Ask the newsroom: 8 editors and reporters from The Kansas City Star share tips for young journalists

Photo courtesy of Flickr user James Cridland

By Rose McManus

From being unique in your writing, to finding your first real job, reporters and editors from The Kansas City Star offer up their best pieces of advice for aspiring journalists.

Rhonda Prast, editor, on staying current: Explore new tech and new audiences

Stay open to new roles, new technology and new audiences as journalism continues to accelerate changes in news distribution and newsgathering. Don't underestimate the importance of knowing how to tell stories with video for the next 2-3 years. These are key skillsets for new hires.

Don Bradley, reporter, on writing stories: Hunt down your sources
First thing when assigned a hard news story, determine who you need and what you need. Go get them.
Same for features — only this time write it like you're on the porch telling a story to your mother.
Hunter Woodall, reporter, on being a young journalist: Fear less, try more
There's so much going on in today's media culture that more often than not, your uniqueness as a person, as a reporter, can be the only thing that helps you stand out. I've found the more I feared, the more I talked myself out of trying new things, the more generic and placid I became. Don't be afraid to be unique and to trust yourself.

You don't have to be over-confident, but don't be afraid to have faith in yourself, even if you're young and starting out. We are our biggest advocates.
Rick Montgomery, reporter, on being knowledgeable: Clarity trumps clever
Plowing from one complex topic to the next is like cramming for a test. So long as I vigilantly remind myself (and the real experts on whom I rely) that I'm stupid, or close to it, I actually can gather a great deal of info.
The temptation, of course, is to fake expertise. That's very dangerous.
My advice is to be humble even if you're damned certain you're onto something. And when it comes to writing, I think the most important thing is to be clear.
Clarity trumps clever every single time, I've learned.
Katy Bergen, reporter, on first jobs: Don’t be too picky
When you are choosing a first job, take time to evaluate what you need to be successful without being too unrealistic or overly picky about where you start out. What's important to you? Mentoring? Location? Beat? Make three lists: Must haves, would like, doesn't matter. Then, do some soul searching and use the list to guide you as you search for jobs.

The idea is to pinpoint one or two things that are essential to your happiness and then be flexible to the rest. Your first job isn't likely going to check all your boxes, but it should never be in an environment that isn't going to allow you to thrive.
Chick Howland, editor, on preparing for a first job: Pursue your passion
First of all, pursue what you are most passionate about, whether it's sports, politics, business, entertainment, etc. The future is challenging for all journalists, so you might as well do something you are interested in.

And, chances are, that specialty will help you as you look for a job. But, having said that, also make sure you have a variety of skills. The more you can do — video, photo, podcasts — the better off you will be.

Craig Nienaber, editor, on quitting: Don’t quit in a huff
No matter how angry you are, no matter how badly you've been wronged, don't quit in a huff — the paper will still keep posting and publishing.
Also, great stories are built on great reporting. You can't write mediocre reporting into greatness.

Kathy Lu, editor, on maintaining perspective: Be open to new things
Be curious. Be energetic. Be willing to learn. Be willing to do anything. This could mean covering something at midnight, working weekends or writing unglamorous stories about the weather. Journalism is a labor of love, a service to the people in your community. You teach them, you entertain them, you help them live their lives better. Journalism is hard, exhausting and unrelenting. But when you do it right, it is one of the most rewarding things in life.

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