Monday, January 08, 2007
One of my old professors invited me to speak to his class about life as a young professional journalist. I heart speaking to students, simply because I love sharing what I've learned, just as my mentors have done with me.
Yet it always trips me out, just smidgen, when I realize that students are hanging on to my every word. As if I'm Michele Norris or Fredricka Whitfield or someone. I see that I have their undivided attention and almost want to say, "No! Wait! Don't take this as gospel, I'm just starting out!"
I talked to them about what I knew. About how their professor's seemingly pointless assignments would reappear in actual newsrooms. About the very real pressure of deadlines. About how up-to-date technology is nice, but doesn't compare to having veterans teaching you the business. About not being sure about what path you want to take, but taking every opportunity to learn something new regardless.
And as I spoke, my anxiety subsided. Because I saw my old professor, my mentor, in the corner of the room, nodding along with everything I said.
I knew what I was talking about.
We did an exercise, a demonstration of what I do in my day-to-day job. My professor gave them a newspaper article, and I told they'd have to rewrite that into broadcast copy in 10 -- no, you know what, seven minutes.
They freaked, of course. But they started writing, intently. And as I offered feedback on what they wrote, they continued to scibble, this time taking notes down on the tips I gave.
Seeing them jot down what I was saying was still a bit disarming. But by this time, most of the anxiety was gone. I'd realized the reason I was here is because I actually happen to know a thing or two about journalism. About writing. About fact-checking. About getting it right. About making the reader or listener understand.
And I realized I wouldn't have a career in this business if I didn't.
Making the transition from student to professional involves more than just finding that job, acquiring those skills and impressing that boss. It also requires you to have confidence in your competence. To be assured of what you know and to be able to demonstrate that knowledge, whether it's in front of a class or a colleague.
The training wheels are off. It's time to show 'em what you can do. continue...