If you’re majoring in journalism, the odds of taking a news reporting class are more likely than not. At the University of Florida, every journalism and public relations major has to take reporting, and we all dread it. But don’t switch your major just yet. When one of CM’s Top 10 EduGators teaches you reporting, the class becomes a little less awful. Mike Foley is literally the bae of all UF professor baes. Think of a professor who wears a hoop earring, has kickass T-shirts that he never re-wears all semester, runs and dances from one side of the lecture stage to the other (in the cutest way possible), and is such a die-hard UF fan he has a Gator tattoo on his right arm. That is Mike Foley. Though getting a C is the norm and reporting has been ranked one of the top three hardest courses at UF, there’s not one reporting lecture that I’ve gone to that I haven’t come out laughing and/or smiling.
The lecture portion of reporting is pretty easy and enjoyable too; It consists of Foley teaching things that seem like common knowledge to most people, cracking jokes and quizzes. Luckily, the quizzes aren’t hard; they’re mainly for attendance, and according to Foley, the current event quizzes are to show us how little we know about the world around us. Isn’t he the greatest? What really kicks your butt in reporting, and what puts the class in the top three hardest courses at UF, is the lab. But we have the inside scoop to surviving reporting with advice from Foley himself.
1. Get Everything Published
Getting your articles published is crucial to surviving reporting. You can earn 10-15 extra credit points for every article you get published in The Independent Florida Alligator and/or WUFT. “Get as much as you can published ‘cause that really gives you a lot of points in the end,” junior Jessica Rodriguez said. About halfway through this semester, Foley said he would put a sticker inside whoever’s folder he thought might fail if their grades didn’t get better. Thanks to getting some stories published, I didn’t get the sticker.
2. Fact Check Everything
Fact errors in real life get you sued. Fact errors in reporting put your starting grade at a 50. Additional grammar errors cost you even more points. “You can do really well on a story, and it can be ruined by just a little mistake that you didn’t look over,” Rodriguez said. I’ve gotten one fact error all semester, and it was because I spelled “Red Bug Elementary” as “Redbug Elementary.” I only had one error, and I got a 45.
3. Don’t Wait Until The Last Minute
No one survives reporting over night. So don’t think you can procrastinate. Starting your outside story in advance increases your chances of writing a really good article with minimal fact errors. Also, the sooner you do your story, the more likely are you to have time to pass by your TA’s office to get feedback. Or visit the man himself for feedback. “I encourage students to come see me with their paper before the paper’s due,” Foley said. “We can go over it, and I can help with the lede. I put x’s next to the paragraphs that have a five-point error, and then they can find it out, how to do it on their own.”
4. Schedule Your Interviews Ahead of Time
For every story in reporting you need an absolute minimum of two sources to quote. “Don’t assume that you have an interview if you haven’t scheduled it,” Rodriguez said. “If you haven’t scheduled an interview, you don’t have one. You can’t just call anyone and assume they’ll be willing to talk to you just then and there.” Mentally prepare yourself for your first sources not answering your calls and needing to find other sources.
5. Don’t Get Discouraged by Your First Grades
The grades you get at the beginning of the semester are going to suck. “On the first paper, I once gave a 2,” Foley said. “She graduated; she ended up with a C+. One of my best students ever got a 40 on his first paper. Now he’s writing enterprise pieces for the Washington Post.” I got a 40 on my first story; maybe I’ll be his next best student. “It’s incredible the changes over the course of time,” Foley said. “I’ve got a lot of clean copies that I’m grading this week, which is great. That’s the way it should be.” Bad grades will come your way. Just move on taking these pieces of advice into account.