Newspaper Reporter

Karen Nguyen

Tell us about your work---what do you do? I am a reporter for a small daily newspaper in Southern California. I develop, research and write a variety of news articles and features. I interview people for stories and attend an array of special events that impact the community. I then turn this information into readable and concise articles for our readers (ideally, anyway). What skills are needed? You have to have excellent writing , researching , and communication skills . You must also deal with the ever-present beast that is the deadline. Editors do not look favorably on reporters who cannot make their deadlines, so you have to be able to work under pressure and time constraints. What was your major? I have my degree in Politics with a minor in Journalism from the University of California at Santa Cruz . Go Banana Slugs! How did you get started in your career? I worked in Washington, DC at an internship for an environmental lobbying firm after I graduated from college. The hours were long and they pay was pathetic, but I learned a lot about the importance of the press and making good contacts. I applied for a job in the Bay Area for a community weekly where I learned the basic tenets of journalism. I was a minor community celebrity, but the pay was still way below the poverty level. I built up a nice group of clips and searched the Internet for a job on a daily and landed the spot at my present employer. What experience do you need in this job? The ability to read, write and research is essential . You also have to work under pressure and take a fair amount of criticism for what you print. I believe the quote is "Opinions are like, um..ah..noses (that's it), everybody has one." I think that you also have to really be interested in the community that you are working in, but at the same time, you have to maintain a strong degree of objectivity . Describe your "typical" workday: As with most other jobs, I probably would not describe any day as "typical," although there are some things that remain fairly constant. I go into work anywhere from 7 am on, but must be there for the daily editorial meeting at 11. The editors and reporters discuss story ideas, any problems, and share a good amount of gossip. I then plan my day around what stories I have to do, this may include: working the phones, doing interviews, researching at the library or at city hall, writing and fact checking an article, attending events, coordinating with the photographers, attending council meetings or other relevant public conferences. Pretty much what ever I have to do to get information on the articles I am writing, I do. What is the hardest aspect of your job? It is a long road ahead before you start to eke out what would be considered a living. The hours are also rather sporadic, it is hard to get away from the pressures of the job because so much is happening all the time. You never see a paper skip an day just because there really wasn't much going on that particular day. What is the most rewarding aspect of your job? I take pride in the fact that I work in a career that is so important to the public that the authors of the Bill of Rights decided to protect us in the First Amendment. The ability to be the voice of a community and having the people actually trust you enough to be that voice is beyond satisfying. I also enjoy being an important part of the community, meeting people and being active in the community. What are your suggestions for someone considering this field? I guess you just have to be interested in community events. Most journalists don't reach the heights of Ted Koppel or break a scoop like Watergate. Journalists are public servants, just like the guys and girls who mow the lawns at the park or your local librarian. You certainly have to have the basic skills, but I really believe that you have to have a commitment to public service. It doesn't hurt to enjoy a bit of juicy gossip as well.