"To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible;
to be credible we must be truthful." - Edward R Murrow

Experiencing the Future of Journalism -- Nikky Raney

Journalism is a team sport, but I never wanted my experience to put me in a different league.

I was one of the students at Dover High School who helped create The Tide. In 2006, Dover High School had no student newspaper, and by 2008 they had the largest student-run newspaper in New England.

We sold ads. We had strict editorial guidelines. We had graphic design. We did everything, really. We worked hard to get where we were and our advisor/publisher Dan Singer was an amazing educator.

The things he taught us helped so much.
And the three things that I think all journalists should follow were the three maxims that we had.

1)Always tell the truth.
2) It's not personal, it's about the paper.
3) Journalism is a team sport.

I was first News Editor and then Managing Editor. I get highly offended when anyone calls it a "high school newspaper," because it was far from that. We were not STUDENTS we were staffers. We were more than a class, but we were a staff. We were such a legitimate paper. We had real stories, real ads (we sold ads to places like KMART), graphic design, web-page, real money, real events and everything was just real. We had a strict manual and guidebook that we followed, but the most important thing was that we were the journalists. We were in charge, and we made it happen. We had reporters, section editors, editor in chief, business manager, ads manager, production manger, graphics manager, public relations director, community relations, etc. We had everything.

I took a year off between high school and college, and I missed journalism way too much. I needed my degree, I needed to write, I needed to edit, and I needed it immediately.

And I think that I left high school with too much experience.
Not too much experience, but the experience I had was more than others my age had. Going to college I was told by my advisor that I would be perfect to be the editor of the campus paper. He said that I had more experience with print than even the advisor to the campus paper. I interviewed the advisor to the paper, and she hired me to be the editor. I was used to the work I did at The Tide, that I thought it would be normal to assume the staffer vs. student personality. I assumed since we were so tough on every comma, every lead, everything in the articles we wrote for The Tide, that the campus paper would have even higher standards than that of the "high school paper."

I was spoken to for acting like a manager to the students. I was confused, because it was normal for me to tell other "staffers" to meet deadlines. I am very much into the "it's not personal, it's about the paper." I treated even my best friend differently when it came to writing.

I guess I was being too bossy. I wanted the writers to get multiple interviews, interviews with people that aren't their friends, use secondary research, follow AP style, fact check, copy edit, get photos, and meet deadlines. I thought that since I was the editor, I would be able to expect those things from the "reporters." But I was told that I could not expect that from the writers, because not all of them are journalism students. If you are writing for an article for a paper then you are to assume the role of a reporter.

I was not trying to be cocky. I was not trying to say that I was better than anyone else, but I was definitely trying to use the knowledge that I had gained from my past journalism experiences (writing for Foster's Daily Democrat, PR Internship at Dover Adult Learning Center, and being Managing Editor of The Tide) in order to create a great campus paper.

Journalism is a team sport, and I felt like I was going solo. It made me feel like maybe I had too much experience when it came to print journalism. My concentration is print and web journalism, and I thought that my knowledge and prior experience would help. Unfortunately, it came off as snobby when we did peer editing in class and the person who edited my paper had marked something as an error, when it was actually not an error; it had to do with AP style and commas. When I corrected him and said that he was mistaken, I was told by the teacher that we need to "all accept our mistakes." I had not made a mistake.

I got an article I wrote published in the Bangor Weekly, and I received some negative feedback from the advisor for the campus paper. She was not happy that I had something published in another publication before it was published in the campus paper.

I was just surprised that I had my things published for free. After being a paid freelance columnist for Foster's Daily Democrat and being a paid Public Relations intern at Dover Adult Learning Center, I was used to getting paid anytime my stuff was published in an outside publication. Hell, even Foster's Daily Democrat paid one of our reporters when taking an article from The Tide and publishing it into their daily paper.

My experience is a double-edged sword. It is great for showing others what I have accomplished, but it also makes me seem like I am a cocky journalist. I'm really not. I just have really strong plans for the future of journalism.

I keep being talked to about "my first job" and "when you finally get your first job as a journalist." I have already gotten my first job as a journalist. I walked in there as a journalist and was offered to be a paid freelance columnist. I was expecting to be given a story assignment and a 24-hour deadline, or I was expected to be looked at as a 17-year-old high school student. But I was judged through my EXPERIENCE. My experience was able to speak to itself, and it was able to fight off any preconceived opinions regarding my age.

Yes, I did give back criticism when "students" writing for the campus paper didn't attribute to their sources. I was told that I am not allowed to speak to students that way. I was allowed to speak that way in high school, but I can't speak that way in college? I thought that our maturity had gone up.

I always talked and was close to my personal advisor, and he was there for me to talk to about the issues. The campus paper had a new policy the second semester saying the report could not publish anything for an outside publication until it was published in the campus paper.

I would think that attending a college where a student is training to be a journalist, if an outside publication wants to publish the student's article it should be embraced. An outside publication wanting to publish the article written by a student at the college campus is a dream for college students and should make the professors feel proud. I don't think it is right to withhold a great article for a campus paper if there is an outside publication that wants to publish it.

When showing your portfolio of published clips to someone you may want to write for will it be better to show the clip from the article being published in the campus paper, or would it be better to show the clip was published in both the campus paper AND another publication?

It was never personal to me, it was about the paper.
I helped create The Tide, and I wanted to help make the campus paper even better.
I never thought that the experience I had prior would end up as a negative.

My advisor never saw it as a negative, but he wasn't the one who was running the campus paper.

I mean, I can see where it would seem like I was cocky. I would find it normal if the student editor e-mailed me asking for an article that was 723 words long and if my article was 800 words long I would expect her to be "upset" with me. Word count is important. We had some crazy (in a good way) Production Managers on The Tide. And you do not want to mess with senior girls to begin with, but to mess with a production manager who happens to also be a senior in high school is even worse. Word counts are exact.

I think that colleges need to be "strict" or "harsh" when it comes to articles. It is NOT okay to call something a "hard news" story when there are facts attributed anywhere. It is NOT okay for copy-editing to be over looked. It is especially NOT okay for fact-checking to go undone.

When I say fact-checking I mean checking every single sentence within the article. Calling up every source cited and asking if the quote is correct. Checking to make sure every single sentence that claims something as fact is attributed to a source. It also includes making sure the titles are correct and CITING CREDIBLE SOURCES. I will do a blog entry on credible sources later on.

When I say COPY-EDITING. I say get out the AP Style Guide if you haven't already and get to work. Checking every single sentence for commas. Making sure that the lead is strong. Making sure that it is an ARTICLE not an essay. Making sure to get NUMBERS correct.

I have taken Interpersonal Communications, and I believe that it is a big deal.
Journalism is a TEAM sport. We need to support each other and understand that IT'S NOT PERSONAL, IT IS ABOUT THE PAPER. Just because you worked for three weeks on an article and you are my best friend in the world doesn't mean that I won't take your article, mark it all over with red ink for edits, and then give it back to you and ask you to change it. I will probably then ask for your contact log so that I can call up your sources and check the secondary sources that are cited throughout the article. I will probably even make you go out and get another interview if I see that you interviewed your roommate, who plays basketball, about an article involving a ballet recital.

TEAM SPORT. I know there are things I can do to better myself, but it's hard to just sit back and let mistakes happen when I know they could be prevented. The excuse for "they aren't journalism students" does not make it okay. Most of the staffers for The Tide were not interested in pursuing journalism after high school, but they worked hard.

Also, we fired people on staff. No, we really did. It wasn't personal. Missing deadlines, not attending meetings, etc. could result in being fired. And since the class is worth credits re-applying to be on staff would be a smart idea. Yes, there were people who got fired.

I was told straight to my eyes from my advisor Mr. Singer, "You need to tell (name) that you are his manager and he needs to listen to you."
I was very clear that I needed to be a manager when it came to talking to my friend on staff about journalism.

Now, if I had said, "You are my manager and you need to listen to me" when I was editor for the campus paper my first semester at college as a freshman I probably would have gotten in trouble. Especially if I said that to an upperclassman.

The future of journalism is relying on colleges to teach students how to be journalists. I can't accept sugar-coating and letting a few errors go when they COULD be fixed. The future of journalism is shifting and changing.

The media already is getting enough of a beat on from one another. Every media outlet wants to out-do the other. Journalism is a team sport. We need to work TOGETHER, because we are all trying to achieve the same goal. Journalists want to inform and educate the general public on things that matter. No matter what field of journalism or what type of journalism -- credibility is something that cannot be taken for granted.

My next worry for the fall is blogging. I know Katy England is proud of me for my blogs, hell, Katy England is the whole reason I am a blogger. If it wasn't for her I never would have created this blog for her web reporting class, and I never would have ended up blogging for a blog that is on TMZ's blogroll, Zennie62.com.

I am not trying to say I am better than anyone else. I just want everyone to work together to make the future of journalism bright. I may be young (I'm 20 on June 7th), and I may have a lot of quirky qualities, but when it comes to journalism I take that so serious. Journalism truly is my life. I want journalists to be trusted. I want articles to be trusted. I want anyone who reads an article online to be able to believe that article and not to be focusing on a word that the journalist spelled wrong in the article.

I don't want an article to be read and for the journalist's credibility to be questioned. Keeping the facts attributed to sources helps with maintaining credibility, as long as there are credible sources cited. Maybe I am "old school" for wanting to maintain objectivity in journalism. I accept that bias exists within journalism, but I want to be able to read an article involving an investigative journalist's piece and not know which side of the issue the journalist is on.

I get angry at posts I see online and in papers. I go on to my friends about "that fact is not attributed to a source," "he just referred to the person by his last name, but now midway through the article he is calling him by his first name," "this story is so inconsistent with titles of people," "she doesn't even attribute that to a source," or "that is such sensationalism!" My friends look at me and blink. It's not a big deal to them because they don't understand. Those things irk me more than anything. I may have some sort of journalism-OCD.

Maybe I care too much?

I just want the Future of Journalism to be all the things I have hoped for since I was 13. I never thought that my experience would be something that would HOLD ME BACK. I guess I need to learn patience, get my degree, and let my experience speak for itself.

I had let my experience speak for itself prior, but my experience wasn't enough for some people to disregard my age.

There's a reason I stick to print and web. I did modeling before, and I sort of have that bubbly girly voice. I am pretty excitable and I talk and type faster than most people can think. I think that I can be taken most seriously via print/web. And I think that I am a lot more respectable when I am in journalism persona (blogging is different, and in blogging I fear I may be letting loose a bit too much).

My upcoming blog entries are going to deal with:

Credibility - AP Style - Interviews - Ethics - Fact Checking- Sensationalism.

You may notice that this blog entry has no links in it. Why aren't there any hyperlinks linking to other articles or other web pages that can back up the credibility behind what I said? Because for once, I am deciding not to justify myself with links and sources. For once, I am going to just spew it out and hope that I can be trusted without the sources. This will be the only blog entry I am doing this for, and I am trying to make/prove a point. If you understand the point I am trying to make let me know at nikkyraney@nikkyraney.com.

If you can honestly, after reading this, think, "Wow, she is so cocky and full of herself. She thinks she is better than everyone else. She thinks she can just boss everyone around," then I guess you will just have to continue to read my blog entries & articles. All I want is to improve and bring positivity to the future of journalism. I am 19-years-old and has already accomplished all the things that I listed above, I think that I am entitled to feel a LITTLE special.

Disclaimer: I am in no way, shape, or form attempting to defame my campus, or any of the faculty/staff members. I did not name any names, other than Katy England. I did not link to anything involving the school and/or faculty. I did not even link to the pages so that I could keep the peace. I did not use the information to rant and rag, but to educate and emphasize the points that I was making within the blog entry.

"Information's pretty thin stuff unless mixed with experience. " -- Clarence Day

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