Elon alum gives reporting class journalistic advice

By Laura Smith

November 9, 2008

Pacing around the room, throwing his hands in the air, ranting about how much he hates YouTube, Elon University Alumni Matt Belanger bounced around from topic to topic explaining his work as a news reporter during a talk he gave to a reporting class on Friday.

The energy of the investigative reporter’s enthusiasm for his job and his love for journalism was enough to wake anyone up at 10:30 in the morning.

“If I’m making everyone angry, then quite frankly, I’m doing my job right!” Belanger said.

An investigative reporter who focuses on government and politics, Belanger works for WGAL-TV in Lancaster, PA as a reporter and an anchor and he doesn’t always make people happy with his reports.

One of Belanger’s main focuses this past year has been uncovering the “dirt” in political campaign ads. He showed the class a video of a report he produced that uncovered the lies of an ad directed towards a Pennsylvania politician.

This type of report is just one of the many projects Belanger works on in his career.

Referring to a stovetop, Belanger said he usually has “six to eight pots on the burner at a time.”

“If I’m not writing things on my computer, I’m writing them in my head,” he said.

Belanger had three main points to address to the class regarding what he does in his job. First, he told the students to be a real person and warm up to those they interview.

“If you’re nice to them, chances are they’ll be nice back to you,” Belanger said.

Next, he advised the class to find a way to be memorable.

Finally, he told the students to take information given to them and treat it correctly “in a fair light and a non-bias way.” He said this is not as easy as it sounds however.

“You’re never able to eliminate every ounce of bias,” he said.

While Belanger was a student at Elon he was involved in both The Pendulum and Phoenix 14 News.  While he knew he wanted to go into broadcast journalism, he honed his skills even more by writing for The Pendulum.

“I developed my love for reporting more in a print form,” Belanger said. “Broadcast is a different monster.”

He encouraged the students to get involved during their time at Elon by doing as much journalism as possible. As for The Pendulum and Phoenix 14, he advised students to “do both while you’re here…it gives you a broader perspective.”

Nowadays Belanger enjoys his job but admits that it has lost a bit of its excitement.

“The novelty of television wears off,” he said.

He told students it takes more than just journalistic talent.

“You have to really love this craft and this job in order to persevere and succeed in it,” he said.

“You need to really be doing journalism for the right reasons,” he continued. “If you’re doing it to see your face on television or doing it to see your name in the paper, that’s not quite the right reason.”

“You have to really love communicating necessary important information to people on a daily basis.”

However, Belanger does not believe that all media will one day converge together in a single medium, like many think it will.

“I don’t think it will ever slam in together,” he said.

He still trusts the novelty of being able to carry around a newspaper.

“The feel, the smell of the paper: there is an experience, a relationship that people have,” he said. “It’s not about the words on the page, really…but there’s something about that experience that’s never going to go away.”



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