Radio demigod Ira Glass came to Missoula last week to entertain the public radio faithful, and to speak to J School students. Of the many lessons he imparted, one stuck with me: don’t wait, he said, before starting to create the journalism you have in your head. This is good advice for many reasons.
Ira confessed it took him decades to get good at radio. He stressed that the only way to get good at journalism is to do it. If you could buy journalism training at the drug store, the directions would read: write, edit, repeat. Learning about the history of journalism is a noble pursuit, so is trying to analyze trends in coverage. But the only way to become a great writer is to write. Great photogs need to shoot, radio folks need to gather sound, and of course we all need to post and tweet.
Part of Ira’s point is that there’s no need to wait until some employer gives you permission to do a story. Reporters—and students—today can develop their own news products, and can publish without a big backer. The podcast explosion has opened up new possibilities for many creative minds, and has turned out to be a great source of revenue for Ira’s show, This American Life. The barriers to entry are dropping. Your audience will be small at first, but you will be learning, and you may come up with something that will impress a prospective employer. So why are you wasting time with this blog? Go start your own.
By Larry Abramson