August 18, 2017

Reporter Field Notes

Ventriloquist dummies teach aspiring journalist a surprising lesson

By Maria Mendez

Trying to take journalism very seriously as a news reporter, I began forgetting the importance of fun, simple stories.

Next Generation Radio reminded me of the value of feature stories and why I decided to pursue journalism.

Even when allowed to profile someone with an interesting vocation for the project, my news instincts led me to search for “the perfect,” timely news feature. After multiple failed ideas, I began feeling like a dummy. So, when luck presented me with a ventriloquist, I was reminded by real dummies that a good story doesn’t always need a news angle.

During the weeklong project, I learned how to produce an engaging multimedia story within 48 hours because sometimes life throws many curveballs at you. Luckily, I had the help of experienced radio journalists and supportive colleagues.

When deadlines and field work became serious business, Jennifer Stayton, my kind and insightful mentor, helped me remember to take the time to communicate my work as a journalist and not be afraid to ask for what I need to do my job.

After a couple of late nights, many silent panic moments and much coffee, I can say that this has definitely been a learning experience. But I’m glad that I applied, put myself through it and, best of all, survived.

I may not be the daring journalist I’ve always wanted to be yet, but I am now sure that this is the most interesting profession, at least for me, and I want to continue telling stories. I hope to come across more interesting characters to write about because producing engaging feature stories is also a public service.

In a nutshell, I learned that journalism is serious work, but you can’t take yourself too seriously.