Five lessons I learned from the L.A. Daily News

13 08 2009

I had the privilege to intern for the Los Angeles Daily News this summer. Here are five lessons I learned over the course of my time there:

1. Trust your instincts. There were a few occasions where I thought a story idea I thought of wouldn’t work. I would dismiss the idea without even consulting with my editor first. Needless to say, I would find the stories I thought up of written only several days later by either another reporter or newspaper in the region. Trust your gut and and believe in your abilities.

2. So what if I’m “just an intern”?! Whether it was covering Michael Jackson or shooting video on some breaking news, there would most definitely be those reporters. You know, the ones working for CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC The L.A. Times or some other big news organization. They have their $10,000+ equipment, media van, slick suits, big hair and egos to match. A lot of the times I found myself on the field with them. I would cover the same stories they were on, only without their kind of resources. It can be very intimidating to say the least.

But I couldn’t let that kind of stuff hinder me from getting what I needed. If anything, I got more motivated to do better.

3. Don’t forget to mike check. As a multimedia reporter, not only do you have to adhere to the journalistic ethics and principles of a print reporter, but you also have to know your equipment. It can be tough juggling a reporter’s notebook and pen on one hand, and camera and mike on the other (plus hauling around two or three bags on your shoulders). The last thing you want to do when you’re on the field is to miss good footage, stills or audio because you’re trying to figure out what buttons do what function.

I learned this the hard way when I shot video for the whole Michael Jackson hoopla. I found a mom and son who flew all the way from Finland to the Jackson family home. She was on the verge of tears and I asked her if she would mind if I asked her a few questions on video. It was by far the best interview from the fans I talked to that day but sadly realized I couldn’t use one bit of it. Why? I didn’t have the audio correctly set up from the mike piece to the camera resulting in four minutes of a silent interview.

4. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. It can be intimidating to talk to detectives, public officials or random people on the streets. But all it really takes is practice. Don’t be afraid to ask to repeat what the person said two, three, even four times. If the person assumes you know what he or she is talking about and you in actuality don’t, simply ask for clarification.

For example this is what you SHOULDN’T do:

Me: (making a round of cop calls) “Hi, my name is Yong Kim and I am a reporter from the Los Angeles Daily News. I’m calling to see if there has been anything significant since last night.”

Watch Commander: “Oh nothing really, just the usual 10-71 and possible 187.”

Me: “Oh okay thank you.” (end call)

In that scenario, what I should have done was ask what those police codes meant instead of pretending that I knew. If I did, I would have found out that a 10-71 means a shooting and 187 is homocide.

5. The power is in my hands. One story I wrote (and I am most proud of) reiterated the message of how much power and influence a journalist has. What reporters cover and how they cover it has the ability to shape policy and public sentiment.  A well-intentioned journalist can very easily end up writing a biased or slanted view on a particular issue or topic without even realizing it. Writing the story on adult protective services and seniors in L.A. County helped me understand more the importance of ethical responsibility as a journalist.

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2 responses

22 07 2010
Lessons learned from my internship at Yahoo! « Digital Journalist

[…] As I did with my previous internship, I wrote the most important things I learned from my experience! Below are three from working at Yahoo!7: […]

13 08 2009
Bo

LOL, “187.” When you grow up around “thugs,” you learn what all of those codes mean. We usually used “187” as a means of hating someone to the point of wanting to kill them.

You grew up a lot, though. I’m proud of you. I remember just a couple of years ago, you were so shy and socially awkward haha. I remember you had a hard time being openly communicating with people. But look at you now! Great job. Keep pushing the envelope, but never lose your dignity or pride in the process- OR where you come from. 🙂

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