The struggles (and rewards) of being a college journalist
When I first came to WVU, I was a STEM major. Crazy, right? I wanted to be a veterinarian, because animals, we know.
Two months into school, I had already dropped entry level chemistry, was not getting my desired grade in biology, and just overall wasn't happy with the science field, so I thought about what I wanted to switch my major to.
My high school was small, as I only graduated with sixty kids. These were the same sixty kids I went to kindergarten with, just to give you an idea of how tiny this place was! One of the only electives my school had to offer was a journalism class, taught by one of my favorite teachers. English has always been my best subject, so I thought, "why not?"
Going forward a year, I debated changing my major to education, so I could be an English teacher too, like the woman who got me obsessed with To Kill A Mockingbird, but I just don't have the patience. I thought about going to law school, but wasn't too into that either. So, remembering how much I had liked my one lone elective, I gave journalism a shot.
Immediately, my life brightened. I was writing again, something I always LOVED to do. I vaguely remember sitting in church when I was young and writing stories on the note pages we got before service. I would fill mine up with ease, and beg my entire row to pass their's down.
Now that two years have passed and I'm in higher level classes, I constantly have to defend myself when I tell my friends, who are still STEM majors, that I'm extremely busy all the time with my writing. I still love what I do and I love the professors and the college but MAN IT CAN BE HARD AT TIMES.
First things first; interviewing. This is by far, in my case, the HARDEST thing about being a young journalist. I'm pretty laid back and easy-going, and I've been told that it reflects off of me and onto others and puts them at ease, so it's not so much being nervous at an interview that puts a damper on things; it's actually setting up an interview, and in my case, without a press badge or a team of people behind me who can help me get clearance to certain things (FOIA is a beautiful thing).
It goes without saying that as a journalist, you have a deadline. And if you don't meet that deadline, you let a whole group of people down. When you're given a week for a story, and it's day three and no one has answered your relentless emails and calls, you start to freak out a little bit. And because it's unethical, I can't exactly ask my pharmacy friends to give me a quote on flu season for my story on flu shots.
Another struggle I constantly encounter normally comes when I get an interview without a hitch. I cannot tell you how many times I've been asked to keep someone anonymous, which isn't exactly ideal for a lot of stories. And I can't just leave out your name because you asked me to. For video stories, when I record people's interviews for broadcast, I have to go through a line of people at times. "Oh, you're videotaping? Please not me! Let me get so and so, she looks cute today!" This process repeats itself ten times before finally someone feels bad for me and reluctantly loops my microphone through their shirt.
Ironically, pulling a student towards my camera randomly in the street doesn't make them blink. But when I ask my first question to the bystander, they say, "Oh wait, I want to be interviewed for this, but can you tell me a little about it first?"
Uh, no, not really.
Remember when I said I love to write? That wasn't a lie, but when you're constantly writing 24/7, writer's block really hits hard. There are times where I am just so done and that my brain feels so fried. I feel the need to spice things up a bit with my writing when this happens, but as any journalist would know, that's the number one thing to not do. You have to write with an elementary vocabulary, so everyone can understand it. Also, you can't use words that promote bias, so even something as simple as "exciting" will need to be edited out.
Grammar. Another tough point. My AP stylebook literally travels with me everywhere, and no matter how often I check it and how much I have memorized, the rules change all the time. Not only that, but to constantly switch between MLA and AP style proves to carry a lot of mistakes. I sometimes even write entire papers in the wrong format. My theatre teachers think I'm insane, and my journalism teachers know I'm wrong.
Keeping up on the latest news is crucial, which can be difficult for a college student. I'm extremely lucky, because my parents help me pay for cable, but I know a lot of college students solely rely on Netflix for entertainment. And as a journalist, watching the eleven o'clock news is insanely important. theSkimm can only take you so far (No hate towards theSkimm though, I love them. You can sign up for it here! https://www.theskimm.com/)!
Money. Sadly, it's something we have to think about, even when we're doing something we love. It's a well known fact that journalists aren't paid a pretty penny, and the same goes for internships. My mother really knows how to beat a dead horse with this one (hahaha, sorry mom). Even after spending over twenty hours a week in a newsroom, as an intern, I won't make much, if I make anything. This can suck as a college student, but as I always like to be positive, I'm grateful for any journalism experience I have.
So, what are the rewards of being a college journalist?
Every part of journalism continues to leave me speechless! It's so funny, but I honestly never thought I would have this much fun doing anything else besides acting (did yinz know my dream job is to be a movie star?). I have never been one to just sit around (unless I'm purposefully being lazy!); I love to run around and keep myself busy, and journalism does exactly that! I feel as if I mentioned this before, but when I went to New York City, into the Allure beauty section, and saw the amount of cluttered makeup boxes, magazines, and articles thrown everywhere, I felt so at home.
I love the excitement it brings, and I love that I am constantly learning new things. I'm thankful for all of the amazing opportunities that have made me the journalist I am today, and everything in the future that will be thrown my way!
So if there is anyone out there who wants to be a journalist, but is afraid that what everyone says about it is true (like journalism is a dying industry, which is 100% false!), my advice is to do it! And maybe one day we'll all work in the Conde Nast building beneath all of the clutter, and the watchful eye of Anna Wintour.