May 23 marked my one-year anniversary as a news/sports reporter for The Daily Mining Gazette, and it's been quite a journey. I've met a lot of great people, covered a lot of great stories and learned a lot of great lessons.
Being out of college for just one year, I know I have so much more to learn, but hopefully as I reflect back on four lessons I've learned in my first year as a professional journalist, you can glean something useful for your life, too.
1. Nobody is the same.
It's almost way too basic to bear mentioning, but on a job where I've met hundreds, if not thousands, of new people, it's both increasingly obvious how true this is and amazing how often this is overlooked.
The primary example that comes to my mind is the Gazette's recent readership survey. There is so much valuable feedback we gathered from our readers, but so much of it conflicted. Some of you want more national news coverage, some want less. Some want more sports coverage, some want less. Some want more good-news features, some want more hard-hitting investigative reporting. Some of you want a particular comic, some want a different one.
I honestly think we've found a pretty good balance of meeting everyone's needs. We're always open to feedback and suggestions for ways we can improve, but if you're wondering why some of your feedback seemed to be ignored, maybe it's because somebody else suggested the opposite.
It's never a zero-sum game, but bear with us - we're trying our hardest to balance depth and variety.
2. Some journalist stereotypes are accurate (and some are not!)
No, I don't wear a fedora with a press card (though I've been tempted to try the look just for laughs), and no, I'm not a pompous in-your-face jerk just looking for a provocative headline.
A good story is informative and truthful. That's what I expect of myself and that's what a reader should expect of me.
As for a stereotype that's spot on: Yes, I do I work very weird hours. I'm typically in the office on weekdays from 7 to 11 a.m., but other than that I could have an early afternoon interview, a late afternoon meeting, an early evening sporting event or a post-midnight writing session - and the occasional perfect storm with all of the above.
If you've never witnessed the process of a newspaper coming together, it's truly magical, and I'll never get tired of watching it from the front lines. Between our 7 a.m. editorial staff meeting, 90 minutes of hardcore deadline writing and three hours of pagination, a daily issue comes together from scratch and hits the printer as drivers gather to deliver rural routes or large stacks to awaiting paperboys. Saturday's paper is the same process on a Friday night.
3. Most readers are rational.
I know I'm treading on dangerous ground here, and the vast majority of our readers are wonderful. However, every now and then someone comes along with unrealistic expectations, particularly in light of the deadline environment we work in, as detailed above.
I probably average writing about 7,000 words per week, but if I get one of those words wrong, somebody will let me hear it. As a sports staff, we cover as many local sports as we can, but if we don't have room to report the eighth-place result in one of the 17 events of a track meet, we get a call from a disgruntled parent.
It's such a unique, thankless profession in that regard, and I know it comes with the territory, but next time you see the smallest of errors, keep it in perspective. I love practical feedback, but making a mountain out of a molehill only further interferes with our efforts to bring our readers the best possible coverage.
4. All things are possible with the proper support.
I've seen this community rally in unbelievable ways. I've covered numerous stories documenting somebody persevering through adversity. When we all rally around each other, it's amazing what can happen.
After all, I can make it to work by 7 a.m. and I haven't had a drop of pop in two months.
Those two seemingly minor successes and anything else I've succeeded at in my first year at the Gazette are ultimately due to the grace of God, who has put the right people and circumstances in my life. Any failures I've had - and I've had plenty - have been exclusively my fault.
My co-workers have been wonderfully supportive of me as a newbie, and you as a reader have provided me with some terrific constructive feedback. I encourage more of it and I hope I can serve our wonderful community even better in my second year with the Gazette.
Stephen Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.