Have you ever been so busy putting one foot in front of the other that you forget where you are going? You look up from your labors and wonder, “How’d I get here?”
It is easy to drift, to lose focus. It can happen in any part of your life and it can certainly happen to your work. Deadlines, undermanned newsrooms and the 24-hour news cycle can derail the most dedicated reporter.
So how do you refocus? There are three things I try and remember.
Remember the Joy of Learning New Things
The daily grind of producing content can wear down just about anyone. Reporters can start to focus on the four big questions under deadline stress: Who, What, When and Where.
While that will suffice for many hyperlocal or community news items, it rarely generates any excitement for reporters and if that is all you are doing you run the risk of becoming bored.
Bored reporters are dull writers. Readers pick up on that.
Get the excitement back and get out of the rut by asking the questions How and Why. Indulge your curiosity. The chance to learn new things is one of the greatest benefits of being a reporter.
Try it. Think about the beat you’ve been covering the longest and the stories you write every year and ask How and Why. I’ll bet you come up with a brand new angle on an old story.
Don’t let deadline stress or repetition steal your joy. Learn something new this week.
Remember That You Are A Teacher
I have had reporters who were good writers and I have had reporters who were good teachers.
Given my choice, I would take the teacher every time. Hey, I love writing, but the problem with putting the emphasis on the prose is that you eventually stop amazing yourself with your wit (hopefully!).
If your only goal is to channel Hemingway, you will quickly get bored of writing news stories. As I said earlier, bored reporters are dull writers … and miserable.
As reporters, our job is to inform and serve our community. Our readers have always looked to us to explain complicated issues and, in a social media world, they also need us to be a dependable source of information during emergencies.
Remember to put your job as a teacher first. It will change the way you approach stories and give you a fresh appreciation for your role in the community.
Remember it is About Helping People
When you are mired in a rut, remember this: It’s not about you. Harsh, but true.
I have always thought of reporters as public servants and I believe that is our most important function. Reporters are blessed to have an essential role in the community regardless of whether the platform is print, television or online.
It is easy to lose sight of that fact when your list of beats is too long and your paycheck is too small, but that fact remains that reporters are vital to the health of the community.
Every time you sit down at a keyboard you have the potential to change somebody’s life. That can’t be said about many jobs.
And that is worth remembering.