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NewsWatch station manager offers 10 tips for early career journalists

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Abbie McIntosh at the Ole Miss Student Media Center. Photo by Denver J. Haggard.

Denver Haggard
Oxford Stories

Media and technology change daily. Keeping up requires attention and dedication.

Texas native Abbie McIntosh has been part of media in some form more than seven years. The University of Mississippi broadcast journalism major is the station manager for NewsWatch Ole Miss.

McIntosh’s love for all things media began in high school when she joined her high school paper as a freshman. Her passion quickly grew as she became more involved in journalism.

As a sophomore, she was active in the school newspaper and was soon promoted to the sports section. This was a big deal because she was the first female sports reporter in the history of the school. McIntosh worked as a reporter, photographer, writer and editor for the yearbook, and she anchored two shows.

Transitioning from high school to college was surprisingly easy. The drive from Cypress, Texas was a little far, but McIntosh said her love for journalism was worth driving the distance. She immediately became involved on campus.

“Ole Miss and NewsWatch have been the best decisions that I have ever made in my whole life,” she said.

With the desire to be in front of the camera and on the scene, Newswatch Ole Miss offered a reservoir of education and experience.  However, in a profession that changes every minute, McIntosh makes it her number one priority to be open-minded and adapt to what is going on in today’s society.

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Abbie McIntosh at control board of Newswatch Ole Miss.  Photo by Denver J. Haggard

“If you want to survive in this field, you have to adapt,” she said. “If you don’t feel like doing it, you are going to hit the dust. It is a dog-eat-dog industry, and you can never have too many skills on your resume.”

McIntosh offers 10 career tips for young journalists.

  1. Get over the fear of talking to strangers. Stories are not going to always be about people you know or are acquainted with. In a professional setting, if do not know anyone personally, you will have to approach and interview someone you do not know.  “Remember, everyone is human just like you and can say no. If a subject says no, move on and find someone else.”
  2. The key to a good journalism career is persistence. “You have to be persistent.”
  3. Emails are one of the worst ways of communicating with someone you are trying to interview. The most effective way is to call someone. If you can’t reach someone after three calls, move on and find another source to interview.
  4. The interview process is delicate. There is only so much time to get information. Therefore, the questions asked have to be precise and open for additional comment.
  5. Never ask short answer questions. “It does not get you anywhere in a story,” she said. “Questions such as these give no emotion or room to elaborate. Also, never ask yes or no questions … unless the interviewer is asking direct questions concerning information, etc.”
  6. Always ask your subject to elaborate about their answers. This allows viewers, readers and listeners to have more emotion and insight from a story. If you cannot connect with the audience emotionally in any form, whether it’s being joyful or remorseful, there will be no sense of attachment from subject to audience.
  7. Too much information is always better than not enough. During interviews, be sure to capture more information than needed to work with when putting a story together.
  8. Always have your story and idea mapped out before going into an interview or starting to write. This will save ample time and take away stress. Never go in blindly to an interview. Research.
  9. Good photographs make a great story even better. There are four types of photos – informational, graphic, intimate and emotional. You always want to capture something that shows emotion. “You sometimes have to take hundreds of photos until you can get the perfect one, so always take more that enough.”
  10. During interviews, record conversations, and have a physical piece of paper to write things down very quickly. Recording will allow you to review what was said and select exact quotes.
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Abbie McIntosh behind the scenes of Newswatch Ole Miss.  Photo by Denver J. Haggard.

Karsyn King, a NewsWatch Ole Miss anchor and journalism student, defined a journalist.

“A strong journalist (is) someone who is willing to go above and beyond to gather accurate and up-to-date information to keep people informed, aware and in touch with what is happening with the rest of the world,” King said.

The world of journalism is rapid and very competitive. Staying up to date and aware is key to obtaining the most important traits of a professional journalist.

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