This summer, I worked as a full-time reporter for Lancaster Newspapers in Lancaster, Pa. Being a reporter, I soon learned, meant bracing myself for all types of excitement. Between coverage of the Penn State University scandal, the London Olympics and raging summer fires, something was always buzzing in the newsroom.Sometimes, that excitement was just within the newsroom. Take, for example, the evening a bat flew into the office. The creature’s presence pulled all reporters from their work to watch a cleaning woman whack it with a broom.
The soundtrack of my summer was mixed with two noises. One was the click-click of keyboards. A second was the constant drone of a police scanner. I never knew listening to a police scanner could be so informative, depressing and hilarious all at once. Take for example, these police calls I jotted down: “She is breathing and conscious. She tripped over her cat.” Or, “She hit him over the head with a Yankee Candle.”
I learned many lessons throughout my summer. One was the power of pretending to know what I was doing. Even if I carried the tiniest spurt of confidence, people were more responsive to my interview questions. When I called up the producers of Dr. Oz, a star on The Oprah Show, I pretended I wasn’t just a young intern quivering in my press badge.
Most importantly, I learned the importance of listening deeply to whoever I encountered. In journalism, this skill is necessary to sift through what makes fact and what makes opinion. However, beyond the writing part, listening is a powerful tool to validate someone’s story, big or small.
I’ll always remember the little girl at an event that looked at my press badge, looked up at me, then gasped, “Wow, you’re a reporter?”
It was my first week on the job, and in my own inadequacies, I almost blurted out “no.” But her amazement at my role was too hard to deny. “Erm,” I said. “I…well…yes. Yes, I am a reporter.”