By Sadie Sedlmayr
University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire alumni and Leader Telegram Hired General reporter Elizabeth Dohms delves deep into what it means and takes to become a journalist.
Her job is covering a whole range of things. She fills in for court reporters who might be off that day, or reports on the Cops beat, festivals, activities, parades, basically anything going on around town that you might have to cover.
Dohms also is in charge of the eduation beat for the Leader-Telegram, in addition to being the editor of the “At Home” section and of the magazine Impressions.
Dohms’ typical day in the newsroom consists primarily of a hectic schedule that varies depending upon what the happening on the local activities front.
“It’s kind of the best thing about this job it’s all over the place.” Dohms said. “It can be the worst if you’re a person who typically likes structure and if you’re a person who needs to know when you’re going to work, what you’re going to be doing, and expect it’s going to be the same every day.”
A lot of things come up, unexpectedly as a journalist, and she said you have to just re-do your schedule and make it work.
She said, for example, every other Monday she has to go to a school board meeting at 7 p.m. at night. So that would mean she would have to come in and start her day out at like 12 p.m., and then do prep work, as well as get other stuff done, in addition to going to the meeting. She also said the meetings usually go late and she generally has to leave early and have to come back to the newsroom to write the story in on time.
Dohms said as a reporter there are many tough decisions and problems that arise. She points out the people are the best part of the job and the people are the worst part of the job because you have to build up your sources, build those relationships and connect with people. But with some of her stories, she said, people will make call-ins to complain when it isn’t written how they want it to be.
“People get mad at you. They’ll say, ‘I don’t like you doing this story. Or I don’t want you to do this story. This will reflect really poorly on us,’ Dohms said. “Then you have to explain yourself why is this news and why the public needs to know.”
Journalism was not Dohms’ first career choice until the second semester of her junior year at UW-Eau Claire. She was all about web design, which ended up being her minor after she decided she wanted to become a journalist. Dohms said web design helped her get into Milwaukee Journal Sentinel with a summer internship in 2010.
In addition to working for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Dohms joined the Wausau East Bay paper as a copy editor as well as the Chippewa Herald as a reporter. After two years with the latter, she was then hired at the Leader-Telegram.
Dohms said because she was late in picking her major she didn’t get as many writing chances as she hoped for, which included reporting for UW-Eau Claire school newspaper, The Spectator. She urges that up-and-coming journalists to not follow in her suite.
“Make sure you get as much of a writing experience as you possibly can and take every opportunity you can to report on a whole range and variety of subjects because it will make life so much easier coming into it.” Dohms said.