Ten Tips for Wannabe Journalists by Hilde Lysiak
Hello! My name is Hilde Kate Lysiak. I am the publisher of the Orange Street News. I began my newspaper when I was seven years old and I have written hundreds of stories. I’ve covered everything from a murder, to a mystery beast that was scaring residents, to corruption at my local fire station. Now I’m also an author. My Scholastic Branches early chapter book series Hilde Cracks the Case comes out in September. Here, I’m sharing my top ten tips for children who want to be journalists.
Ten tips for wannabe journalist:
1. Don’t Wait For A Story To Come To You
Go looking for story ideas. Once a week, I walk up and down the main street in Selinsgrove and talk to local business owners. They deal with the people in town every day and they are full of great news tips.
2. Ask the Extra Question
Sometimes it feels like an interview isn’t going anywhere. Don’t get discouraged! It’s important to keep the conversation going. Sometimes it just takes people a little while to get warmed up. If you aren’t sure whether you should ask another question, just ask it and see where the answer leads!
3. Carry a Pencil
Even a brand-new pen can stop working at the absolute worst moment. (Especially in the winter when it is really cold! Pens with ink sometimes won’t work then.) Digital recorders and cell phones can also go bad. That is why I always have a pencil with me. I learned this lesson the hard way.
4. Keep Moving
Remember, most people won’t want to talk. That is okay! You are going to be turned down ten times for every one person who agrees to speak with you. Just keep moving on to the next person who can help move your story forward. I promise, it will be worth it!
5. Shut up and Listen
The most important part of an interview isn’t the questions you ask. It’s what you hear. I’ve seen reporters interrupt the person they are interviewing in order to ask another question. Follow-ups are key, but the goal of every interview is to get to the truth. How can a reporter be listening for the facts while she is talking?
6. Remember the 6 Key Questions
It is easy to get distracted or lose where you are going on a story. But remember, reporting is a search for answers. I write five words on the back of my notepad to remind me of this: who?, what?, where?, why?, when?, how? (Sometimes I even write these on my arm or leg!)
7. Be Considerate
I take pride in being persistent to get to the truth, but I also take pride in being polite. As a reporter, it is my job to deliver information – both good and bad. Sometimes I have to deal with sensitive issues. I always try to be kind and understanding, even when the people I’m interviewing aren’t.
8. Have fun!
Journalism is all about solving puzzles. Who doesn’t love puzzles? Now I admit, I don’t love every minute of my job. Sometimes I have to knock on people’s door and ask awkward questions. But when I wake up in the morning I’m always excited to check my emails or read a fresh stack of criminal complaints. As a reporter, I never know where a story might take me!
9. Don’t Call Yourself A “Wannabe Journalist.”
Remember, you don’t need a degree or a job at a fancy newspaper to call yourself a journalist. Some of the best reporters in the country never went to journalism school. Besides, with the internet anyone can be a reporter. All you need is one good story! Then after you get your first big scoop, pat yourself on the back. (But not for too long. You need to be ready when the next tip comes up!)
10. You Are Only As Good As Your Next Story
Reporting the news is the greatest job in the world. But you need to always keep working and trying to improve. I’m trying to learn a new language right now so I can talk to different people. I’m always rereading my stories and making notes of where I could do better. I’ve gotten a lot of attention for certain stories I’ve covered, but I’m always thinking — just wait…you haven’t seen anything yet!
Editor’s note: Now that you have read Hilde’s tips for becoming a journalist, remember that practice makes perfect. Submit your short story and article to us here for a chance to be featured in Kids Nation magazine.
Also, don’t forget to read Hilde’s article in Kids Nation magazine about why she wants to be a reporter, her biggest influence, her dreams and more.
Hilde Lysiak is the 10-year-old publisher of Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania’s newspaper, the Orange Street News. Her journalism efforts have been profiled in hundreds of newspapers and television stations around the world. Hilde is co-writing the Scholastic Branches series Hilde Cracks the Case with her dad, Matthew Lysiak.