#AdviceForYoungJournalists, the hashtag sparked by Fusion’s Senior Editor Felix Salmon’s piece titled “To all the young journalists asking for advice…,” is full of advice for all those young & aspiring journalists (and PR pros too!) – if you can sort through the heaps of cynicism and sarcasm.
Confession: I was a college journalist. PR is a communication-based career and heavily relies on exceptional writing skills to excel, so it should come as no surprise that PR pros and journalists sometimes work on the other side of it from time to time. When I chose PR in college, I wanted to become the best writer I could be and the best way to do that was to get involved with the campus newspaper. The experience I gained as a college journalist has been invaluable to my career and even though I didn’t choose to pursue journalism as a full-time career, it kind of pains me to see the amount of discouragement offered to aspiring journalists through #AdviceForYoungJournalists.
When I started my sophomore year, I started at the bottom as a copy editor and worked my way up as a writer, a photographer and layout designer. By the time I finished my master’s, I had been a reporter, layout editor, managing editor and editor-in-chief. I’ve worked on both sides of the field and I don’t think there are two careers that could be more directly relatable to each other.
My #AdviceForYoungJournalists (and PR pros too!)
1. Always, Always, Always carry a pencil & paper with you.
You never know when you’ll need to take notes, when something interesting will happen, when a phone interview will happen or when a story will come up. Most people will tell you to always carry a pen. My favorite college professor always told us to carry a pencil, simply because ink freezes.
2. Be Observant
One of the best things I learned from being a reporter is to be aware of everything that’s going on around me. Once people begin to think of you as a fly on the wall, the more information you end up being privy to and the more you know. Keep your eyes and ears open at all times – you never know what will present itself.
3. “Don’t make shit up.”
I’m directly quoting a professor on this. It’s was one of his few rules, along with always double check names and titles, and a few other gems. If you can’t be honest or feel the need to stretch the truth or just lie, find another career. If you don’t believe me, quickly Google Brian Williams. I’ll wait.
4. Listen All the Time
There’s the old adage “You have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Listen twice as much as you speak.” Listening is just as important in journalism as it is in PR. But it goes beyond listening. You have to hear. You have to understand. You have to retain the information and make sense of it.
5. Question Everything
Make sure you’ve got it right. Double check, triple check, find another source. Make sure. The information your presenting, whether you’re a journalist or a PR pro, is public information as soon as it leaves your lips or your pen. Don’t release something unless you’re sure. Sure, there are retractions and corrections and clarifications, but each one of those ruins your credibility and no one reads them anyway.
6. Stand for Something
No matter what career you choose, you have to stand for something. I was always told growing up “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” Whether it’s a cause you support or a belief you hold dear, pick something that matters to you and stand for it. Fight for it. Work to support it. It may not be your bread and butter, but integrating something that matters to you into your career will give you a reason to put your feet to the ground in the morning and it will give you something to work for every day.
Follow the full conversation below, or on Twitter with the hashtag #AdviceForYoungJournalists