02/24, MEJO 153
Sarah Brown, University of North Carolina alumni and currently a reporter for the Chronicle of Higher Education, gives advice about how to stay sane while working in the media industry.
Brown began by describing what her current job entails. The Chronicle of Higher Education, based in Washington, D.C., writes for a highly educated audience of university administrators, so the writing is more elevated. Instead of localizing national stories as most publications do, they nationalize local stories.
“We cover a lot of the same cases as other newspapers,” she said in a webinar. “But we cover it in more detail because our audience is so niche.”
She also emphasizes that her job has changed dramatically due to the pandemic. . Brown has started to host webinars and work more with social media, instead of the usual “interview people, write articles.”
Brown recounted how she turned down a job opportunity at USA Today! to follow her dreams of writing about education for The Chronicle of Higher Ed. This decision is what kick started her career and allowed her to accomplish her life goals.
“For me it was a gut feeling that I needed to follow my dream,” she said. “This is what I want to do in my career.”
In a webinar with current students of her alma mater, Brown shared some advice on how to successfully pursue a career in journalism. She began with “five things to know about real world journalism”.
Firstly, one must recognize how much the pandemic has changed journalism. She says the main consequence is that now, social media is most people’s main news source.
“There’s so much information out there online,” she said. “You need to be really careful about trusting these sources.”
Brown believes journalism comes down to talking to people, ledes and nutgrafs. It is crucial to do your own reporting, because people want originality; they want to know what others are saying in their community.
“Getting comfortable talking to people is what will enable you to write those bigger stories,” she said. “You have to develop your sources, have people who are going to give you information.”
Brown then warned the students about imposter syndrome, and how easy it can be to lose yourself in an overcrowded news environment.
“You’re going to feel like you don’t know what you’re doing,” she said. “And that’s completely fine.”
She says journalism can become stressful. People often share their trauma with her, which can easily cause second-hand trauma. On the other hand, she stresses that in these situations, she cannot make mistakes and frame their stories incorrectly.
“No job is worth your mental health,” she said. “I’m still trying to draw lines between work and my personal life; it’s really hard.”
Brown emphasizes the importance of telling one’s audience the truth, while still telling one’s story.
“Personal identity informs the story,” she said. “Your identity informs how you tell the story.”