This week, after what seemed like millions of years of eager waiting, I had the opportunity to start writing stories. I learned a lot in a very short time about journalistic writing.
Our Digital Content Producer, Kevin, is extremely talented in quick, concise, accurate, and compelling writing. This style of journalistic writing- which is very scientific and technical, is something I struggle with. Kevin was patient with me as I tried to turn press releases into stories, and as I turned bland police reports into anecdotes. He gave me useful, specific feedback, and was patient enough to look over my stories, and to keep giving me more. I can tell that journalistic writing is very much a technical skill strengthened over time, and one that relies every bit on accuracy as it does on speed.
When I write for the web, I usually do it when I’m comfortable, and sit back to ponder my topic and play with language or develop my ideas through thoughtful writing. What I watched Kevin do, and what I’m learning to do, is not this kind of reflective, thoughtful writing- it is reporting, here, and now, and right away.
As soon as something newsworthy breaks, Kevin opens up a post and immediately starts writing, and does not stop until he is done. This… concept of writing something immediately and entirely in one sitting is pretty much foreign to me. But it’s a real-world, on-demand skill that is so vital to upholding journalism’s relevance and integrity, and the events of the world don’t demand poetic waxing, nor do they want it from a news outlet- they want reporting, and they need it now if it’s going to matter.
This technical skill of journalistic writing (so different from feature writing, content marketing, creative writing, academic writing, analytical writing, and even social media writing) is a skill I hope to strengthen significantly by the completion of my internship. I would never have had the opportunity to be in a situation that demanded content of such high caliber and at such rapid intervals of real-life urgency if I hadn’t been here for this internship. It is beyond rewarding for me to have the opportunity to respond to pressing real-life events and problems in real time. Thousands of people in Hampton Roads rely on WAVY to tell them first- and it’s thrilling being in the thick of it when that happens- and I understand, now, why it matters so much for journalistic writing to be concise, factual, and immediate in its delivery.
These are really important skills for me to learn, and the life experience of practicing them among the best of the best is something I can already tell will enhance my career skills the rest of my life- and it has already transformed my understanding of journalism overall.