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Desk Time vs. Free Time

Dear Coach,

How do you ask your editor for free time to go out and "explore" the community? I feel I am expected to stay at my desk until 6 p.m., even when there's not much going on. I would rather be out sitting somewhere watching people and digging up story ideas. I was taught that "listening posts" in the community was how good journalists found good stories. Help! -- Explorer

Dear Explorer: 

You are right – "listening posts" are great for story ideas. I am a huge believer in getting out into the community, talking to folks, people-watching, bulletin-board reading, hanging out at parks, church bazaars and coffee shops. Do it!

But remember this: You are an intern. You are like a utility infielder. Your job for now is to be ready and able for anything that might pop up, whether Web posting, breaking news, a quick story turnaround, or filling in for someone who is late or sick or double booked.

If you are not at your desk, your editor can't toss you the “whatever” that comes along. For now, stick around. Be available. Do your listening-post exploring after work, early in the morning before work, and -- yes! -- on your days off. Reporting is not a 9-to-5 job. It is a way of life and a mindset.

As your editor gains more confidence in your abilities, you might find yourself with a bit more "free time" to explore. But I would start by nosing around during your non-desk hours.

About the column
Ask the Coach is updated regularly. Have a suggestion for a future column, contact Mary Ann Hogan.

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Last updated: Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2014 | 21:36:15