August 18, 2017

Reporter Field Notes

A week’s worth of journalism, mermaids and stress toys

By Sierra Juarez

I’m a NPR fanatic. I start and end my days to the sounds of NPR reporters’ voices. I listen to their national news, podcasts and follow the work of my local station, KUT, religiously. NPR journalists exhibit the type of reporting I hope to one day achieve. All of this meaning that I was really nervous and excited when I found out that I would be participating in the Next Generation training program.

This crash course of a week has taught me so much from audio skills to how to be a better reporter. The one-on-one time with my mentor Kate McGee, from WAMU in Washington D.C., taught me more than I ever expected in such a short timeframe. She guided me in every step in the process — pitching, researching, creating questions and editing. Working under her skilled eye in addition to the other amazing professional journalists and editors, has made me more confident in my reporting. I’ve learned valuable skills like the more pictures you can take the better, be conversational and have fun with your interviews, and that coffee will help you get through the day if you’ve only had four hours or so of sleep.

I’ve also learned a lot of unexpected tools from this workshop, like how to stand up in a room full of journalists who I look up to and talk (semi) confidently about my story despite my fear of public speaking. On the first day of the program, the editors had the mentees stand up and give an in-depth pitch. I had to talk about my story idea for roughly 10 minutes in front of the group. My voice was probably shaking and my face was likely red, but I got through it, and I think I’ll be better equipped to handle pitch meetings from here on out.

And arguably the most valuable, albeit less technical, thing I’ve learned this week is that even during the busy, stressful and hectic times, journalism is still so much fun, especially when you have an editor like Traci Tong, who buys balloons and bubbles for her reporters. In addition, covering a story about mermaids was in itself fun. I spent a whole day talking to mermaids and checking out tails. (Only in journalism could you say that this was a day on the job.)

The experience also gave me a dose of what my future life will look like in two years when I’m working (fingers crossed) full time as a journalist. I can only hope that, when that time finally arrives, that I’ll get to work alongside people like the student journalists and mentors I met here at Next Generation. This week has only made me stronger in my conviction to pursue journalism, and for that, I’ll always be grateful to my mentors and the Next Generation Radio program.