Speaking about education, the venerated NBC newsman, Tom Brokaw, once wisely said, “Your certification is in your [college] degree. You may think of it as the ticket to the good life. Let me ask you to think of an alternative. Think of it as your ticket to change the world,” (A Long Way From Home). In other words, use what you learn in college, whatever that may be, not only to make changes to your life, but to the greater society. See your college experience as gaining a force for good. One of the many reasons I love studying and practicing broadcast journalism is because the field prepares me not just for reporting in front of the camera, but life itself. It’s no secret life has its challenges. The greatest challenge, however, is to learn from difficulties and use that learning to better the world.
This semester, producing for Annenberg TV News (ATVN) has led me to think deeply about my strengths and weaknesses, helping me to set goals for the second half of the semester. Upon doing so, however, I realized that looking ahead until just December 1, the last day of classes for the fall semester, would not suffice; the goals I have for the second half of the semester actually translate to goals I have for the life I have yet to live beyond college.
One such goal is to become a better communicator. As a broadcast journalism major, my academic focus is to communicate, in the best way possible, the most salient events and messages of the day. The most significant events in history are solidified by our ability to communicate them through the world of journalism. The most impactful soliloquies, from Martin Luther King’s “dream” speech, to Eisenhower’s anti-Mccarthyism address, to recent speeches by former presidents Obama and Bush urging us to focus on our common humanity, set the tone for our nation and the world. But if we fail to communicate on a micro level inside the newsroom, we may fail to communicate the greater messages — the events of the day and the messages of our leaders — that are meant to be shared with the world. Communication with our peers must occur so that we can impact the world through journalism.
Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines communication as “the imparting or exchanging of information or news.” After reading this definition, it is easy to say that all one needs for communication is to simply “exchange information” with others. But my experiences in the Media Center (MC) prove such communication is not good enough. Such a definition is too simple. Communication is much more than just relaying a piece of information to a peer or presenting the news to a viewer.
During my first few weeks producing in the Media Center, I sometimes communicated with fellow producers and multimedia journalists (MJs) in accordance with this nonchalant definition of the word. I merely asked my colleagues to do a task without explaining to them how to do it, and often requested a video to be edited a particular way, or graphics to appear on screen, without expanding on the details of the task. This is not the way I wish to communicate in the future, whether in the MC or in the outside world, as this mode of communication does not relay the importance of the task, and does not convey the respect due the recipient of my instruction. It may therefore result in a message that fails to send — a newscast that is not the best it could be. One must narrow one’s focus to the immediate frame in order to eventually see the big picture.
Every Tuesday, when the video producer heads into the studio control room to watch the run through, the graphics teammate transitions to overseeing all of the videos, ensuring every piece of video that is supposed to be sent to the server is in fact sent. Last Tuesday, as a graphics teammate, I oversaw for the majority of the day all of the graphics set to appear in the show. While doing so, I was not actively keeping track of the status of the videos set to appear in the newscast that evening. However, before heading into the control room, the video teammate sat me down, and explained to me which videos still needed to be edited and sent to the server, and even made a list of all of the videos that still needed editing. This was an excellent means of communication. This producer knew that if she had not explained this to me in the way she did, I would likely not have had the resources to know which videos still needed work.
I learned a great deal from this positive experience. For one, it taught me how to properly communicate with the next graphics teammate when I act as the video teammate position in the next few weeks. Second, and perhaps more importantly, this interaction taught me that communicating is more than just the “exchange of information.” Personal workplace communication necessitates a personable nature, patience, and organization. This teammate displayed all three of these qualities, exhibiting patience when sitting me down, displaying a personable nature when asking if I had any questions or if anything seemed confusing, and projected organization by making a written list of the needed items and addressing this with me well before the run through. This gave us both enough time to complete our respective roles before transitioning into our new positions at 5 p.m.
Such means of communication can easily translate into everyday situations. Remaining calm or practicing patience even in difficult circumstances can diffuse tension. Imparting a positive attitude or approaching others in a personable manner can ensure relationships remain intact and colleagues relate with mutual respect. Planning ahead and communicating in an organized fashion will yield success in any profession, whether it be a lawyer preparing to speak in front of a judge or an accountant filing his or her client’s tax returns well before the April 15 tax deadline. Planning ahead diffuses stress and makes for a better outcome, while also allowing for the inevitable mistakes to be addressed without consequence.
Communication can go a long way in life. I believe my positive communication experience this week allowed me to reflect on my own communication abilities, and to set goals for doing a better job communicating with others. Keeping these goals in mind will help me in my work during the second half of this semester, and will carry through to the rest of my life. Learning to communicate well with one another in the Media Center will help each of us succeed in our own endeavors post-graduation. Our communication on a personal level may help us to create a potentially world-changing broadcast, but may also be our ticket to change the world, one relationship at a time. Thank you, Mr. Brokaw, for putting our education and experience into perspective.