As of this week, I have entered a strange place in my life/mental state. That is, I’ve begun to question exactly what I’m doing in journalism.
It all started when I had to present my goals for this semester to my editor Phill Brooks, as a component of my Advanced Reporting class. After discussing my goals with him, I was to e-mail him and my class instructor a memo recapping the discussion.
Initially, my goals were enterprise, in-depth analysis and connecting with the reader — all of which I’d outlined in a previous blog entry. But when I told Phill, he laughed and said my real goal should be figuring why I am still working — and with gusto — in the bureau when, as a photojournalism major, this class is not a required component for acquiring my degree.
The following is the memo I sent to Phill and my instructor last night.
Chris Dunn’s memo for Advanced Reporting — Feb. 2, 2009
I’ve been reporting from the Jefferson City bureau for four weeks so far this semester, and I’m wondering why I’m here and taking Advanced Reporting.
I am a photojournalism student taking a class that requires a high commitment of time and effort. This class is not required for my degree path. The main reasons why, back in October, I considered taking this class are:
- to follow up on the statewide issues that I covered last semester, during the general election season
- to develop my skills as a day-to-day reporter, especially since last semester during Basic Reporting, the majority of my articles were about scheduled events or long-term issues
- to refine my overall skills as a reporter and generally enhance my hireability as a multi-faceted, multi-talented journalist after graduation
Prior to summer 2006 and my freshman year, I had been preparing myself and working to enter the news-editorial sequence at MU; it was only after my experiences in photography at my summer 2006 job and The Maneater student newspaper that I switched to photojournalism. Therefore, I was comfortable reporting in Jefferson City two days a week last semester as part of my Basic Reporting class, which is a required component of my photojournalism degree.
That experience — as well as my reporting on the state budget and economy — compelled me to take Advanced Reporting and return to the statehouse bureau for a second semester. I ended my winter break two weeks early to cover the start of legislative session and Jay Nixon’s gubernatorial inauguration, both of which preceded the first day of classes. My beat is specifically the state budget and revenue, and I’ve since written about two stories a week.
My editor Phill Brooks and I have had many conversations, formal and informal, about why I am here when my degree does not require it. He is convinced that I am going to drop photojournalism and pursue reporting, and has been trying to convince me of this for several months now. Bearing that in mind, we have agreed upon the following goals for this semester:
- Figure out why I am here. I am a photojournalism student reporting in one of the least photogenic beats/bureaus — what am I trying to accomplish long-term?
- Figure out how I can capitalize on my photojournalism background/skills and combine them with my reporting background/skills in one of the least photogenic beats/bureaus. This is something I’d certainly like to follow up on and discuss with my Advanced Techniques in Photojournalism instructor Rita Reed. This goal is also something I’d like to develop on a long-term basis, for beyond graduation.
Both of these goals are mental progress I need to make and that may take a while to conceive, much less achieve. In terms of concrete goals, I simply want to justify my reasons (the bulleted list) for taking this course. But Phill and I have discussed this, and my combining and capitalizing on my reporting and photojournalism skills are something we want to see happening this semester.
So there we have it. My new, actual goals for this semester. I don’t know if I’ll accomplish them. We’ll see. I’ll certainly try.
But as for my first graf — I am not questioning if I’ll stay in journalism, but rather what I’m doing in journalism.
I honestly think I enjoy reporting as much as I enjoy photojournalism. I get the same thrill out of capturing the decisive moment or telling a story through photos as I do when I get the perfect quote or snag an interview out of a tough subject or get seven front-pages out of 10 written in three weeks.
Reporting and photojournalism are by no means mutually exclusive, but I know that while I’m still in school, I need to choose one area in which I should focus my efforts. (Or maybe I don’t need to? We’ll see.) At the very least, it would probably help my internship application efforts if I chose an area of emphasis.
So I’m not quite sure what to do. Hopefully I’ll find out what I truly want to do, and soon.