In my two and a half years here at The Watchdog, I’ve come to learn the benefits of working at a school newspaper for any student. The skills I’ve learned here and I’ve seen my fellow reporters, editors and photographers learn are invaluable and applicable to one’s personal and professional life.
More than anything, it’s the people skills that get honed the most. From interviewing sources to talking to attendees at an event, reporters learn to come out of their shells and become more outgoing and engaging. Going up to someone and striking up a conversation can be really difficult for some people, being a reporter gives students the opportunity to do exactly that and learn self-confidence.
When it comes to interviews, students generally prepare and practice being the interviewee. Learning to interview a source is tremendous practice for any profession someone might go in. Every step of the process not only teaches professional interpersonal skills but gives students a feel for what it is like on the other side of the table. Preparing for a job interview or academic interview is far easier knowing what it’s like to be an interviewer and helps mitigate nervousness or anxiety.
Working at a school newspaper gives students far more access to the workings of the college. While most students just show up for classes and go home, not knowing much about events or administration or student government, newspaper staff become highly involved with goings-on around campus.
From a more practical standpoint, many BC students plan to transfer to a four-year institution and being involved on campus looks fantastic on a transfer application. Since many articles cover various aspects of campus, reporters can get a sort of inside track to information. I’ve learned more about the transfer process through interviewing staff and faculty than I was able to seeking it out on my own.
While working at a school paper may not be the same as working at the Seattle Times, many of the same opportunities for adventure are out there for reporters. I’ve been lucky enough to see and do things that most people don’t get the opportunity for. Most notable for me was a tour of the Puget Sound branch of the Washington State Archives. While most visitors to the archives never leave a small room where records are brought, I was able to see the massive storage facilities where all the records are stored.
For another article I was writing, I got a tour of the Bellevue Police Department, rode along with an officer during her day and interviewed the deputy chief. I wouldn’t have had the opportunity for these experiences in any other way and similar adventures are within the reach of any reporter at the paper.
As a pretty opinionated guy, I love being able to write out what I think about things on a weekly basis. There’s not really a practical difference between writing an op ed and writing a long Facebook post but somehow they are two completely different things. I don’t even know why, but there’s just something about having articles printed up on paper that makes things far more meaningful.
Aside from the opinion pieces and reviews of restaurants or movies or TV shows, reporters learn to think and write from an unbiased, neutral standpoint. Interviewing two sides of an issue as an independent observer really drives home the realization that there are completely different ways to think about the same thing and neither side is necessarily wrong. Being able to let go of preconceived notions and look at things dispassionately is a skill that no one should be without.
These skills and opportunities are available for all students, not just those interested in pursuing a career in journalism. I urge any student – especially those who aren’t sure what they want to study – to consider joining their school paper and see what it’s all about.
Coincidentally, The Watchdog is looking for students to fill its ranks. Those interested should email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit C206 to talk to staff in the newsroom.