Tips and Tricks from Abroad
Over the summer, several University of Memphis journalism students took a once-in- a-lifetime
opportunity to cover the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I was one of those lucky folks. After
traveling a few thousand miles to report on one of the biggest mega-events in the world, I learned a few things. Lessons that I can share with you here:
1. You’re fellow reporters and editors are your teammates, so keep them informed. They will be more
understanding and helpful when unexpected obstacles surprise you.
2. Wear your credentials proudly. You can tell folks that want to question your presence, “I’m supposed to be here.” You will feel like the coolest guy or lady in the world.
3. Do your research and keep some questions at your fingertips, but listen for better ones. The most
interesting stories will be the ones that deviate from the usual script. Observer your interviewee, so that you can deviate from your own.
4. You will be frustrated and confused when doing something new. With an open mind, pretend you
know what you’re doing, and you will figure it out.
5. Dumb questions exist but ask them anyway. You will kick yourself later if you screw up something
important because you didn't. Your peers and superiors will tolerant them if they can trust you to do your job correctly.
6. At some point, you will mess up. Learn from it. People may tolerate new mistakes, but they won’t
tolerate the same mistake a third time. It behooves you to reflect on your work, take feedback, and
anticipate your own habits and rough edges.
7. Getting get at what you do is a function of practice. If you want to do better interviews, do more
interviews. If you want to write better, write more. You probably are not a savant. That just means you
have to work more, so work.
8. Use common sense, but be curious. Countries are more interesting and complex than the stereotypes associated with them. Talking to locals is the quickest way to find that out. As a bonus, you may make friends in far-flung places and leave a good impression as an American abroad.
9. It doesn’t matter where you are. Looking down at your phone while walking is not smart. Look up
before you wander into a dark alley or sign post.
10. When covering an event in a foreign place, learn the public transit system. Cabs are nice, but they have a habit of taking naïve passengers the long way. The bus is usually cheaper, and you’ll get to see some of the actual people who live in the country you’re visiting.