I’ve never thought the work a reporter does is all that interesting, especially to other reporters. It can be pretty mundane. But apparently daily reporting is fascinating.
Recently I was one of the reporters featured in a Newsweek article about Patch (I also wrote a post about it recently). For the article, the Newsweek reporter followed me around for part of my day, which included a trip to the Millburn Fire Department and Town Hall.
The Star-Ledger is now writing their own article about “hyperlocal journalism” (a term I hate), and I had yet another reporter following me around for a portion of my day. That day featured a trip to the chamber of commerce, the historical society and the fire department. The story is slated to run in the Star-Ledger (and on NJ.com) on Oct. 25.
I’m not going to deny I like the attention, but it’s a little odd to have someone shadowing you, asking people about you and the work you do. Is beat journalism that much of a lost art that it’s news when someone does it? And does it well? And why do reporters need to follow me around to know what we do every day. Haven’t you done this yourself?
More over, imagine someone following you around for a day, watching you do your job and then asking the people you interact with about how you perform your job while you’re sitting or standing there. It’s a little unnerving, especially when you don’t know the reporter and how they will represent you.
The other issue is I’m forced to move backwards than forward on stories I’ve covered. I’m asked about our hazing coverage, which is something that happened weeks ago. I’ve been asked about other big stories I’ve covered, which is hard to remember sometimes.
When I was in graduate school at Quinnipiac, I remember a conversation I had with Rich Hanley, who oversees the journalism graduate program there. He said most daily reporters (and that’s what online journalists like myself really are) report and write a story and then are looking for the next story.
A story I wrote and published two days ago (or even hours ago) is out of my mind because I’ve moved onto the next thing. How is that story moving forward? What’s the next phase? What else are people talking about? And because of the latter, I know when it’s time to move on from a story. That’s part of what community journalism is. So it’s hard to go back to a story when everyone, including myself, has moved on from it.
The experience has really shown me the other side of reporting. I know how my sources feel like when I’m asking them questions. I know what they’re thinking when they see the final product. And I’m now familiar with the feeling that happens between interview and the article’s publication. I had a conversation with the Millburn township administrator about it, who was quoted in the Newsweek article. I commented how there were some exaggerations in the Newsweek article (I don’t go to every car crash although I know about most if not all of them, and the fire chief didn’t show up at all of them). “Ohhhhh,” he smirked. “Now you know how we all feel.”
But, overall, it’s been a whirlwind, wonderful experience. People are popping up all over to congratulate me. I’ve received fan mail. It’s been an overly positive experience so far. Let’s hope I’m part of a trend to focus more on community news that continues to grow.