The personal challenges journalism students face

Potential reporters, instead of ignoring their opinions, must evaluate their individuality and how it will define their role as storytellers in society

Today, news is even more accessible because the way it is consumed has changed. Yet on very rare occasions do people take the time to discuss and wonder about the challenges potential reporters have in today's evolving news industry.

These journalists "in the making" are taught to maintain their neutrality when gathering and sharing news. Their role in society is to inform and allow citizens to be aware. Creating this skill is hard for many young reporters as they are still exploring and growing as people within society.

"When you go to in to this profession and you go through these classes you have to be confident, and some people are still not at that point yet," Aitana Mallari, a second-year journalism student, said this was her biggest challenge.

As young learners, yet potential leaders in society, both digital and broadcast journalism students are constantly creating relationships between each other — the essence of networking.

This field of work requires constant social engagement, something not everybody enjoys or feels comfortable doing — "It's all about who you know."

Upon the first official assignment, I'm pretty sure most of these students share the same initiative reactions: "I have to set up an interview?" "I have to record my voice?" "I have to appear on camera?"

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It's difficult to do something a person does not feel comfortable with. Stepping out of a comfort zone — making the decision to set aside introverted behaviors to go out and seek the news — can affect the reporter's accuracy and credibility. The constant instability of exploring an identity through individuality can be very overwhelming. 

Robert Anglen, beginning and intermediate news writing and reporting professor at the ASU Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, said a common struggle students have is conducting "in person" interviews.

“They don’t like getting out of their comfort zone," Anglen said, many of his starting journalism students, tend to incline on email interviews. "They prefer talking to people that they know. There's no easy way to get out of it (comfort zone), you just have to go out there and do it. When you talk to somebody, a world of possibility opens."

As part of his class, he has different exercises where students must go out and conduct "man on the street" interviews in order to give the students the experience and to define their style in the news-gathering process. 

Although many young reporters share this experience, they do not wish to share because they are expected to be confident, outspoken individuals seeking the truth. Society creates a stigma toward introverts — an introvert is never thought as being the ideal investigative reporter, just as becoming newscast anchor or a breaking news journalist. 

Mallari, one of Anglen's students, believes this personal struggle is not talked about often in class because everybody is trying to create a persona of a bigger voice.

“It's difficult because people don’t really know how to push themselves because these are college students who don’t really know who they are," Mallari said. 

In other cases, an obstacle for students can be culture differences such as language. Xin Lin, Chinese international student, is often intimidated by the confidence many of her fellow journalism peers resemble. 

"I think American students are always confident in talking to people and sometimes I am not. I’m shy,” Lin said.

She doesn't realize that she is not alone. Although many Cronkite students who appear to feel comfortable and have "everything figured out" a lot of them really don't, just as any other college student.

As journalists "in the making," we have to evaluate or individuality and persona and how it will define our work. We have to decide if we will stay in our area of comfort because our personality will not allow us to branch out, or if we will overcome this problem and bring something unique to the table. 

For example, take Walter Cronkite himself. His unique broadcast reporting greatly influenced journalism. His life and career are still remembered years after his retirement and death in 2009. 

A more modern example is Spanish anchor Jorge Ramos. Featured in The Times 100 Most Influential People, Ramos has been known for his beat reporting as well as his voice for Latino in the U.S. He openly expressed his opinion and views on certain issues such as this year's presidential election and the GOP candidate, Donald Trump, by constantly saying "Neutrality is not an option."

Therefore, young journalists, rather than ignoring their opinion and their sense of individuality, must explore and expand their skills now more than ever and decide what reporter they want to be. In order to do so, they need to explore their character, including their bias and their area of comfort.

As future editors, assignment desk producers and positions that significantly manage the news flow in society — we need to know. We need to know what defines our values and ethic, not only as reporters, but also as citizens; we need to know if we will challenge ourselves or if we will look for an alternative to tell a story through our persona.

We must decide if our personal experiences will influence how we tell a story or if we are going to challenge our character in order to become more efficient.


Reach the columnist at cmsanti1@asu.edu or follow @santiagoc_17 on Twitter.

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Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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