Tips for Stressed Reporters
If at first you don’t succeed…
So there it was: My first assignment as a Scholastic Kid Reporter! I was asked to cover an event at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. The story was for an online Special Report for Native American History month.
I was told I could choose between two events: participate in a gala dinner or attend a special movie screening that would include an interview with the lead actor. Both sounded great.
Upon further inspection, however, it turned out that dinner was very late and very far away (on a school night), and the movie topic was, well let's say, less than appropriate for kids. Oh, great. Now, what to do?
Tip 1: Don’t Panic, Research!
OK, so, no dinner and no movie. Time to propose another aspect of Native American history to cover: To the Internet!
I looked at the Smithsonian museum’s website to try to find another idea and eventually stumbled upon “Upcoming Events.” Turns out, the museum was featuring a major art exhibit by a modern Native American artist that same month! It was the first time the museum would showcase a living artist’s work.
The artist, Brian Jungen, takes common objects like sneakers and golf bags and turns them into natural works of art. I was all for it, and so was my editor when I suggested the idea. In fact, one of the magazines decided they wanted the story for a cover! I researched all about the artist, prepared my interview questions and got them approved.
I eagerly awaited my first big interview with Mr. Jungen, which was canceled by the museum at the very last minute. Oh, great. What to do?
Tip 2: (Same as Tip 1) Don’t Panic, Research!
Back I went to the museum website. There I found that I could get permission to view the artwork before the show officially opened. The Assistant Director agreed to let me to look around for a "few minutes." That’s when Tip 3 came in handy.
Tip 3: Be Polite, Show Genuine Interest (and make use of all that research)!
The Assistant Director let me into the exhibit and (thanks to tip 3), we ended up talking for nearly an hour. I got a complete tour, and he even introduced me to the museum’s director. He seemed to appreciate how much I knew about the artist and he shared some unique insights with me about Jungen’s art and the art world in general—most of which came in very handy for my article.
It was a tricky first assignment, but I learned a lot. Just one thing to remember: when in doubt, RESEARCH!
My last tip is to apply to be a Kid Reporter. The application process just opened up for the 2010-2011 school year. Enter the competition here.
PHOTO: Kid Reporter Nick Berray at a Washington Wizard's basketball game, one of the many cool assignments he covered as a member of the Scholastic Kids Press Corps. (Photo Courtesy Nick Berray)