Journalism students at UF whisper “reporting” and “Foley” in fear. It is supposed to be the hardest class in the curriculum, but the same is said of many classes.
I made the mistake of overloading myself the semester I took reporting. I never believe people when they say a class is hard. My classes have always been as easy as the teacher was engaging. With 15 credits and a part-time job, between Mike Foley and Ted Spiker, the class wasn’t hard, just time consuming.
I remember the first article I got back. 0 points. I started cracking up. And then buckling down.
Reporting was about paying attention. Pay attention to what goes on around, what could turn into a story, what isn’t a story, what’s new and different and interesting. What do you focus on at an event, covering a speech, writing an obituary? I learned to dress nicer when I had to interview someone at school, to wheedle information out of secretaries and receptionists, and that no one at City Hall would call me back no matter how many messages I left.
Pay attention to your writing. It took me longer to proof-read an article than it did to report and write it. I got very paranoid, used different colored pens to circle punctuation, verbs, nouns… And it paid off.
I remember a few students deciding that they didn’t want to be journalists as a result of that class. The writing was too rigid, we could only write hard news, they were stuck in the world of Peter Parker and Hunter Thompson.
The purpose of reporting was to drill all of the rules deep into your mind, so that when you get into the real world, you know how to break them.