“There are a thousand stories on a college campus.”
It’s a phrase I often use in my classes. Usually, the goal is to motivate students to be in a “constant state of journalism.” What I mean by that is that I want my students to always be ready for a story, always looking for ideas and always ready to shoot photos, video, and interview folks if a story presents itself. In my first year here, I had one student who shot a great Veteran’s Day photo and ended up freelancing it to one of the local newspapers — and got paid! Since then I’ve had a number of students who have made the ‘state of mind’ pay off.
It’s a concept that just becomes second nature after awhile. And having such a mindset makes you a better journalist once you are out there and getting paid.
So, I was pretty excited to come across this blog post by Eric Athas, a 2008 graduate of the UMass journalism program who now works as a producer for The Washington Post’s web site. Eric recently found himself in the middle of one of the more horrific stories to hit the Washington suburbs in quite a while.
I’ve stayed in contact with Eric since he graduated and he’s always been a journalist who has an uncanny nose for news. And, when we talk about the most important characteristic needed in today’s new world of journalism, that remains a key asset.
What’s impressive in what Eric did here is that he didn’t wait for instructions or a press release. As the events unfolded before him on a sleepy Saturday morning, he took the initiative (and took out his IPhone to shoot video) got out of his car, investigated, and came back with a story.
And, trust me, that kind of initiative is noticed.