Lin Li checks out the Missoula Independent

Lin Li and Missoula Independent reporter Alex Sakariassen on their way to an interview.

Lin Li and Missoula Independent reporter Alex Sakariassen on their way to an interview.


I was a little bit nervous when I sat in the Missoula Independent’s newsroom for meeting about news topics for the next issue. The editor was critical and picky and asked for unique angles or local perspectives all the time. But what really surprised me is that reporters are given so much time and space to dig for news stories and that have a say in deciding what kind stories to follow. Instead of being assigned certain topics, reporters have greater say in their news reporting.

Before this experience I thought reporters spent most their working time writing. However, I saw them making phone calls to reach their news sources all day. Alex Sakariassen, the reporter I followed for the job shadowing, made scores of phones each day. He told me he would call people he wanted to talk to several times a day if he received no replies.

When asked for his secret to the creativity of his news writing, he told me that all ideas come from his daily conversations with different people. It surprised me because I usually put the writer’s skills or profession knowledge at the top of the agenda.

In my observations of two days’ job shadowing, I found that nothing is more important than a good personality and good communicative skills. These qualities are what I really need to try hard to acquire as a journalist.

The job shadowing was such a wonderful experience because it gave me a chance to see how the newsroom works up close and how reporters reach their sources. I really appreciate that.

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