Should I Major in Journalism?

Inquiring minds want to know – what is it like to major in journalism? Well, if you’ve got one of those particularly inquisitive minds, this area of study would probably fit you perfectly. A field where the sole purpose is to learn about new things and share them with the world, students who are naturally curious and determined to get answers to open questions should be more than ready to take this on. Certain challenges come along with it, however. Obstacles regarding boundaries and knowing when to keep reaching and when to recognize limits are explored. Depending on the area of journalism you want to go into, various skills concerning writing and/or broadcasting are covered as well. Is this a world you can handle?

Skills Needed: Journalists basically need to be unafraid. Hounding sources to get stories completed, especially when those sources don’t want to speak to you, is a huge effort that demands persistence on a whole new level. Students who wish to study journalism must be prepared to go to extreme lengths for answers and never get nervous – and if you do get nervous, you need the strength to push it aside and keep moving anyway. All of this may make journalism seem like an exhausting and dangerous marathon, but there are some calm aspects of it, too. You’ll have to do your fair share of research to thoroughly comprehend the background behind stories before you tackle them. Your classes will give you endless opportunities to prove your attentive research skills, bravery, and genuine curiosity. You may also want to check out these tips on things to focus on as a journalism major.

Lessons Learned: Being a journalism major will teach you how to spot a really good story. Reporters are not always assigned pieces – in fact, they are more often asked to pitch their own. Coming up with a solid pitch is a tactic that takes time to understand. Journalism classes will help you discover what you should be looking for on a regular basis and what separates an incredibly intriguing story idea from a mundane one. You want to find ideas that people will want to read/hear about, not ideas that will just get you by for another week. Majoring in journalism also means you will learn how to structure stories. There is a method to hooking your audience in and then keeping them engaged, plotting the right amount of quotes and facts at the right times. Moreover, a very specific type of writing is used - not the typical style you use in English essays or learn through formal writing tutoring. Finally, you will learn interviewing skills – how to come up with the best questions that will get the best answers out of people, how to deal with people who don’t want to talk at all, how to land great interviews in the first place, etc. Together, all of these lessons will go hand-in-hand and eventually show you what being a journalist is all about.

Post-Grad Opportunities: It has never been the best-paying market, but there are certainly several positions out there. Many of them aren’t glamorous, and often your first journalism job out of college will not be at all glamorous, but it will be something. Signing up to be a reporter means you will, in fact, be reporting. You could do stories for a small business journal, website articles for a T.V. station, advertorials for a magazine – what most aspiring journalists end up doing to get started is freelance writing. This can get you the opportunity to be published in a variety of places – the catch is, you will get paid little to nothing. Yet, that’s the main road to kicking off a journalism career. It’s all about getting your byline out there and eventually getting picked up by the right publication. If you are hoping to be a T.V. reporter, start searching for tiny markets. Random stations you probably never have heard of will be more likely to take on someone like you who is fresh out of school and has never officially been on T.V. before. Just make sure you have taped some good reels of your broadcasting skills so you can show them what you’re made of. The journalism field, like many other fields, is about working your way up. Impress the right person, however, and you may get pushed up the promotional ladder quicker than you thought. You may also want to check out this post on the journalism career experiences of a Northwestern University Alumnus to get an idea of what a major in journalism can do for your career.