not so basic journalism skills

(Not So) Basic Journalism Skills: Time Management

4:27:00 PM

Time management. It's a skill you'd think anyone working in a deadline-driven career would have. But in the world of journalism, time management isn't as common as you'd imagine, especially for just-out-college journalists.

To be truthful, time management was a skill I developed on my own, not something I learned in a class or even working for the school yearbook. Those skills didn't really get put to the test until I started working at the station as the overnight producer for the morning show.

My training was quick - two days. After that I was on my own. And in this line of work, deadlines are final. There's no such thing as an extension when it comes to an entire show. Missing a deadline is NOT an option. I struggled for the first few weeks, working up until the last possible minute. Sometimes I would even have to run back to the newsroom during a show to correct something I didn't do right.

Over the years I've developed my own system for producing that I try to pass on to all of the producers I train. I do things in a very specific order, every day. I've also picked up tips and tricks for other jobs in the newsroom, specifically reporters.

The biggest advice I can give is to have your story outlined before you leave. That includes knowing what questions you're going to ask before your interview starts. But - and this is a very big but - remember you don't have to stick to only those questions. Sometimes what you envisioned a story to be isn't what it is. Also, have an idea of what shots you need to get video-wise.

During your interview, take notes. This way you already know what sound you want to use when you get back to the office and don't waste 30 minutes logging unnecessary sound. When writing your story, pick your sound bytes first.

My own personal trick to staying on deadline is to set my own deadlines that are earlier than the required deadline. My deadlines are an hour before the required deadline. This gives me time to fine-tune my shows and make any necessary changes or additions.

Probably one of the biggest time consumers I've seen in the past five years is the time spent in front of the mirror. Whether it's putting on makeup or doing hair, I've seen reporters spend anywhere from five minutes to an hour at the mirror. (Note: this excludes touch-ups) So a piece of personal advice I'd like to pass along is this: come to work ready. You never know when something will happen that will require you to be on the air right then.

And in today's world, the internet is a real time waster that can interfere with everyone's day. NewsLab offers a couple of suggestions I would have never thought of to help keep your internet usage on track. Tip #1: add a plugin to your browswer to block certain sites and minimize distractions. Tip #2: learn to file instead of file with the use of apps like DropBox and EverNote.

For some other time management tips for journalists, check out the Reynolds Journalism Institute.

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