Advice of the ages

I've never been a good speller.

Five years studying French (compulsory) at high school put an end to that. 

And so while spelling should be a no-brainer for any reporter, it isn’t in my case. But hey, this is a glass half full kind of year, so I, for one, am happy to overlook the obvious and ponder the real skills of being a person who loves to write the stories of other people. 

The bigger issue is understanding what the person you are interviewing is actually talking about and, let’s be clear here, this is not always immediately apparent – and sometimes never reveals itself.

People tend to talk quicker than the written hand so it behoves any journalist who has not mastered shorthand to write in a scrawl that only a doctor can understand. Review the notebook later and the story can be perilous indeed.

Of course, this is assuming that you are not writing in the dark, in the rain, at a bush fire or with a pen that has run out of ink (the journalist's worst nightmare).

A good journalist must have a memory for names and be able to identify who said what to who and when. A good journalist must have the ability to nod a lot and not look too stupid about a whole range of topics, all of which most people assume you have researched or is the stuff of your most recent thesis. Immediately, I think sport and motor racing and my heart starts to pound. 

Vital also to the journalist's success is an ability to resist food at a function. It's pretty much guaranteed that as you stuff that canape in your mouth, you will be introduced to the queen or someone of equal importance. And spitting out food while trying to put notebook, camera, wineglass and empty plate into one hand (freeing the other for hand shaking) isn't the stuff of notable first impressions.

A journalist also needs really good leg muscles, providing a spring-like action while rising from the many and varied saggy couches that litter so many Redland homes. Crawling from the depths of these couches is the way to damnation.

There were no such helpful tips when I got my degree. The useful stuff was lost under lectures in sociology, psychology and the analysis of western movies. And there wasn’t even any halp with spalling.   – Linda Muller