Welcome to our SPOTLIGHT feature, where we highlight a journalist to share their personal story and insight with you.
This SPOTLIGHT belongs to Yamiche Alcindor, a breaking news reporter at USA Today who splits her time covering quickly developing incidents and stories about the social issues affecting the United States.
She’s traveled across the country to cover stories including the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., the Trayvon Martin case, and the hazing scandal at Florida A&M University. She also spends time writing about societal concerns such as human trafficking, civil rights, gun violence, and poverty. She has been a frequent guest on MSNBC, C-SPAN, NPR, America’s Radio News Network and a variety of radio stations and local television stations across the nation.
We hope you find SPOTLIGHT both enjoyable and informative.
Yamiche, did you always know you wanted to be a journalist?
No. I knew I wanted to be a writer by third grade because I loved creating poems and short stories. I decided I wanted to be a journalist when I was about 17 years old. It was 2004 and the issue of voting rights caught my attention. I started writing for a weekly newspaper called The Westside Gazette and chronicled the first election in Florida after the debacle of 2000.
Where was your first job as a journalist?
My first professional job as a journalist was at Newsday in Long Island, New York. I was hired as a general assignment reporter and focused mainly on breaking news stories and cops reporting.
Please tell us about your role at USA Today.
In my role at USA TODAY, I cover quickly developing stories from across the country. My goal is to get stories of national interest told quickly through writing, video or pictures.
What type of stories do you usually cover?
I often travel to national tragedies such as the school shooting in Newtown, Conn. and the Boston marathon bombing. I also covered the trial of George Zimmerman who was accused of murdering Trayvon Martin and have written about poverty, human trafficking, and hazing.
Are your stories usually assigned or do you also get to make suggestions? Do your managers also go to you for ideas?
It is a mixture of both. Sometimes stories like the Boston marathon bombing tragically occur and other times I come up with story ideas.
Is there a 'best part' about doing what you do?
The best part of being a reporter is constantly meeting new people and learning about people's lives. I have the unique opportunity to tell some of the most intimate details of life.
What advice do you have for PR professionals who want to pitch you a story?
I would suggest knowing what I cover and pitching me experts about an incident as quickly as possible. If a school shooting occurs sadly, I know I will likely need someone who can comment and put that tragedy into context. Getting me someone fast is ideal. Also, when stories aren't breaking, pitching me newsy features is also a good idea.
What should they always do and never do?
I would suggest always knowing exactly why a reporter should be writing about your pitch and why it should be written about now. I would also suggest never pushing a reporter while on deadline because it can be hard to communicate while producing news.
What's the best way for someone in PR to start a working relationship with you?
I think meeting in person or pitching me an awesome story are the best ways to start a working relationship with me.
What is the toughest part about being a journalist?
I think it can be tough to cover tragedies such as shootings and murders. It can be very trying to experience the sadness of communities and to tell those stories in a sensitive way.
What has been the most difficult assignment to cover?
The school shooting in Newtown, Conn. was the most difficult assignment to cover. It was just really sad and very hard to deal with. I have never experienced such sadness while telling stories and it was a real challenge to report under such trying times. The images of young children dressed in suits for funerals are ones I will never forget.
Do you have advice for a new journalist who's about to be cover a very emotionally charged story?
I would suggest being calm and being very cautious about what you write and how you write it.
Is there a career highlight that stands out?
I won the National Association of Black Journalists Emerging Journalist of the Year award this year. That was pretty humbling and amazing.
What's your advice for someone thinking of going into journalism and also for someone who's just starting out?
I would suggest always remembering why you chose this profession and having a solid group of people to support you personally and professionally.
Do you use social media as part of your job?
Yes. I use social media to report stories, to find sources and to share my stories once they are done.
What type of experts do you prefer to work with? Do you prefer someone in a higher level role or is someone not as high acceptable? The difference between a CEO and general manager, for example?
This question depends on the story. Both can be helpful depending on the information I need.
Have you ever thought of doing anything else besides journalism?
When I was really young, I wanted to be a geriatrician because I was really close to my grandma. Since then though, I have wanted to be a reporter.
What do you do when you have some free time?
I spend a lot of time talking to friends, visiting museums or parks and binge watching Netflix.
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