I know you probably read the headline and rolled your eyes as you’re swimming in algorithms and DNA sequences, but hear me out.
In the past three and a half years, I’ve learned that no other major could leave me as badly bruised as journalism has. Here’s why:
We aren’t given the luxury of keeping our work in our manila folders at home.
The way a journalism major improves in his or her work is by producing it in the first place. And no, that doesn’t mean turning in tests, quizzes or abstracts; it means writing stories to be published for the world to see. It isn’t returned for improvements or put straight in a portfolio. Instead, it’s handed out for all classmates, teachers, administrators and future employers to see. Do you know how nerve-wracking that is? Which, actually leads me to my next point.
We rarely know if anyone actually reads our work until we’ve done something ‘wrong’.
I’ve written more than 100 stories and gotten feedback on maybe 15 of them, and 80 percent of that feedback was negative. People have told me I don’t have any morals and I’m a horrible, biased writer on so many occasions I’ve contemplated changing my major every year. And I’m willing to bet I’m going to hear more about the Sing Song predictions being foul or unjust than I will about the detailed design of the 60th Sing Song spread or multiple features the entire Optimist staff worked on diligently throughout the week.
We’re told to serve two masters.
News never stops, so neither do we. Nothing about news culture cares that I have a 1 p.m. class, it’ll happen anyway. And if you think student media advisors and target audiences will forgive you for missing breaking news because you’re in class, you’re hysterical. I’ve edited stories in class, texted assignments during lectures and straight up ditched some classes just to meet deadline. Student media is held to such a high standard, it’s ridiculous to believe students are capable of doing it all and maintaining sanity while also getting a college education.
You don’t even know if your work will pay off.
By the time I graduate I’ll have spent three and a half years working for the Optimist, I’ll have three internships done and at least 150 examples of my work to show future employers. And yet, there’s no guarantee I’ll find a job, or if I get an internship instead, get paid at all. And if we’re being honest, almost everything I’ve learned in my classes will be outdated by the time I’m in a modern newsroom. Which just adds the pressure to be self-taught in just about everything, in addition to going to class and working. It’s fine, it’s good, I got this.
All of that is to say, journalism is the toughest major I could have chosen, not for the work in the classes or the material, but because it has a certain expectation that I’m capable of being a professional at the same time I’m still learning the ropes.
Most of all, though, college journalism is the toughest because it’s forced me to be more vulnerable and open with my work, my thoughts and my confidence than I ever thought I would be with 3,500+ people in 12 pages every Friday after Chapel.