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Q&A: Reporter Natalie Allison talks about covering breaking news stories

Updated: Jun 3, 2020

By Ikumi Kajisa, Studio M staff //

Natalie Allison is a breaking news reporter for The Tennessean and has been since July 2017. Before getting a job there, she was covering stories in central North Carolina for several years.

Allison’s main interests are writing about include modern-day white nationalist groups and immigration issues.

(Photo courtesy of Natalie Allison)

How did you get into becoming a journalist?

I knew I wanted to be a journalist from the time I was in ninth grade, actually. I thought then that I wanted to be a TV reporter. By the time I got to the end of high school, I indeed did not want to be on TV, but I still very much was interested in journalism as a career.

What was your inspiration to go into the journalism field?

My whole life, I’ve always been a very curious person. I’ve been inquisitive, always have asked a lot of questions, and I’ve always just wondered and wanted to find answers to those questions, so it seemed like a natural fit from the beginning. I do enjoy talking to people. I’m not afraid of meeting new people and being frank and blunt and asking sometimes difficult questions, so it seemed like a good fit for me. And then on top of that, it just seemed like a fun career, an exciting career.

Could you tell me what a day in the life of a journalist is like?

The fact that, especially being a breaking news reporter, that you’re covering what’s going on, what’s breaking that day in the world, most days are not like the one before. Working evenings, I come in and sometimes I have gotten emails or staff messages or texts or calls from editors giving me a heads up — “Hey, you’re gonna be covering this,” “There’s a press conference about that this afternoon,” “There’s this event that’s gonna be happening that we need you to go to.” So I’ll have directions sometimes, but other times it’s just coming in and monitoring social media feeds and keep an eye on user-generated content — so what people in Middle Tennessee are sharing online to try to monitor other kinds of breaking news. It’s listening to the police scanner. It’s keeping an ear out if it sounds like someone was just murdered or if a building just exploded or something like that.

What is one of the most memorable stories you’ve ever done?

Probably one of the most memorable was when I covered a Ku Klux Klan rally in December, and I was in North Carolina at the time. I was actually able to break that story. I was able to get to that rally when other news outlets didn’t know where it was going to be. And so, my story got picked up by outlets around the world because there was a number of reporters who wanted to be there to cover it. They were holding this Trump victory rally, and it was of huge interest to national and international media, but because of some sourcing I did, I was able to figure out where it was held. It was just me and a British freelance journalist I brought along with me, and I got exclusive video that went viral, and I got a story for my outlet in North Carolina that got picked up by a lot of people, so that was incredibly memorable.

What was your biggest obstacle or something that you had to adapt to coming into the journalism field?

Coming from college, that was four and a half years ago, one thing that actually was surprisingly, not a challenge, but required a period of transition to get use to was talking on the phone in front of other reporters. So in college you often are doing your interviews, your projects and your homework, on your own time. In college, some people at my student newspaper were in the habit, it’s a horrible habit, but of doing e-mail interviews. And so sitting two feet away from another reporter on the phone, having interviews with something, I wasn’t used to. I never really had to do it except at one of my internships, so that was actually something, as a millennial several years ago, coming out of college into a workplace required me to become comfortable with and get use to.

What advice would you give to an aspiring young journalist?

I would say do all the internships. If I could go back and do it again, I would have applied for internships, I would have made sure I did more internships, I would have applied for fellowships and I would have even considered doing paid internships right out of college and getting my foot in the door for a bigger outlet. So I would certainly encourage anyone in college to do as many internships as possible, not only to give you experience, but to help you solidify what you want to do and maybe what you don’t want to do. Also, to network because my internship connections were crucial to me getting my first job, and my connections from my first job, helped me get this job.

Ikumi Kajisa is a junior at Middle Tennessee State University majoring in Visual Communication with a minor in Art. 

Studio M, a project of the College of Media and Entertainment at MTSU, allows student journalists to be published statewide and nationwide. It’s made possible through grants and donations from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Tennessean and BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee.

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