What Editors Wish Young Journalists Knew, Part II

heidi smith lr 2x3This is the second in a three-part series interviewing editors about their challenges in coaching less experienced reporters. Public relations professionals can learn a thing or two from viewing the news process through an editor's eyes.

PR people are people, too. Even politicians are people. The idea that it's us vs. them adds to the disdain many have for reporters. You (reporters) have a job to do and so does everyone you interview. They have good moods, bad moods, good days, bad days, deadlines, spouses, kids, etc. They aren't put on earth to answer your questions - even the ones that are elected to office.

No great story is written from the office. Get out of the office. Talk to the people on your beat or the community you cover. Nothing can replicate an in-person conversation. That especially goes for Facebook, Twitter, etc. And (a cousin to the last one) find out about the lives of these people. Build a network; not just someone you treat like a robot when you need something.

Stay calm. Not getting return calls, having people sidestep a question, a scheduled photo session that falls apart - any issue that comes up isn't a conspiracy against you. It's a part of life.

Power of the last word. I stole this one from none other than Richard Nixon. He used it in the negative - he hated the press because they have the "power of the last word." But I wish young reporters took that more seriously. What we write matters, no matter what page it's on, or how many clicks it gets. You don't have to take yourself seriously. But take your work seriously.

Balance. The best editor-reporter relationship is one of collaboration. An editor might miss something or make a suggestion you don't like. Keep your passion, and speak up for something you truly believe. But learn the art of compromise and how to work together with an editor on a story. If an editor decides a line or a lead is off, it's to make the story better, not a personal attack.

Purpose. Remember that you write for your readers, your audience. You don't write for yourself, and you don't write to win awards.

Names. Always ask someone how to spell their name. Is that Smith or Smithe? Easy way to avoid a mistake.

Read more of the series: Part I | Part III

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