These are all the things you should never say to a journalism student
Did you really just say that? Like seriously?
As soon as I started college, all of my friends, family, and fellow students only wanted to know one thing: what’s my major? If you're like me, and proudly announce that you're going to be a journalism major, don’t be surprised when you are offered a few “words of wisdom." Although most people mean well, it's good to have a clever and calm response to help overcome a lot of awkward, small-talk situations. I'm two years in and the assumptions keep getting crazier…
“You know it’s a dying art…"
This is by far the most common remark I've heard. A bit like the urban legend of the crocodiles in the New York subway, no one is really sure where this idea came from. Are there fewer printed magazines and newspapers? Yes. Are there also more digital media outlets than ever? Yes. What's even more amazing is that instead of picking up just one paper to rely on for all of your world news, most readers consult a whole variety of different publications. The landscape of journalism may be changing but it’s not the same as being a Latin major (my apologies to all of you Latin majors out there).
“The salary is terrible"
And? I'm a student, I'm used to being broke! It sounds cliché but isn't doing something you enjoy more valuable than being well-paid? Can't we join the generation of people (unfortunately referred to as yuppies) who've gone from well-paid jobs in industries like finance to small start-ups that reflect their real passions?
I plan on skipping straight to the passion part. My intern salary may be terrible, or even non-existent, but so will the intern salary of many of my fellow graduates. A foot in the door is a foot in the door, after all.
“It has nothing to do with luck"
There's a huge difference between making your own luck and there being no such thing as luck. Of course, luck is important, but that doesn’t mean we should sit back and wait for it to strike. Getting a great internship or publishing your first piece is about perseverance mixed with opportunity. If I have a great idea, I tell someone about it. In fact, I tell everyone about it until somebody bites. Don’t give up at the first no. A very successful business woman once told me that she viewed her success by the caliber of the people she was rejected by, and I take her strategy to heart.
“It’s just so political"
Just as not all medical students become neurosurgeons, not all journalism students write about politics. The great thing about journalism is that it gives me the opportunity of perpetual discovery. I can go from writing a theater review one day, to a reflective essay about growing up in a small rural town the next. You may even discover a topic that you like writing about so much that you decide to specialize in it. As an aspiring journalist, I am a storyteller. My job is to take a bunch of research and data and craft it into something that captures people. Maybe I capture their imagination or their sense of humor, or even their outrage, but as long as they keep reading, I've won.
“Do you need a degree to do that?"
This is a sticky issue. Many people believe that writing is easy and when it comes to the simple mechanics, it is. Anyone can start their own website and anyone can write an opinion piece. But in reality, journalism is so much more. As journalists, we have a chance to write about the things we're passionate about, alongside things we couldn’t care less about (which is the same as most careers out there). College is teaching me how to conduct better research, how to present both sides of a story, how to identify my personal biases, and so much more. Anyone can be a writer, but it takes skill and acumen to be a journalist.
“It’s not like in the movies"
What?? You mean if I'm Archaeology major I won’t get to crack a whip and drink from mythical chalices?
Obviously, life is not like the movies. If it was, I wouldn’t spend rainy days curled up in front of the tv screen. The film "Spotlight" is the perfect example of the way investigative journalism can shape the world around us. The story captures the sense of tedium and frustration that the journalists felt but they were still gripped by the story. It demonstrates that journalism is not something you pursue on whim.
If the Boston Globe journalists had published the first piece of the puzzle on its own it would have turned into a he-said she-said that was quickly forgotten. Instead they waited and kept working until they had crafted a piece that would change the landscape of the Church in Boston and eventually earn them a Pulitzer Prize for public service. The film may have condensed months and months of hard slog into 2 hours and 9 minutes of movie magic but if you are like me, what you should be amazed by is the months and months. I know working for a publication is going to be hard, but I'm not afraid of hard work.
We're all part of a society of opinion leaders and tastemakers that keep the world on its toes. Whether you're just starting college or already in the thick of the action, take these assumptions about journalism majors with the poise of the journalist you are becoming.