Monday, August 9, 2010

Coffee and journalism: friends or foes?

It's no secret that I love coffee.

I used to go to the Daily Grind or the Pit Stop nearly every day, after my two cups of coffee I need to wake up in the morning. Now that the Daily Tar Heel has moved downtown, I'm broadening my horizons to Jack Sprat or Caribou.

And I'm not unusual. Most journalists drink as much or more coffee than I.

So when I read this interesting blog post by journalism.co.uk that asserted that the local coffee shop could become the new newsroom, I was thrilled. I love to work in a coffee shop, have since high school. Coffee shops are somewhat a hobby of mine.

The post made valid points. By being in the city, working in the place of your article, it's easy to make new connections you wouldn't make in a newsroom. You get more plugged into your community. I've actually done some reporting in coffee shops in the past. And they're a great place to look at bulletin boards for story ideas.

But what I don't think it's accounting for is all the benefits of working in a newsroom.

As assistant city editor, part of my job is to oversee and be a resource for my staffers.

If you don't have much reporting experience, it is so, so, so much more useful to work inside a newsroom than to make your calls and write from your local Starbucks.

When learning to write an article, there are so many questions you won't even realize you have. And one of the best strategies you can have is to ask questions.

Working in the same room as your editors is the best thing you can do. Realistically, you're not going to call your editor 6 times in one morning with questions. But if you're in the same room, it's so much easier.

But after you've learned how to write a basic article, there's still so many resources in a newsroom. Probably the most valuable of these is my coworkers.

When I'm lost for sources, I talk to my fellow writers and editors. It doesn't matter if they're on city desk or know the subject at all, they can often see angles you can't because you're so absorbed. This also works for finding new angles. The people that I work with tend to have great news judgement, and between several of you just talking you can perfect the perfect angle.

My point is this: there should be a balance. You should be out in your community as a city journalist, whether it be in the form of a coffee shop, community center, park or anything else. You should be working as hard as you can to be plugged in in your community.

But that doesn't mean making the community your newsroom. At least not for my work in journalism thus far. Take advantage of all the resources at your disposal. And never underestimate your fellow college journalists.

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