I thought it was pretty cool when I found out my professor for feature writing was a working journalist. I thought that the perspective that would bring would be incredibly valuable to me as a student journalist.
What I didn’t consider was how great it would be that, as a working journalist, my professor would have lots of connections with other working journalists and be able to invite them into our class to talk with us and allow us to pick their brains.
Having Scott Calvert come into class was, certainly, a valuable experience. I’m fortunate enough that it wasn’t my first time getting to speak with a working journalist (having met other working journalists through previous classes and at a regional SPJ conference) and even more fortunate that it was another learning experience.
I think my biggest takeaway from Scott’s visit is that he’s been in a field for decades and is still able to work so passionately in it. He’s seen a lot of changes and, like most of us, can’t see where the future is headed, but he still seems to find joy in the work that he’s doing, and that’s important.
Especially to me, someone who is considering a career in journalism. It’s nice to know that people who have been doing it for as long as I’ve been alive don’t have it or have some sort of aversion to the work that they’re doing.
Other things that he mentioned that I found interesting:
In the craft of writing, it is important to keep your readers’ attention. You’re probably trying to tell them something really important, you’ve got to be able to tell them without their eyes wandering down the column to celebrity gossip.
You shouldn’t mind the process. Let reporting be reporting, enjoy it.
Write stories that make you happy sometimes. I’m pretty sure Scott said once a week. That’s important, and something that I hadn’t considered. Working in news, it can be easy to get bogged down in stories that are trivial, if not downright depressing. Creating something and adding something to the dialogue that makes you happy is important. Not only for self care, but for helping others out, too.
And it’s only in writing this little reflection that I remembered what really got to me the most from Scott’s visit. He told us to remember the people.
Every story has people driving it and behind it, and people that are affected by it. Yeah, stories about wars and economies are wide-reaching and have international impact, but they’re not impacting countries, they’re affecting the lives of real people.
Scott said that all his strongest memories as a journalist come from people that he’s formed relationships with.
Stories are a part of what makes us human. Stories are important. Good stories will have a focus on people. It’s not always easy for me to remember the people when I’m writing (you can only attend so many community input meetings before you stop seeing individuals as people and start seeing them as Giant Angry Community Members Who Hate University Students), but it’s something that I know I need to work on, especially as I start diving into feature stories.
Yeah, in a traditional inverted pyramid news story, people may not be the first thing in the lede. It’ll probably be bigger and broader than that. But features are stories. And stories need people in them.