Journalism class and professional reporting: How are they alike?

Isaac Sierra

Speedily typing on the computer, Justin Anair attempts to wrap up his final article about pumpkin flavored foods, which is due at the end of the hour. Four miles away, Holland Sentinel reporter Amy Biolchini is rapidly gathering research for an article about a book called The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien due at the end of the day. Journalism class exhibits many similarities to the actual career of journalism. Similarly, professional reporters and student journalists write articles to inform and impact their readers. Journalism is a unique career, and journalism class has many similarities to the actual job.

   Journalistic Writing is structured in a specific way. Students in Journalism are placed in two groups initially: reporters and editors. Reporters have to write two articles in a certain time (usually two weeks) and publish them to thewestottawan.com. Editors only have to write one article, but they also have to work with a small group of reporters in order to ensure that they are writing quality material. The biggest struggle for most reporters in journalism class is coming up with article ideas. Once a student finds a good topic, it is considerably easier for students to compose their articles. Journalism in high school is not easy as it requires maximum responsibility from the students.

 Journalism as a career is also structured in a very definite way. There are also reporters and editors in the career of Journalism. However, their expectations and deadlines differ considerably from the expectations in the high school journalism classroom.

 Reporters for the Holland Sentinel have many similarities to the reporters in Journalism. One similarity that student reporters and reporters for the Holland Sentinel share is finding article ideas. “I typically come up with all my story ideas. Sometimes stories are inspired from press releases that are sent to me about an event–but my main job responsibility is to come up with at least a story a day to report, write and file to my editor,” Holland Sentinel reporter Amy Biolchini said. On the other hand, reporters in Journalism are given about two weeks to come up with ideas and write two articles; reporters for the Holland Sentinel have to write at least one article a day. “I need to tell my editor by 3:30 p.m. each day what story I’ll have for the next day’s paper, and have that story filed (if it’s a daily) to my editor by 5 p.m.” Biolchini said.

  The necessity for daily articles can be extremely stressful for reporters as it requires them to find new article topics at an extremely high rate. However, the biggest struggle for reporters like Biolchini is not coming up with ideas. “Writing a story that exposes an issue, and offers potential solutions, to further a community discussion, is my biggest challenge. It takes time, effort, and dedication from both myself and my editors to allocate resources to that kind of a story,” Biolchini said. Although her biggest dilemma may not be a significant problem for journalism students, it is a problem for reporters like herself. Biolchini is on a time crunch, and it can be difficult conducting all the research in order to solidify articles that expose issues. Being a reporter for the Holland Sentinel has many similarities to journalism class, and the few differences set the gap between professional and amateur reporting.

 Editors for the Holland Sentinel also have many similarities to the editors in Journalism. They have to be responsible writing their own articles while having to work with their reporters. “Being an editor is a very unique job, in that you are responsible for many things. Management of the reporters and content-gathering process is the primary responsibility, but in order to do that, you have to have a high attention to detail and be able to multitask effectively,” Holland Sentinel Chief Editor Sarah Leach said. Editors for the Holland Sentinel perform similarly to the editors in journalism class as they meet with their reporters every day and help them with their articles. Editors for the Holland Sentinel also assist reporters that have difficulty with the interviewing process just like the editors in Journalism. Both Journalism students and professional journalists have to be ready for incoming stories and unexpected events. “We plan as best we can for events and issues we know are happening beforehand, but we need to be flexible when breaking news happens and be able to modify our plan on the fly to accommodate the new story,” Leach said. In journalism class, the deadlines are far more lenient and editors are not required to be prepared for breaking news. The biggest problem for editors in the journalism class is communication with the reporters and providing ideas to assist them in writing their articles. Editors for the Holland Sentinel and journalism class share many similarities, and only a few differences set them apart.

 The Holland Sentinel and the journalism class exhibit many similarities as they share a common goal: to inform and entertain the public. However they also have distinct differences that set them apart such as deadlines and content of articles. Journalism is a unique career and it provides many incredible experiences for both student journalists and Holland Sentinel journalists. “All in all, I love this business because it is never boring,” Leach said.