Going into journalism can be an intimidating path to take, especially if you are taking your first ever intro class. Though it will be challenging, the five tips below will help to put you on the right track and have a successful semester in Intro to Journalism.

1. Come to class, including your breakout session.

In a class where there are about 150 students and the professor does not take attendance, it is extremely tempting to skip class every now and then. This will accumulate, and sooner or later you will find yourself overwhelmed with work and failing to understand the content. This also applies to your breakout session, because even though that class will feel too repetitive to endure sometimes, the professor actually reiterates useful material in greater detail that you may have missed. It is imperative that you show up to class unless you have a legitimate reason, because if you constantly skip, you are really only hurting yourself.

2. Take notes.

This is a given for any class, but Intro to Journalism is especially worthy of note-taking because you do not only learn what it takes to be a journalist, but you also learn the history of journalism, the backgrounds of famous journalists, and how to write using proper grammar, which is expected in the journalism field. You may think you already know how to be a journalist, but after each class, you will slowly realize that it takes much more than just being able to write well. Did you know you were going to have to memorize the first amendment within the first week of classes? Well, news flash, you do.

3. Always get ahead on deadline stories.

With journalism comes research, interviews, and writing, and if you wait too long to start that process, your story can end up a total failure. Do not wait to contact sources, because they will often take days, maybe even weeks, to get back to you, and if they say no -then you better hope you have a backup plan.

4. Make sure you are prepared for interviews.

There is nothing worse than seeming like you have no idea what you’re doing. The best way to avoid this situation entirely is to always be prepared and to frequently practice what you are going to say. Even if you feel completely lost before interviewing a source, doing some background research is sure to get rid of that writer’s block. In fact, doing research will give you inspiration as to what sort of questions you will be asking your sources. It is crucial to do this preparation well in advance.

5. Take AP style seriously.

This is probably the worst part of taking Intro to Journalism, because you basically have to memorize tedious grammar requirements according to this gigantic AP style textbook that you will treat like a bible. You have to know it inside and out. Not only will you be quizzed on the material, but you will also be tested on how well you know it in your stories. What’s even worse? It is probably completely different from the grammar you learned in high school and sometimes it does not even seem logical. But almost every professional journalist follows this style so unfortunately you have to know it too.

Forget the intimidation of Intro to Journalism and instead focus on the tips above so you can be the best journalist in the making. If you radiate confidence and take these tips seriously, then soon you will know what it takes to be a journalist like the back of your hand, and hopefully that’s what you’ll be doing.

Natalia Senanayake

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