I don’t really know how I got here, but I’m glad I’ve stumbled to where I am. I guess I can blame falling asleep in my economics class one too many times before realizing I should switch majors.
In trying to write this, I wrote out a huge list of names of people I wanted to thank and talk about my experiences with. I think it might be better if I kept that private and instead sent messages to them individually. I’d instead rather spend this time lending the next generation of reporters a bit of advice.
Before I get to that, I’m going to need some coffee to de-fog my flu-ridden brain. Like a true journalist, I put writing this off until an hour and a half before deadline. Give me a moment.
Well, I spilled it all over one of my newest hats – we’re off to a hot start here folks, strap in.
- Don’t forget to tend to life outside The Daily Campus
When I think about it, working at The Daily Campus – and being a journalist in college as a whole really – is like living a double life of sorts.
By day, you’re a normal college student. You go to class, walk around campus, listen to music to drown out the creeping loneliness that claws at you from the depths of your empty stomach, go eat and then hang out with friends when you can.
Then when six o’clock hits, you saunter on over to those fabled steps everyone talks about in these columns, and your next six hours disappear in a fit of Zona runs, InDesign crashes, borderline not-okay quotes and occasional glances from Grace’s horrifying Dua Lipa poster. It’s a blend of pure chaos, but somehow feels just right. I’ve had many of my college nights swept up in the tornado storm that we, and the generations before us, call a Daily Campus production shift.
That’s okay in moderation, but don’t forget to do other things sometimes.
I will admit, the path I took at the DC was an extreme one, and also not one I would recommend. I tried to do anything and everything I could. I sometimes got lost in that and it took an immense amount of understanding from my loved ones to be able to do what I did. I paid the cost of not being there sometimes. It’s okay to make time for things outside of work; you’ll honestly be better for it. Getting out of the office will only help you when you’re in the office.
Slow down, take breaks and maybe don’t drink as much coffee as I did in college. The memory cells in my brain are like the saiga antelope – in that they’re an endangered species.
- Be yourself, no matter what
Being a freshman can be scary. You’re used to being a whatever size fish in a whatever size pond you were in high school. Then you come here, and you’re a small, small fish in a pond with 20,000 other fish AND at least two ponds of varying beauty.
It’s easy to feel like you need to play a part to fit in, don’t do that. The people who choose to get to know you are the ones who are worth it. Who cares about everybody else?
I was a loudmouth as a freshman. I’m sure everybody in those sports meetings just wanted me to shut up, looking back sometimes I wish I did – I’ll never forget my top-trending story, Barresi. I would say I’m not anymore, but we all know that’s not true. It’s something I’m still working on.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that if you take a chance on showing people the real you, they may take one on you too.
- Talk about more than just the game
This is for my sports folk, and news too if you think about it. Everyone with a pulse and an internet connection can find out the box score of a game. It’s up to you to make them care about the people and the storylines surrounding the sport. The games only mean so much; sports is about much more than the score line.
Mine your sources, reach out to people, try to secure individual interviews and ask thoughtful questions. Go into interviews prepared and always wrap up and interview asking this question: “Is there anything else we didn’t talk about that you think is important to highlight?”
Often, this question gave me the piece of information that made my stories, and I’m not the only one. No matter how much research you do, you can’t read your interviewee’s mind. This question will help you get to parts of the story you didn’t think about, so ask it!
Also, I know interviews can be nerve-wrecking but the more comfortable you seem to the interviewee, the more comfortable they will be. Fake it ‘til ya make it, as they say.
- You’re a reporter at UConn, so cover UConn
This has always been the thing about covering a college that sticks out to me. The Daily Campus is UConn’s student newspaper, so it’s your job to cover UConn. That doesn’t mean you can’t cover national stories, because they always have local ties, but your focus should always be on what your readership is most looking for – UConn news.
Covering UConn while at UConn also gives you an advantage. There are a select number of outlets outside of The Daily Campus that cover UConn, but there are countless outlets that cover the NBA, for example. Use your access and your proximity to your advantage and cover the hell out of this school while you still can.
Grind your way through the beats, show up at every soccer and lacrosse game you can – because your competition for that information is low in comparison to national stories. Future jobs are looking for you to be a reporter, not a hot take-Meister. Put in the work and you will see the results.
- Get on Twitter and stay on Twitter
The old adage is that Twitter is LinkedIn for journalists. It’s 100% right. Get on Twitter and network as best you can. This job is very public facing and it’s a great tool to use to reach an audience.
I think that’s enough advice for one day; I hope it was somewhat helpful. Before I go, I’d like to say a few words about the people that I’ve come across at this school and at The Daily Campus.
As my dad always says, people are in your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. I spent less than four years at The Daily Campus, but I think all of the people I met along this journey have given me memories that I will hold for a lifetime. Whether you were just in my life for a moment or a couple years, I am glad I got to meet you and I am always happy to share some more moments together. For the people who are going to be with me for a lifetime, sucks to be you because I wouldn’t want to deal with me for that long, but now you’re stuck with me.
My time at The Daily Campus was not perfect, there were certainly bumps along the way, but it gave me memories I will take with me forever. It’s hard to say goodbye, but it’s time. Whether I was in your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime, I hope I made some sort of impact on you, because you certainly did on me.