My Typical Day (this headline is an oxymoron)
First let me say: No day is typical in news. Every day looks different, and your schedule is dictated by the story. With that said, *most* of my work days have a similar structure.
5am: Wake up. If I could sleep in longer I would, but I find that I have to get up around 5 to get things done before the craziness of the work day begins. If I'm working out, I do it between 5 and 6am. If I need to do a chore, this is the best time to do it. I am a full-fledged morning person now - (much to the surprise of my mother, who used to scream at me to wake up and get to school on time).
6am: Attempt to look presentable. Shower, style hair, iron clothes, all while playing the morning news in the background. I usually eat my breakfast and catch up on work emails while scouring the headlines on other media outlets during this time, too.
7am: Off to work! Luckily my "commute" is about 2 blocks long (I can walk to work most days), and I get into the office around 7:15. Once I get to the office, that's when I really start to go through the headlines, look at story ideas, check the AP wire service, and brainstorm story ideas for the day. I could get to work later if I wanted to, but I like to be early to get my head on straight. It helps to keep me semi-sane ;)
8am: Email my editors my pitches. While most normal news jobs operate out of a newsroom with an assignment editor who keeps track of press releases and daily events -- I do not. I work out of a bureau, so it's my job to stay on top of the news for my coverage area and come up with my own ideas. It's by far the most challenging part of the job. My editors will look at my 3-4 pitches and pick their favorite. I am usually assigned and out the door with my photographer by 8:30-9am.
9am - 2pm: GATHER, GATHER, GATHER. This is when the crazy happens. I'm on the phone, emailing, knocking on doors, trying to get interviews for my story. Sometimes I'm riding the car for long distances to get to my location (because Maine). I may be attending a press conference, trying to convince someone to talk to me, or showing up somewhere unannounced. Some days the story comes together quickly, and sometimes it comes through (hallelujah) at the last possible second. This is usually the most stressful part of the day.
2pm - 3pm: Log and write. I like to review all my video clips and listen back to my interviews in their entirety, just in case I missed something. Some days, you're in too much of a time crunch to do that. I prefer to play back almost everything, looking at my video, writing down the time codes for the best images and sound bites. I like to have my script written by 3pm to give my photographer at least one hour to edit. It doesn't always work out that way, but that's always the goal.
3pm-4pm: I'm usually writing my web article or turning my attention to tomorrow's story at this time, while my photographer edits. At 4pm, he is usually done and shows me the story to review before he sends it. We are usually out in the field, working on the road. We do a lot of our writing and editing from the passenger seat of an SUV in a random parking lot. We have a mifi "puck" to establish an internet connection to send the story... but because Maine has some remote areas, we need to give ourselves extra time to send it. Sometimes the "send time" is 20 minutes or more!
4:30 pm: DEADLINE. My stories almost always air on New England Cable News at 4:30 pm during the New England news block. This is an earlier deadline than most reporters in traditional newscasts (they have the luxury of a 5pm or even 6pm deadline!). Having this earlier deadline has made me an extremely quick and efficient reporter. Sometimes I wish I could have just a few extra minutes to tweak something or re-write, but I've become accustomed to cranking out stories at this pace. The earlier deadline is the main reason I get up and in to work so early. Many other reporters I know get into work between 9am-10am, and sometimes aren't assigned until 10:30.
Note that I did not list a "lunch break" in my routine. We eat when we can, and sometimes not at all! I pack a cold lunch every day and often eat in a moving car, or while I am doing something else. Have I mentioned that news is glamorous?
Here are a few things I'm doing constantly, and off-the-clock: checking social media (it's a bit of an addiction). Brainstorming story ideas (you never know when inspiration will strike). Consuming news (podcasts are my favorite!).
Sometimes I day dream about a job with a slower pace, with seemingly less stress. But I know myself well enough to know that I am driven by deadlines. I'm the kind of person who needs a deadline to keep me focused and on-task. I was the kind of student who waited until the last minute to write a paper because it was the adrenaline of the impending deadline that got my brain into high gear.
Have you ever heard of Parkinson's law? It's the old adage that "work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion." I was first introduced to the concept in journalism school when our professors gave us a whole 24 hours to produce a news story -- and we took all 24 hours! Now, I sometimes have less than a hour to produce a story from start to finish. It's not always pretty, but we always get it done.