In the spirit of reflection from my previous post about my semester as a music editor at Vox magazine, here’s another list of end-of-semester lessons I’ve learned from the endeavor. I can say with certainty that this position has been the most challenging and enriching academic experiences I’ve ever had, and I’ve heard through the grapevine of other MU J-grads that it’s only helped them in their future careers. We’re talking kids who are now working at acclaimed titles such as Esquire, Vanity Fair and Rolling Stone, not to mention all the other successful writers, reporters, editors, news anchors, press representatives, creative directors and so on who comprise the Mizzou Mafia. Cue the sentimental nostalgia (read: sigh of relief for making it through with all vital organs intact).
1. Start early. But for real though, making to-do lists and plans of action ahead of time were the main reasons I got through this semester. For the most part, deadlines and assignments all fell on the same weekly schedule, so getting into the swing of a routine made things come together smoother. Even better was starting early on pitches or editing assignments. Some of my best pitches and stories that resulted from them were formed at least two weeks before deadline, which mean I could dedicate more time to playing around with angle, presentation and sourcing.
2. Emphasize communication. This has never been so important to my schoolwork as this semester because of our large staff that all worked so closely together. This not only promotes synergy within the group, but it produces a better product when different components of the publication are on the same page, brainstorming together and making sure everything comes out as planned.
3. It was really amazing working with some of the reporters and seeing them develop a stronger sense of voice, clearer command of reporting and overall grasp at writing for publication. I really valued the time I set aside weekly to meet with reporters in person to go over a story draft. It was especially rewarding to see them come to me with questions about how to improve their work and being able to talk through ideas with them.
4. When pre-reporting with sources, always have a ton of questions and never settle for surface-level information. I still haven’t mastered this, but it’s definitely worth keeping in mind that sometimes the story just isn’t there. And in those cases, you have to let it kill itself so you can move onto another one. That said, I think it’s important to strike that balance of knowing when to move on and knowing when to keep pushing.
5. Despite all the hard work and late nights and empty Pringles cans (I’ve really gotta get this stress-snacking thing in check), I have to step back and realize the kind of invaluable experiences and skills I’m gaining from this course. As we were going through résumé tips and listing all the things that we can now include to show future employers of our chops, it really struck me that (probably) for another couple of years, I won’t have as much say about what kind of reporting or content I get to produce. I’ve been handed a huge responsibility to create something that people will actually pay attention to, and that kind of control of a portion of this publication is kind of amazing. Also, realizing just how much work pitching requires in and of itself I’m sure will pay for itself tenfold in the future.