Today, I finished my third article for the newspaper I joined this semester. Now that I have (kind of) gotten the hang of this whole journalism thing, I’ve noticed a few things that are both concerning and ironically, not very surprising.
In each article I write, I have to talk to Boston residents about our story’s topic, and ask them for their opinions or beliefs regarding the article. If we are covering a campus story, we do the same thing but for students. This has probably been the most stressful and frustrating element of the entire article writing process. The first few times I had to do it, I really didn’t understand why I was struggling so much. I like to think I am a very approachable person (then again, who doesn’t!?) and I try my absolute hardest to be professional and likable to the people I approach, however constantly, people are hesitant to talk to me for a few minutes about my story, they have no knowledge on the topic of my story or they simply “don’t have an opinion” on whatever information I provide for them. I should note that I always offer to give people background information on my story, just incase they have zero previous knowledge.
For example, this week I covered a story on the Massachusetts Commissioner of Higher Education’s announced resignation at the end of this academic year. Fair enough, I had no idea this had happened when I was assigned the story, let alone any knowledge on the importance of this position at all. As a journalist, I was a bit embarrassed by this (knowing everything going on around me is a perk of writing for a newspaper), but proceeded to do my research, contact my sources and after a couple hours I felt like an expert on this story.
I guess it wasn’t much of a shock when the majority of people (residents and students) I interviewed also had no idea who this person was, or that this event even happened. But what I realize now, is that many of them didn’t want to find out either. As a journalist, I am a very curious person. I like to know what is going on around me and what is going on around the world in general. Because of this, I am often taken aback when others don’t care, or show little to no curiosity in the world around them. I found myself walking away from each person disappointed from the lack of interest they had to be a part of my story and asked myself, why don’t people care?
The answer is, there is no answer. It’s not that people don’t care, it’s that they don’t have to go looking around for information anymore. When they go home and turn on their TV, or check their smartphones, every little piece of information is right there in front of them. They don’t need an amateur, student journalist like myself to inform them on current events. With the evolution of social media, there is little space for curiosity anymore. This is taking a toll on traditional Journalism. Not that it is a new phenomenon we haven’t noticed already; for years now, print newspapers have been fading out and much of what we read is either on our phones or computers. In the point of view of an aspiring journalist, however, I’ve noticed that very few professional journalists, even, have to venture out to make their story great, as most of what they need is right at their fingertips.
I’ve never noticed this until today, until my frustration with others’ lack of curiosity led me to this thought. We have all become so comfortable behind our phones and computer screens, that any sort of new, face-to-face communication throws us off. I’m completely guilty of this myself. If working for the newspaper didn’t force me to go out and talk to complete strangers, there is no question that I would never do this on my own. Contacting people through Facebook, Email and Twitter seems like the easier option, right? For this, however, I am very thankful. Having the confidence to overcome this new phenomenon of cyber communication is a skill that is greatly neglected or even acknowledged to be of any importance. I didn’t realize it at all until now. It still makes me nervous, and it will be a while until I am fully comfortable approaching strangers with questions, but now that I understand myself why this process is so challenging and the significance of it, I think it’s going to get a lot easier. As an aspiring journalist, specifically, I want to be part of the small majority who still appreciate the hands-on value of traditional journalism.
Do this hopeful journalist a favor, please. Try to care a little more.