Tips & Tricks

Tips for Student Journalists

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For three years of my high school career, I was involved in the student paper. I was a copy editor during my sophomore and junior year and then became Editor in Chief my senior year. I loved working on the paper and being elected into those positions helped me develop a passion for journalism.

When I got to college I knew the only logical thing to do was to continue writing. That meant joining the staff of The Johns Hopkins News-Letter my third week of freshman year. Suddenly I was exposed to a completely new type of journalistic writing— much more serious, much more intentional, with several more rules. It was an important transition, because I gained valuable tools for moving forward in this field.

After all those weeks of reporting, I was elected to be one of the News & Features section editors for the upcoming year. That meant long nights in our Gatehouse assembling the section, meetings with writers, working together to cover our own articles, and learning how to be a team whilst covering this past spring’s Baltimore riots. It was insane. It was a blast. I can’t wait to do it again this upcoming semester.

Throughout these experiences, I’ve learned a lot about becoming an effective reporter and writing solid articles. Here are my top reporting tips for aspiring high school/college/professional journalists!

1. Be direct. When approaching a source for an interview, make sure you always state your name, your publication and your reason for approaching that particular person. They will automatically trust you more and might be more willing to share information. Never attempt to come off as sneaky or as having an ulterior motive.

2. Choose your sources carefully. When you’re beginning to piece together the skeleton of your article, think about any possible angles you can take. Choose sources that represent all sides of the issue. Try not to mainly use your friends for quotes (which is hard for a student journalist sometimes)!!!

3. Remain objective. Unless you’re writing an opinion piece, it’s extremely important to remain objective and present all sides of the issue. It’s super important for journalists to be unbiased and fair. It may sound weird — both taking an angle and being objective — but handling these two things simultaneously makes for great pieces!

4. Edit!!! Before sending to your editor, your piece should already be fact-checked, spell-checked, everything-checked. It will save your editor time and help you become a more efficient writer. Fact-checking is especially important. Sometimes even editors slip up, and if mistakes make it into print, it can mean serious trouble for your news team. Make sure you’ve got everything right before sending that draft in.

5. Be open. Sometimes an article seems all wrong from the start—your angle needs to be reworked, sources aren’t cooperating or you just can’t seem to get the story straight. Whatever the issue, being open and flexible about all aspects of your article will prevent you from getting too frustrated. Taking a step back from the piece allows you to look at it from a different perspective and make the necessary changes. Never be too attached to a certain part of your piece—after all, 80% of writing is revision!

Photo credit: 1, 2

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