By Hillary Smith
University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire alumna and Leader-Telegram reporter Elizabeth Dohms offers insight into the world of journalism.
Dohms’ typical day in the newsroom primarily includes emails, editing, and coffee. As she clicked through her seemingly endless inbox, Dohms explained it’s common for people to send in tips, ideas, comments, or stories they want printed. Assistant editor Julian Emerson said he gets upwards of 600 emails on a busy day. Being a reporter includes sifting through them all, separating the useful from the useless.
According to Dohms, people will call in complaints about a story when it isn’t written how they want it. It is not uncommon for newspapers to receive stories that people want printed exactly as written. However, it is up to the journalist to report not a singular perspective, but a whole and balanced story, even if doing so makes someone upset.
Swapping stories among themselves for editing is another responsibility the reporters share. Dohms cited strong writing skills as one of the most important parts of the job.
“You can learn everything else, but if you can’t write succinctly and clearly and quickly, you can’t do it,” Dohms said.
Dohms covers the school beat for the Leader-Telegram, in addition to being the editor of the At Home section and of the magazine Impressions. In a smaller sized newsroom, there are more responsibilities, Dohms said. She emphasized the importance of developing a diverse skill set; the more a reporter knows, the more he or she can contribute to the newsroom, especially if it is a smaller organization.
Journalism was not Dohms’ major until the second semester of her junior year at UW-Eau Claire. She was interested and involved in web design, which she ended up minoring in. Dohms said web design was her “in” to getting an internship with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in the summer of 2010.
In addition to her experience with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Dohms worked for the Wausau East Bay paper as a copy editor as well as a reporter for the Chippewa Herald. However, after two years with the Chippewa Herald, she applied and was hired to report for the Leader-Telegram. She encouraged beginning journalists to join the school paper as soon as they could. Dohms said one of her only regrets is not joining the UW-Eau Claire paper, The Spectator.
Dohms emphasized curiosity, persistence, and passion as being the one of the most important qualities for being a journalist. She acknowledged the tough job market and struggling industry newspapers are facing right now, but advised prospective journalists to stick with it.
“If you let your passion show through, you’ll be fine,” Dohms said.