By Christopher Anema
Sitting down in the Leader-Telegram newsroom with Christena O’Brien was quite unexpected. It was one o’clock and she and I were the only people in the newsroom. I was expecting a hustling and bustling room full of people trading stories and getting meetings from high profile contacts, but it was quite the opposite. For the first hour of our meeting, it was just her and me talking accompanied by the crackle and broken voices echoing out of the police scanner above her desk. Even when other reporters started filtering into
the office, the conversations were quite minimal. This was a big shift that I had to take. Real newsrooms were very unlike how they are portrayed in the media.
For half of my time at Leader-Telegram, I shadowed the health and religion reporter Christena O’Brien, and with the other half, I shadowed the entertainment reporter Katy Macek. They both told me of their roles at LT and how they had very similar tasks.
Being a reporter at LT requires you to do quite a bit of research for most of the day. O’Brien uses the Eau Claire court case website very often when conducting her research. She commented that almost all research she does today is done on the computer while “back in the day” she had to go down to the library and dig through boxes and boxes of records.
Alongside research, being a reporter for LT requires you to, obviously, do interviews. Setting interviews can differ from reporter to reporter. For example, O’Brien does many of her interviews in person but Macek does most of hers over the phone. Since Macek usually needs to ask a few simple questions about an event, she typically doesn’t need to set an in-person meeting.
Both reporters must work on newspaper layouts. O’Brien showed me how complex these can sometimes be. Most of the time, the layouts are affected by the amount of space the obituaries take up, she said.
Another role, filled in rotation, is the role of night reporter. Each reporter is assigned to work a night shift and cover breaking news stories that could happen during that time. O’Brien noted that once when she was the night reporter, she had to rush out and cover a huge house fire.
Shadowing at Leader-Telegram gave me a good perspective on the print journalism world, but it also gave me a lot to think about. The world of print journalism isn’t the fit for me. The Leader-Telegram felt quiet, slow, and formulaic.
The thing that has rung around my head days after I left LT was something O’Brien said to me as we sat down in that quiet newsroom.
“You should change your major,” she said.