Young Journalist and Baruch Student Reflects on Challenges of Reporting

By: Kamelia Kilawan

Journalism and Religious Studies, Class of 2014

Peer for Career

I asked two questions to an Oscar-nominated filmmaker that seemed overly technical once said. Another reporter jumped in asking simple questions–an instance that happened once before when a television reporter amped up her microphone next to my recorder. Oh the joy of reporting.

Reporting is like having the ability to understand all angles of an idea you may have. A New York Times feature writer once said that, “there is no such thing as an objective reporter” but that reporting calls for stepping onto the other side and hearing an argument from both camps.This skill may be integral to the profession of journalism, but I think it is as much a personal challenge as it is one where the results end up in public.

As a local community writer and blogger my foundation in journalism would probably be described as “a grassroots citizen-journalist.” But my summer internship at an online publication geared to city politics and policy has given me the legwork to practice reporting in a world that is quite different from my local Queens neighborhood.

Asking questions on the steps of City Hall, at public countings for contested political races, and during public meetings with Board of Election commissioners has been an invigorating experience this past summer.

I find it either a great process where if I’m persistent enough I can gain a lot of insight into the way someone thinks and I’m able to get the quotes I’m looking for. Or, the process of asking questions can be tedious, scary, and a experience where I feel insecure about my abilities as a reporter.

Imagine how nerve-racking it is to go up to someone and ask to have a little time to speak with them–then when you have the chance, you must come up with questions that are not too over-reaching so the person you’re asking doesn’t look at you as if you have two heads.

Plus, the questions cannot be so obvious that you are wasting the person’s time when you could have done your research and answered it yourself.

Sometimes I’m not sure what direction I am going in when I ask a question, but after reading a few chapters from Porter and Ferris’s The Practice of Journalism: A Guide to Reporting and Writing the News, I realized that understanding is the essence of reporting. It is my chance to understand all of the elements of the story, all of the people in it, and all of the facts.

Many consider the Five W’s–Who, What, When, Where, and Why as the basic checklist of a news story. But I think what needs to be emphasized among reporters even more is the How. How does one develop as a journalist? It certainly becomes a craft with practice and everyone has their own style but what reigns most important to me is following your instincts in asking a question. And this makes reporting quite an adventure worth pursuing–at least for me.