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As part of an assignment for class this week I did a job shadow at The Meadville Tribune. The assignment was to pick a journalist, contact him and then follow him round for six to eight hours to get a sense of what a day in the life of a journalist is really like.
I shadowed Konstantine Fekos, for about five or six hours and although no breaking news stories came through in that time, I still found it extremely interesting and beneficial. In the morning, Fekos attended a Veterans Day event and because I could not miss my morning class I was unfortunately unable to go. I was able, however, to meet him back at the Tribune and witness his creative process as he wrote the subsequent front-page story for the event.
I actually found this extremely fascinating, and I was lucky enough that Fekos worked to make this experience as interactive as possible for me. What I mean by this was he talked me through the event, how he had approached it, his completely full notepad that he brought back with him, and the angle he was going to take before he finally started working on the lead. The whole time he wrote, he made the effort to talk through all his thoughts and processes aloud so that I wasn’t just sitting there staring at a man typing.
This is what I found most interesting. Watching him rework sentences and listening to the thought processes behind every word, the logic of the story, where he put quotes in, why he chose those quotes, listening to him try to make the story flow effortlessly while maximizing the impact of every word. I know I have my own creative process, and often this actually entails reading my work aloud to myself, but I found it so interesting to watch how somebody else does it. How a professional journalist does it.
It opened my eyes to the creative process of journalism. I know that we learn about word efficiency and trying to say what we need to as precisely and objectively as possible but I now see journalistic writing through a new lens after this experience.
I have a new appreciation for the art of journalism, which I never really thought about before. I’m sure most people who have taken a high school English class will remember reading a poem and sitting there dumbfounded as their teacher stands in front of the class and explains the five different meanings and consequences of the authors word choices and word order. Now I love English, but even I remember rolling my eyes as my poor teachers tried to make me appreciate the consideration and effort behind one word or sentence that an author had said.
I understand more now. I appreciate English and now I have an appreciation for journalism: the crafting and care that goes into word selection and word order and how some words can change the entire objectivity of a story. For example, do you call someone a victim or a survivor? The word you choose can change the entire perception of this person. It is fascinating (well for me at least) to think about how much influence just one word can have. How much care journalists have to put into their work as they try to tell a story and write a great article but at the same time have an obligation to report the truth and remain objective.
Overall I enjoyed my job shadow experience. Something about just being in the newsroom with crazy stacks of paper scattered all over desks in an organized chaos makes me think to myself – yes, this is an environment I could see myself working in. Which is exciting in itself. As an undecided major with no real plans for life after school, seeing an environment where I could actually see myself doing this is very exciting indeed.