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Thanksgiving questions…

Over at Poynter, Jill Geisler posted 10 questions for journalists to ask themselves this thanksgiving. I figured it was worth doing. Granted, the Stater isn’t the same as most newsrooms, but there’s still some answers to this that are applicable.

Getting the Most out of Life: 10 Questions

1.) Who have you helped lately, with nothing in it for you but the joy of seeing others succeed? Yesterday I edited two stories for my photo editor before he turned them in for class. I’ve edited his work before (including the infamous coverletter that simply began: “Greetings from Ohio!” exclamation point and all) and I knew it wasn’t going to be award-winning prose. As a former editor put it, “It’s a good thing you’re great with a camera.” But, when the photog called me and asked me to take a look, I said, “eh, why not?” It only took me 10 minutes to clean up the grammar, raise flags on the facts and point out flaws of logic… I know I could have said I’m busy and ignored him. It would have been true. But instead, I helped him out. And what only took me 10 minutes, probably saved him a few letter grades on his articles, not to mention I’m sure it will help him in the future as he develops even more as a journalist.

2.) What have you cared about so much that you would put it in writing? A sincere thanks? A love note? Praise for a job well done? I actually have a box full of thank you cards for this express purpose. I don’t use them enough. That’s what I should do today. Write out thank you notes for each of my editors. Although I’m vocal enough with my thanks, it’s true that written thanks mean that much more.

3.) What tradition have you carried on — or started? The quoteboard, and all that it entails, existed before I arrived and I’m confident will continue on long after I leave… it will survive even after we make the leap across campus to a new building and newsroom. Why? Because it’s a way to have fun. In a high-stress environment, it’s an invitation to pause for a few seconds and reflect on some of the funniest moments of the day.

4.) Which of your assumptions have you challenged lately? A lot. Mostly this is related to my job search and my career path. I’ve never been one of those people who expected to start at a major metro. I know better than that, and in fact I actually would prefer to sart in a smaller pond with less pressure. I think that’s where you learn the ropes and learn yourself. You get to do more and try more. And I’m totally into the business of trying different things. So recently I’ve finally realized (with no small nudge from my professors) that a) I will find a job and b) getting hired is the hard part, once I have a job it will all be what I make of it. So, the assumption I’ve challenged is that I’m in for msyelf. I figured it didn’t matter what job I took to anyone but me. But I realize now that I’m kind of the test case for my professors. As one of them put it, I’m the most prepared graduate they’ve ever had for today’s world (in terms of having both the experience and news sense as well as the tech skills that are in demand). I can’t take just any newspaper job, and if that’s all I find, he’ll have to reevaluate what and how he’s been teaching. I mean, no pressure though.
5.) How did you help someone have a great day at work? I try to do this everyday. I try to tell people when I really appreciate what they’ve done or when I really like their designs, stories, etc.

6.) Who would say you’ve really listened to them lately? Really listened? I’ve done a lot of talking and a lot of listening lately to my peers. I’m interested in what each of them wants to do with their lives. Earlier this week I went to dinner with one of them and we talked for a long time about what she was interested in and her worries. It was nice to be able to look back with some perspective (hey, this doesn’t happen often when you’re a young journalist) and offer honest seasoned advice on what she can and may want to do in the coming semesters. (I was careful not to say she should do anything, if for no other reason than the only person who can make that call is her.)

7.) What risk have you taken recently? What have you tried that’s new? What have you failed at and learned from? And how have you supported someone for trying? In Monday’s paper we ran a huge O on the front page. O as in OSU. We’re Kent State. As anyone can tell you, I’m not a sports fan. In fact, to say I hate sports is pretty accurate. Oh watching it is OK occasionally, but reading about them? BOR-ING. So, we rarely ever run sports outside of the sports section in our paper. It’s just something we (not necessarily I, as this is how it’s always been done) don’t do. But, I figured, hey the “game of the century” and a photo essay on Kent-area students, businesses, etc. who were prepping and celebrating the event would be interesting. I still think it was a different take, and I still think it was more newsworthy than our other options that day. However, our readers really got upset about it. I receieved more letters of outrage over this move than probably any other story all semester. They weren’t even mad about the story. They were mad about the display. So, was it a risk to run sports on the front? Yes. Was it a risk to run another school’s sport on the front? Oh, yes. Would I do it again? Probably, but the presentation would be entirely different as would the context we gave it. And I suppose that’s the great thing about college journalism (and all journalism I guess) is that I learn something new every day and apply it next time — there’s always a next time.

8.) What connections have you made or renewed? Last week I attended the Spirit of Diversity job fair in Detroit. Although I don’t think I secured employment (mostly they want interns, and mostly I want a job), that wasn’t why I went. I went to network and hear what others in the industry were doing and how it was changing and shifting. I met a lot of really great people, including editors and recruiters. I also met some other young journalists. Although I don’t expect this to help me land a job today, it may help down the line. And if nothing else, the discussions I had with these people helped me better understand what I’m looking for and where to look.

9.) What have you done for fun lately? Isn’t it a shame that I have to ask this? Luckily I’m constantly surrounded by a newsroom full of fun. We get the job done, but we keep a smile while we do it. In fact, in our Thanksgiving editorial we ran a list of things we’re thankful for, one of mine was “Daily Kent Stater colleagues who keep us laughing even when we’re stressed.”

10.) What question did I forget to ask? What kind of question is that? If I think of something I’ll post it.

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