In the past 12 weeks(?), I’ve lost count, I have learned to think more and more like a journalist in every aspect of my life. This is especially applicable when it comes to my social media and social life in general.
I used to allow my shyness and anxiety to hold me back from a lot of potential opportunities to connect with others and get to know them better. I was able to do that for so long, but it has cost me in ways I’ll explain later.
However, I got away with letting fear direct me for so long because I always had a safety net and someone to help me communicate better than I would by myself. It was as if I always had an interpreter or translator for myself whom I could nod and agree with whenever they’d clarify what I was saying to others.
Now, in a new environment away from those crutches, I’ve had to communicate and connect on my own. Sometimes to the point of near wild out, but there’s no full wild out around here. And it’s been for the better, especially as a journalist.
I have had to come out of my proverbial shell more than I am used to or ever had to. That means talking a lot and being mindful of how I portray myself to those I’m interacting with, no matter the situation.
During this time, I’ve had 4 main points of growth, lessons, I guess:
- Thinking about my actions in a professional sense
“What would a journalist do?” or “Is this something I want potentially important people to see?”
Those are some of the things I consider before making any decision, be it the consideration of oversharing on Twitter or performing a risqué poem in front of rogue phone cameras. Even when it comes to picking an outfit or going out at night to “have fun,” I ask myself if a good journalist would do that.
It’s like my guiding train of thought now. Oddly enough, it has kept me from a lot of regrettable and irreversible decisions. However, it does take patience and practice to keep that thought process.
- Censoring myself on social media, using them as research tools
I’ve always somewhat despised social media platforms because they depress me. A lot. But in the past few months, my hatred for them has calmed down since I see they are a necessity for journalists.
By that, I mean we depend on these sites for news, finding other perspectives on news, finding sources and ideas for new interest stories, and sharing links to our work.
Thus, I have become more active, especially on Twitter and Instagram.
Censoring myself means I can’t post whatever the hell I want, like underwear selfies, highly suggestive poetry, cuss words, etc. It also means being careful and conscious of what I like and share, be it sexual, dark humor, misandristic, or anything else that could deemed inappropriate. But I’m fine with that, I’m pretty tame by nature, anyways. So that makes this a perfect fit for me.
- Observing other journalists and their writing styles
I’ve started following a lot of journalists on Twitter in recent months, such as, David Fahrenthold, April Ryan, Ronan Farrow, Hannah Jones, Obed Manuel, and others. I also still read traditional papers including the Dallas Observer, Fort Worth Weekly, and of course, the NT Daily!
Before I started writing for the NT Daily, I was stressing TF out. I wasn’t sure how to do AP style, so I spent almost 2 weeks reading and analyzing the writing in the articles in print and online. I also paid close attention to the difference in the editorial stories from the other sections.
At first, I was just following the formula. I slowly found my own voice to incorporate into the limited world of feature-writing, where too much of the writer’s voice can sound like heavy slant/bias!
- Challenging myself and anxiety to improve my communication skills
I feel as though each of the previously mentioned points has helped with my social anxiety and communication. Last year, I was the worst excuse for an aspiring journalist.
Why? Because I was too scared to approach people to ask questions for my stories and ended up just getting perspectives from people I already knew. I would always read directly from a list of pre-written questions and rarely asked follow up questions.
Then I came to UNT and wanted to make sure I fulfill my duty to report on new people and new stories. That meant actually approaching new people and not just friends and family. I like a challenge, and approaching new people and asking them for interviews and permissions was certainly that.
After having done 5 stories for NTD so far, I’ve gotten better at enunciating, speaking clearer, asking follow-up questions, and just general communication with strangers.
I feel more confident now, even with the bumps in the road that would typical scare me back into hiding, I can face them head on. That’s how thinking like a journalist has helped me. I’m not a shy turtle anymore!