For my day with a Journalist assignment, I decided that the best way for me to get the whole Journalism experience would be to shadow a journalist who works in my hometown area. I’m lucky enough to go to school close to where I’m from, so I was excited that I would be able to go home and shadow someone who works at the newspaper that I grew up reading, The Daytona Beach News Journal. I got into contact with the assistant managing editor, Kathy Kelly, who was more than happy to give me a tour of the offices and set me up with a reporter, so that I could go out and really see what it’s like to be a journalist.
I was also lucky enough to get to shadow during one of the biggest news events of the year in Daytona: bike week. When I entered the offices of the News Journal, I was positive that the main focus would be on the festivities and consequences of this event. I was not proven wrong, as I found out in the budget meeting that I was fortunate enough to be able to sit in on that many of the major stories in the newspaper were to be focused on bike week. Every section seemed to have something interesting to write about it—for instance, the finance section would write about the effect of bike week on gas prices, while the local section would write about how important this week was to our local economy, keeping small businesses afloat.
Before I went out into the field with a reporter, Ms. Kelly was nice enough to give me a full tour of the newspaper’s facilities. She emphasized the downsizing that the paper has gone through in the past few years, “people don’t often buy newspapers anymore, they’re much more inclined to use our website in this day and age.” She went on to show me how their website works, and how they utilize the Associated Press wire service in their reporting.
After that, I went out to downtown Daytona with young reporter Mark Harper, who went to school at the University of Tennessee, and had only just started working for the News Journal a year ago. We had nothing specific to report on, we were just told to go downtown and find a story about bike week. Luckily, as Harper told me, “there’s always something interesting going on during bike week, even at three PM on a Wednesday.” Many venders were gearing up for the night’s festivities, while many bikers had already started partying. Of the thirty-or-so bikers we spoke to, most of them were not from Florida, and many told us that they make it a point to drive down to Daytona every year just for bike week. We met bikers who used the opportunity to hand out pocket “biker bibles,” and still more who had rides that were “souped up” to their specific tastes.
During my shadowing experience, I learned that, despite the shrinking nature of the print journalism industry, being a journalist is a rewarding and always interesting trade, and one that is definitely prominent in my list of possible future professions.