By Darren Orf
“Leave the newsroom” is a phrase that every journalist will hear at least once at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. My brief experience with newspaper writing was (ashamedly) behind-the-desk journalism. I produced several clips, each showcasing my struggles as a young journalist. The pieces all lacked one important quality: texture. They lacked real conversation, scene setting and well-established concepts of quality storytelling. The FRI trip will expand my skills as a field reporter and help bring well-crafted, insightful storytelling to my work.
When I ventured into magazine writing, a professor uttered those three words, each word a secret to journalistic success: “Leave the newsroom.” My first field experience was reporting on the Amish community in northern Missouri. The tangible field experience enhanced my writing in ways I didn’t anticipate, and I went on to win a Missouri Press Award for my piece. Going from struggling amateur to an award-winning writer was a shocking change (and hard to believe). Because of my ability to leave the newsroom and see the issue for myself, my writing and reporting improved more than I thought possible.
Since then, I’ve worked on science and culture stories employing this same in-the-field process and seeing the issue for myself. The FRI trip will help me develop observational and field reporting skills, which until now, have been constructed from personal experience. My goal is to improve my own field reporting methods. Before this trip I’ve kept pretty clean shoes, I hope to return a little bit muddy.
— Edited by Anna Boiko-Weyrauch