The Independent | Posted: Thursday, August 16, 2012 11:48 pm
There are a lot of job skills that simply can’t be learned in a classroom, they have to be perfected in the field.
Journalism is no exception as I’ve learned during the course of my short career.
I got an excellent education at a top-notch school, where I learned to always chose the correct word, organize my stories well, ask tough questions and research, research, research. Some professors were tougher in their demands than others, in an effort to prepare us young journalists as best they could for the high-pressure demands of daily deadline work.
I remember one visiting professor that had worked for a very prominent men’s magazine tearing apart a story I had written for his class during a one-on-one editing session. Raising his voice and uttering curse words, he told me he’d read third grade writing that surpassed mine. I would never get a writing job, he once told me. I cried the entire way back to my dorm room and spent the night writing and rewriting.
The next day, I learned that he had done the exact same thing to every student in the class. At the time we just thought he was a callous jerk. Now I suspect, that it may have been an exercise in growing thicker skin, which all journalists need to withstand the verbal abuse and criticism we get not only from editors but unhappy sources and the public.
There have been more than a few job skills, however, that I’ve simply had to learn by doing.
Journalism school couldn’t prepare me for the afternoon I was called to my first murder scene. I remember a nice police officer noticing how much my hands were shaking while I tried to take notes and volunteering to call me for an interview once I got back to the office. I’ve learned to carry a recorder.
My education also did not prepare me for the ageism or sexism I have encountered as a professional. A certain amount of ignorance is to be expected from the public at large, and can most often easily be shrugged or laughed off.
What shocks me and has been the most challenging to deal with is the discrimination from those who should just know better, like public officials.
There was the time a jail employee used a flashlight in a crude manner while standing behind me to entertain his buddies while I was interviewing his boss. Or the time an appointed official tried to use an embarrassing wardrobe malfunction as a means to proposition me. Then there is the politician who never remembers my name because he’s always staring somewhere else while we’re talking.
Come on guys, really?
Over the years, I’ve learned that part of being a woman is accepting that often men will say and do a lot of inappropriate things, even in professional settings. The challenge to working women is learning how to assess the level of inappropriateness and weighing the consequences of calling the perpetrator out or simply letting the incident go. I haven’t quite mastered this one yet, but I suspect I’ll continue to get lots of practice and experience at this as my career continues.
I was also baffled at the number of times I’ve been called things like “little girl” — or even once patted on the head — before phrase that can boiled down to “you’re young and stupid, so I’ll try to explain this to you so you can understand” is uttered by interviewee.
In my early 20s, I dealt with this by flattening out my smile and continuing on with my line of questioning while telling myself this stupidity would end by the time I was 30.
I’m six months from my benchmark and, just Wednesday, it happened again.
Maybe it’s time I get some continuing education.
Does anyone know where I can take a course to learn more about this mysterious disease, of which symptoms include a distinct absence of manners and forgetfulness of social norms?