Friday, May 24, 2013

TOP STORY >> How to grow up to be a reporter

Leader staff writer

It was a great idea to bring visual aids for my recent presentations during career day at Murrell Taylor Elementary School in Jacksonville.

But giving them to a gaggle of third-graders before I spoke about what I do was not so brilliant. It took at least 10 minutes to put disheveled newspapers back together for the next class.

My competition for future recruits to the journalism field included military folks, a firefighter, a juvenile detention center director and more.

Being a reporter isn’t glamorous to most grown-ups and I was afraid the same would be true for children.

I hope my chosen profession holds a little magic now for the aspiring writers among the kindergartners, second-, third- and fifth-graders I talked to.

One fifth-grade girl asked when I knew I wanted to be a writer. My answer was that I remember thinking about it when I was her age.

Before that I wanted to be a doctor. Then I learned science and math weren’t for me.

The girl nodded when I asked if writing is what she wanted to do when she grew up. That just made my day.

I don’t know how many times the question “Is it fun?” came up.

I said I enjoy being a reporter because I get to talk to people all the time, learn new things and do something different every day.

Some of the most surprising questions were more technical than I was prepared for and another wasn’t specific to my job.

A third-grader asked what would happen if I didn’t do what my boss wanted me to do.

I told her anyone who disobeys their boss could be disciplined in a number of ways, with getting fired being the most severe.

If you think about that, it’s almost as if we adults are still in school and the boss is our teacher.

Another third-grader wanted to know how we put photos and stories in the paper.

I explained that we use a computer program called InDesign and it does just what the name implies. The program allows us to design the photos and stories on a page that we then send to the production staff and pressmen.

Another question was about my education. I earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, where my professors taught me how to write in inverted pyramid style with the most important facts at the top of an article, how to interview people, how to take photos and more.

My Nikon 5100 SLR camera was another nice visual aide but — as a teacher pointed out — I couldn’t pass around such an expensive piece of equipment like I did with the newspapers.

My goal for the day was to simplify what I do for a living and keep the kids interested.

I was shocked to discover that I, a not-so-good public speaker, seemed to have accomplished those goals.

The students asked a lot of questions and were better behaved than I expected.

I hope Murrell Taylor hosts this kind of event for them again and other schools should follow its lead.