A Talk With a Journalist

By Donovan Swift

I had the chance to learn from Michael Van Sickler, a journalist with The Tampa Bay Times since 2003, who mostly covers politics in the bay area. Although he was not able to meet in person, Michael was willing to exchange emails about what it is like to be a journalist, and talk about his upcoming pieces.

Michael, being a political columnist as well as a reporter, said it is very important to get your point across, but it is equally important to look at the situation from all views. He said if you fail to discuss both sides of the argument than your readers won’t respect your opinion and they won’t come back next week to see what you’re writing about.

His most recent story will appear in the Sunday issue of The Times, it discusses funding for charter schools in Florida. This piece was a news story so Michael did not offer his opinion in his writing, I asked him if it is hard to remain objective about certain topics, he answered,

“Sometimes you just have to ignore what you are thinking on the topic and just put the facts on paper, but admittedly, that’s easier said than done. I’ll often write a story and have to go back and cut a bunch of lines when later reading it because they are so blatantly opinionated.”

I asked Michael what it was like to cover politics and if he enjoys it, he responded,

“I certainly enjoy covering the doings of government officials because you feel like you are keeping them in check, without you they could do whatever they want. That being said, it can be infuriating at times, especially when you disagree with a particular politician’s decisions or opinions.”

It was very clear that Michael enjoyed his job, but he was sure to let me know how difficult the career is and how much it takes out of you. He didn’t glorify the job and he didn’t bad mouth it, he gave his honest opinion. His honesty was what really made the conversation interesting because it gave me a true glimpse of a journalist’s day. It was nice to speak with someone so dedicated to their profession and get some real answers about what goes on behind writing a news story.



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