Relevance of relationships

My last several blog posts have broached more serious topics, ranging from reporting on Kirk Nesset to the importance of student journalism. I wanted to take the time in this post to talk about the importance of relationships on a beat and why I find this beat so fulfilling.

When the year started Larry Hailsham, president of student government, came to me requesting a beat reporter for ASG. Little did he know I was already planning on doing it. One of the things I’ve learned this year is having an ongoing relationship with people on your beat is important. While I’ve had an ongoing friendly relationship with Larry my entire career at Allegheny, I made sure to take the time to introduce myself and get lunch with the vice president, Autumn Vogel, to make sure that I knew someone in ASG with a different perspective and have since met and spoke with many different cabinet members and senators.

Starting those relationships for any beat reporter is very important. But there is a very fine line between a friendly relationship and a professional one. As a reporter you spend so many hours reporting and learning about the beat and the people on the beat that it is easy to feel sympathetic and let your sources control the story. And if they have a problem with a story you write, your relationship could be tarnished because they did not like a story.

That is why it is important to outline at the beginning of any reporter-source relationship the clear guidelines the reporter has and why it’s important that he or she maintain that level of professionalism. While it’s never been an issue I’ve had to confront on this beat, I think it’s important to highlight how integral that line is. But that is not to say forming relationships is a bad thing. In fact, it’s the opposite. Beat reporters rely on their sources for stories and inside information that a fresh faced reporter on the job might not get because that relationship does not exist yet.

Working on this beat has truly been a wonderful experience. I’ve been to more ASG meetings this semester than I have my previous three years here and it has been rewarding knowing what’s going on on campus and getting to know the courageous students who try, and sometimes do, make a difference.