By: Connor Cavanaugh
“Stay calm.” These are just two of the many words of wisdom Scott McCrary shared with an Elon reporting class on Wednesday, September 18th in the school of communications.
“When you are first covering breaking news, stay calm,” he told the class in response to a question about tips for new journalists. He also told students to start by “partnering up with the oldest, grizzliest, reporter in the newsroom who can introduce you to sources.”
McCrary is a freelance producer in Washington, D.C. who graduated from Elon’s School of Communications in 2000. He has done work for CNN, Bloomberg LP, CBS, and WUSA-TV among others during his time in the nations Capitol.
“Producers are the workhorses of the newsrooms. We’re kind of like MacGyver, give us a stick of gum and we’ll find a way to get you on the air,” said MCCrary, who says his success as a freelancer relies on knowing people and sources.
“The most important question to ask when dealing with breaking news is ‘do we know this,”’ said McCrary. Accuracy is essential when reporting on breaking news such as Monday’s shooting in a Washington, D.C. naval yard.
However, McCrary acknowledges that, “you’re gonna get some of it wrong. Your viewers and readers expect that with breaking news.”
“When you do make errors, it is proper to acknowledge these mistakes, and pull back the curtain, walk the audience through the decision making to show them it was an honest mistake,” said McCrary.
Students in the classroom asked McCrary for tips on succeeding in the professional world, and he replied with many helpful insights:
-Exploit the Elon Alumni network. “We want to help you,” said McCrary.
-Don’t go out into the field with a narrow skill set. Be good at all types of writing and reporting.
-Be able to synthesize numbers. “If you are good at working with numbers, I’d have work for you on day two,” said McCrary.
McCrary summarized his experience in the industry, saying, “It’s a terrible way to make a living, a challenging way to make a living. But by god is it fun.”