I applied for a job exactly two years ago when Eesti Ekspress was looking for a new reporter. As a beginning journalist, I felt that I already knew how to write news stories and I was quite well aware of the role of journalism in the society and the topics of interest to the general public. I worked in the online editorial office, meaning that I had polished my quick response, text editing, making simpler charts and writing web-specific stories. I was also quite familiar with the theory of online journalism (both my Bachelor’s as well as Master’s thesis are a testimony of it).
In the editorial office of such news, we need to work at the same pace as the daily events unfold, leaving little leeway for longer projects requiring more focus. I felt that I needed a different pace at which to develop my reporting skills. Ekspress seemed like an ideal place for me where to mature and develop as a journalist – what role models, topics and style! So, I sent in my CV and portfolio to apply for a job. In January 2018 I started to work as a reporter. My main job is everything that a journalist does, i.e. writing high-quality stories. It begins with finding important, exciting, educational or entertaining topics for our readers. We need to constantly move about, so-to-speak with our antennas up. What interests people? What are they talking about? Or should we think about those who have not yet been heard in public discussions? Should we find ways to explain certain processes that take place in the society in an easier way? There are endless choices!
Once a topic has been determined, the work with sources will start. Initially there will be lots of phone calls and hours of online surfing to collect the necessary amount of background information and sift through it. This will be followed by interviewing people, perhaps meeting with them or communicating by phone. Photos should probably be taken of the person(s) mentioned in the article or sometimes plan a video story instead. This will be followed by the most tedious part for me: transcription of interviews from the “tape”. However, this is important because you will immediately understand where the valuable material is. Then, the writing of the article will start. But how to compile the story? What should be the narrative style? Should everything be said at the beginning or something should be left as a surprise? Could something be shown in charts? Should the story begin with a citation, description or fact? Where to use citation? And then – the heading. And text under the pictures. Discussions with editors and thereafter copy editors. Thereafter some sources may also call, wanting to clarify a few things.
In a nutshell – the work of a journalist is delicate handicrafts, with a fair share of diplomacy, public relations, psychological assistance, auditing and writing. This list may be even longer, depending on the story and the topic. And last but not least, the peculiarities of how to design an online article vs a newspaper article should also be kept in mind. The aspect that is exciting is also a source of constant challenges, i.e. working with people. For each interview that has been difficult to obtain there is a meeting (or maybe even three) that would provide energy for the remainder of the week. I find it sometimes tiring that after closing the door behind myself, the work still comes with me. I am a journalist 24/7. When meeting with relatives at a birthday party or chatting with friends on the week-end it hits me every now and then: “This should be investigated“, “There is something going on here!“ This is sort of a jitter that goes through my body, helps me completely focus and makes me all ears. Fortunately over time I have learnt not to get stuck with such moments. It also helps to immediately write these ideas down and put them aside for Mondays.
While twenty years ago it was believed that the right decision was to post everything online for free, only a small number of readers believes it now. At my company people understood it a long while ago (or at least I did) that regardless of the medium, journalistic content is valuable and it should not be made available for free. Fortunately many readers agree with us. The focus on digital journalism will evidently deepen. Besides this, organisation of all kinds of events – conferences, concerts, competitions, etc. will also pick up speed. It would be rewarding to see that journalism will become a profitable business but the truth seems to lie in the fact that in order to earn money, we should also be engaged in other activities which in turn would create manoeuvring opportunities for outstanding journalism.
Many editorial staffs carry the same burden of the medium. How to best adapt to digital journalism? It is difficult to let go of the idea that I am not designing a newspaper but writing a story. Or that we should first and foremost think about what the story will look like on the Internet and only after that we will design the newspaper. This requires reorganisation of work processes, changing the work of the editorial staff and changing the mind-set. This will be a difficult but necessary development. In that sense, I am working at a very exciting time. Creating excellent journalism – this will not change. But perhaps we will start devising stories primarily for mobile phones because it will be soon a prevalent platform to read our stories.
As to my job, I personally would like to be able to find and tell stories with the help of public databases. And that besides digitalisation, human-interest stories would not disappear anywhere.
I would not exchange my job for any other job in this company (or elsewhere). But I have witnessed that those who feel that their jobs no longer excite them, will have an opportunity to try another job. There are a lot of choices available at Ekspress Grupp. You can work as much as you desire.