[I will be using this space over the next four months to blog for, and about, the News Reporting and Writing undergraduate course. I am teaching the course at the Department of Mass Communication of the National University of Sciences & Technology (NUST) for the Spring 2015 semester.]
And so it begins.
We have embarked upon an adventure. You and I are part of an ambitious experiment to establish a proper student news organisation at the Department of Mass Communication at NUST. The work we will do over the next few months will be exciting, stressful, and with no guarantees of short-term success.
But remember, the reporting skills and the writing experience you pick up during this semester will help you throughout the rest of your Mass Communication degree programme, and hopefully set you on the path for a long and fulfilling career in journalism.
We will be learning news reporting and writing by following a hands-on training approach known as “The Missouri Method,” and our course is modeled after a course taught by Professor Katherine Reed at the Missouri School of Journalism, which is where I learned the ropes of journalism. I have tailored the course according to our needs, keeping in mind that for most of the students, it is the first attempt at practical journalism.
Some of you have already started work on your first news stories today. Others will begin work soon. We have a short time to cover a lot of ground. The next few months will be hectic, to say the least.
Be warned that the reporting and writing you will do will be different from the regular assignments and essays you write for your other courses.
The keys to success, then, will be your attitude and the amount of time you are willing to spend on practicing journalism.
Volunteering for reporting assignments is one way to immerse yourself in the process. Reading the news is essential. Another way is to spend as much time as possible in the “newsroom” (once we have the lab computers up and running, which will be sometime this week, hopefully) because there you will be able to learn from the work habits of your colleagues, share tips and suggestions with each other, and glean information that can lead to new story ideas. If you hesitate or remain shy, you will not be able to make the most of this course.
Newsrooms are magical places, fuelled by caffeine and the thrill of breaking news and the stress of delivering a quality news product on deadline. We won’t get to witness all of this immediately, but we intend to build towards such an environment slowly and steadily.
There will be frustrating moments at work. There will be times when you will mess up an assignment and will have to start over, and there will be challenges along the way. But if you are brave and confident and if you keep at it, you will do just fine.
Godspeed, student reporters!