky reporter running toward danger with an ironclad will to get the story. But I’m getting there, hopefully inching closer with each phone call.