Why be a journalist?

Thanks to cartoonstock.com

Two years ago, I did a job shadow with my cousin, then an editor at the Minneapolis Star Tribune. I peered over the desks heaped with papers and notes and old food containers. I strained to hear the hushed but intense discussions between writers and editors taking place in the corners.  I was nearly run over as the crime reporter and accompanying photographer flew by to cover a breaking news story.

That day was when I looked around and went, “Yeah, this is DEFINITELY what I want to do.”

Of course, even just two years later things are already different. I had never heard of Twitter as of my senior year of high school, and Facebook was just somewhere to post photos and “poke” the cute guy in your homeroom class. No one I knew had a touch screen cell phone and get this- you couldn’t even use your iPod to take video!

We’ve heard a lot of lamenting lately about the “dying newspaper industry,” but others have also commented about the great opportunities being presented in journalism. G.W. Miller, a journalism professor at Temple University in Philadelphia, says that even through the layoffs and instability of the journalistic job market, this career path is still a great one to be on. He writes that, “It’s a new media world and, I would argue, the most inspiring time in history to be an aspiring journalist.”

Scott Elliot, an award-winning blogger of the Dayton Daily News,  writes that “Today, I just can’t imagine working without a blog. I write nearly everything online first and then figure out what makes sense for the print newspaper.”

Many of the things I’m learning in my J-School classes are very different than what I figured on when I first applied. But to me, that’s not a bad thing. I tend to agree with Miller and am excited to see what role I end up playing in the ever-evolving world of journalism.

What inspired you to first look to journalism as a career? And as the industry has changed, what has kept you around? Is what you want to do now with your degree the same as it was when you started college?

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5 responses to “Why be a journalist?

  1. I didn’t know what I wanted to be after school until senior year in high school. Even then, I didn’t know exactly what, but I knew writing was the path I wanted to travel. I went to a community college first and then transferred to Drake to finish my last two years after I spoke with a former journalism professor. She was so intense with her writing and spoke with high knowledge of every subject in the news. She knew so much, and I wanted the same.
    I thought I’d be one of the guys you see in the old movies, holding a pen in one hand and a notepad in the other. Now ad-ons are required. Aside from the pen and paper in hand, a camera hangs on the neck, a tape recorder dangles from the shoulder, a laptop carries on the back and a battery bag holds to the hips.
    A journalist is weighed down like a military soldier. Both have crucial gear to survive.
    Even with this, I kept the interest through my love of knowing all and informing others.
    Without journalists, how will people get accurate news?

  2. Ann Schnoebelen

    That’s a great way of looking at it!
    I saw things a little differently before, too. I partly envisioned scribbling notes on napkins and meeting in dark bars and slaving for days over a big piece.
    But why use napkins when you’ve got an iPhone, who needs secluded areas to talk when you can just send an email and who has more than a couple hours to spend on a story nowadays?

    But I think you’re correct, even as our methods evolve, what’s important is that we’re still providing the service we’re mean to provide.

  3. My goal is the same as when I started, to write for a magazine, but my expectations of what such a career entails have. I initially pictured going to fashion events, brand launches, ect. and covering them in a face-to-face, notepad style interview. Now, I know of the unlimited possibilities–we could skype, I could track a source to get a hold of them through multiple multimedia sources. The sky is the limit today.

    I guess I view it as somewhat exciting to not know where journalism is going…being a part of a transition. By no means do these “new” expectations provoke me to change my major.

  4. Even though I stand by the career I chose to study, doesn’t mean I’m going to look for fall-backs. It might be a good idea take on a double major, something that complements news or magazines, like politics or business.
    These are not things to easily accept, but in rocky times, people need to do what’s best for their success, regardless how supportive they are of the industry.
    Is that the same as abandoning? Grab what you can and run, right?

  5. The fast pace and opportunity to be creative was what interested me. But then the idea of sitting behind a desk all my life changed my mind. What I want to do with my degree now is a complete 180 from what I wanted when I started college.

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