Thursday, December 15, 2016

10 Things Every Student Journalist Needs

A good journalist carries more than a pen and note pad or a laptop. Here are a few things that I rely on to do my job and complete school work before my deadline.

A good organizer or planner

I would be so lost of I didn’t have a place to keep track of all of my appointments and deadlines. It’s also a great place to keep to-do lists and reminder post-its. I love my slingshot organizer that I picked up at BlueStockings bookstore in New York City. It’s full of useful doodles and art but also contains information such as measurement conversions and a place to keep contacts. It’s a cheaper, cooler version of a PDA for ADD kids like me. You can order it online from

Andrea A. Lunsford’s Easy Writer (third edition)

This was a required book for my English 1010 and 1020 courses but I am quite thankful for that. It’s a great source for MLA style and it’s well organized and easy to find. I get so stuck on AP style that I forget MLA rules and I end up using this book for every paper I write for class.

AP style book

This is the Bible of journalism. Do you know the difference between continual and continuous? I didn’t until I looked it up the other day while I was writing an article. If you ever take any news writing courses this is required but you should get it even if it is not listed as required for class because this is the official style book that tells you how to not look like an idiot when you get your first article published. Every time you open the AP style guide, you’ll find a new piece of information that will be useful to you as a journalist now and in your future career. You can get one on or amazon used for a dollar or so. Make sure to get the most recently updated version because it changes every few years.

Spare Notebook/Idea Log

Weather you prefer a legal pad or a fancy journal, you need an extra space to jot down ideas when inspiration hits unexpectedly. I have so many of these things laying around at this point; I find the nearest one when I get a good idea for a story or a poem. If you’re really creative and absent minded like me, you’ll be glad for the extra place to doodle.

A Dictionary

Grammar rules and AP style are very important to the technical aspect of news writing and journalism. You should focus on correct grammar and keeping your work consistent, however you don’t want to bore your readers with reusing the same words repeatedly throughout your articles. Invest in a dictionary or a thesaurus to help find synonyms for words that people use too often. My biggest complaint when copy editing is the fact that some authors, despite fabulous grammar and well-constructed plot, lack any interesting language. Don’t use mad, sad, happy, good, bad, etc. They’re fine words and of course don’t edit them out of quotations from your stories, but try to use more colorful language, especially if it is an opinion-editorial article. Be aware that sometimes using the colorful language will editorialize a news article, which should show no bias from the writer. A dictionary is still a good idea.

I also think word-a-day calendars are an easy way to expand your vocabulary. It’s nerdy, but it works.

A Hand-held Recorder

When you’re doing an interview and the person you’re quoting is a fast talker, it comes in handy to have a record of the interview other than your written notes. As you do more interviews, you will develop your own short-hand abbreviations and it is still important to take good notes in case there’s a time you don’t have a recording device on hand.

Also, no one you interview can say they were misquoted in your work if you have a recording.

An inexpensive digital camera

This isn’t important if your staff has a photographer, but it still might be handy. You never know when something newsworthy will happen. Photographs make the story sometimes!

A blog

I have three blogs. But you only need one. Store all of your published articles in one place and give the address to people who may be interested in hiring you or post it to social networking sites. Make sure to choose a title that is professional. You don’t want hotchick37 as your online identification.

I also have a blog for personal thoughts and rants. I have learned from experience not to share this blog with everyone because if you’re like me, you have opinions that may make some people uncomfortable. I just like having an online space to write any obscene thing that comes to mind which is great around exams when I’m very stressed. I have another silly blog for haiku but that’s just because I love poetry and I need a break from the rules of correct grammar sometimes.

A red pen

I am a freelance copy editor and the red pen is my best friend. I also have a red pencil, but pens just show up better. If you’re a writer, people in your English class will mostly likely ask you for help. The red pen is important for corrections in papers and class work.

An Updated Resume

It doesn’t seem that important while you’re still in school, but believe me it is good to have just in case. I was fortunate enough to land a position on the student newspaper at my college this year as Freshman and I have second job as a peer mentor next year that will help pay my rent. The reason I got these jobs was because I made contacts early and made a good impression and I had a resume handy.

If you have a lot of experience, great. If you don’t have much experience yet, it’s okay. You can add things from high school like yearbook staff or newspaper staff. Your possible employers realize that you are young and don’t have professional experience. Making a resume and presenting good references shows you are professional and prepared.

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