By Erica Schwartz
Last semester, I covered my first fashion event for my JO200 Newswriting class here at Boston University! Our class assignment was to cover an event story of our choosing. As a fashion fanatic and aspiring fashion writer, I knew I wanted to cover a fashion event. I chose to cover Boston’s first plus-size-only fashion show, “Every Body Belongs: Boston Embraces the Curve" during Boston Fashion Week 2023.
Reporter’s notebook in hand, I timidly entered the venue. My heart was pounding, and I could feel sweat brewing on my upper lip. No matter how much incredible advice I had learned from my professor, I was still terrified and confused about where to begin. After all, no matter how amazing her advice was, she was an expert at this—I was not.
That’s why I wanted to share my tips for new fashion reporters as a new fashion reporter! My mistakes are fresh in my mind, and I’m eager to help someone else learn from them.
Do your research
Do whatever internet scavenging you need beforehand to ensure you know what you’re talking about. Make sure you know who you want to interview, what you want to ask them, etc. For smaller events such as the one I covered, social media is an amazing tool to get a little background on everyone involved. Do more research than you think you need to! I thought I prepared well and did my homework, but I still felt awful when I interviewed one of the designers for the show and didn't recognize who she was. Save yourself the awkward moments and take some extra time to learn more about the event you’re covering, even if your research feels excessive.
Try to “double record” your interviews
By double-record, I mean trying to get an audio recording of your interviews, as well as writing them down by hand. As a new reporter, you likely aren’t familiar with shorthand or simply don’t have very much practice of transcribing as people speak. Recording your interviews with a phone or digital voice recorder is a great way to ensure you got down everything your interviewee said and double-check the accuracy of what you transcribed. Before you start recording, though, be sure to ask your interviewee for consent to record. Not only do many states—Massachusetts included!—have a two-party consent system, but transparency is always important for journalistic integrity.
Bring your reporter’s notebook
As previously stated, even if you end up recording your interviews, still bring your notepad. It’s great for keeping yourself organized and practicing your transcription skills. Moreover, as I learned in my newswriting class, your notebook gives you somewhere to look so you don’t have to make continuous eye contact with your interviewee. Although some eye contact is good and allows the interviewee to feel heard, incessant eye contact can be jarring and distracting. Plus, your reporter’s notebook gives you agency! Multiple people approached me asking to be interviewed as they could tell I was a reporter just from my notebook.
Take Yourself Seriously
It's easy to be swayed by the common narrative that fashion journalism isn't as serious or important as hard-hitting news journalism. No, what celebrities are wearing today and what fashion show is occurring tomorrow might not be as dire to get out there compared to current events that impact our day-to-day safety. However, fashion and its evolution are some of the clearest cultural markers of where we are as a society. Fashion simultaneously creates and preserves history, creating a long-term chronology of what is "important." So, take yourself seriously. Do the same preparation work and conduct yourself with the same decorum you would if you were covering a major "important" news event. You, too, are documenting history!