Adjusting to a new beat is always a challenge, a common thing for journalists. As the times change, beats change. And I consider myself to be good at adjusting to changes. But this new beat has thrown me for a loop! This learning curve has to be the toughest one yet. Going from covering two cities to nine areas in the Jackson metro area is nothing light. It’s like plugging myself in to a large power strip with every outlet being a city/area that I’m connecting to. Then, establishing more connections to people, media and businesses is another daunting task. But, through social media, that seems to be going well.
The learning curve also involves my style of writing. Sometimes people tell me that I write the way I speak. I can never tell. There are things my editor Grace brings to my attention that I need to work on:
1. Make the news briefs conversational. The briefs are a mix of hard news, interesting people or things, and events people can attend every week. But, briefs need to lure readers in and make them pay attention. Then my main story at the top of the page is the hard news story on a topic that makes a big impact on a community. It’s like a column, but no first person point of view. Briefs can’t be so loaded with information that the news gets lost in legalize/jargon. So, I need to write with the style of speaking to a person on the street.
2. Improve news judgment. I look at so many meeting agendas, press releases, stories and talk to several sources every week to glean some news that can be used for briefs. When I come across something, I have to ask myself if I were a resident or business owner, how would this such-and-such action/news impact my life/pockets/bottom line? I have to stay away from hyper local things that are reserved for the non dailies in Hinds, Madison and Rankin Counties. Not too many people would care about someone being promoted at a business, but people would care about a longtime high school principal retiring and the person to take their place. New ordinances. Tax hikes. Major projects. My news judgment has to involve the bigger picture and what’s interesting to talk about. This is a work in progress for me, but people get the deal when they see the page.
Those are a couple examples early in the transition period, and I’m sure more lessons will be learned. Most of all, I want to provide you with content that’s interesting and meaningful to your community and make you aware of things happening elsewhere. I hope the Suburban Digest page accomplishes these things and gain a strong readership base here.