We still need journalism

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Why not give J School a shot?

Written by: Ethan Williams, former staff writer

Perhaps you’re the arts undergrad who’s waning between areas of study; you haven’t quite nailed down what you want to explore, or who you want to be “when you grow up.”

Maybe you’re the history major who has a curiosity about the world but you aren’t sure what kind of job you’ll get after graduation, or you could be the English major who enjoys exploring topics in-depth, but you haven’t found the industry or job that fulfills you.

Or, maybe you find yourself loving the idea of spending your days enveloped in the world of news or current affairs.

No, I’m not here to crap all over the other programs you could, or have, taken. I’m not here to tell you it’s not worth getting an everyday BA because you’ll never get a job.

I’m only here to ask: have you considered journalism?

Seriously. I’m not trying to be the J-School Mormon on your doorstep asking if you have time for a conversation about converting to the religion of journalism. It’s just that journalism seems to be a career that’s often passed by. And who could blame people for that?

The long hours, the stressful situations, the not-so-satisfactory pay cheque. And with the additional anti-media rhetoric from political figures, such as Donald Trump, who would possibly want to go into such a career?

The numbers of people entering journalism seem to reflect that thinking. Last April, the School of Journalism here at the U of R graduated seven undergraduate students. In April, it’s expected that nine undergrads will graduate – a slight increase.

Now, I know there are other undergraduate programs at the U of R that have only a few students that graduate from them each year. But as little as five years ago – and almost every year prior since its inaugural class in 1981 – the School of Journalism was graduating as many as 25 students per spring – its capacity for the number of students it accepts each year.

Now the school has dropped its entrance exam and interview process – one of the only undergrad programs, if not the only one at the U of R that required students to complete that process before getting in – and has opened up some of its classes to students who aren’t necessarily pursuing a degree in the field.

It’s a move that I applaud. Journalism represents the public’s interest. So why should the public have to jump through hoops to get into a field that represents them so that they can represent others?

I understand the world needs credible, hard-working journalists and those entry requirements ensure that, but it’s great to see the school open its doors to more students, especially those who might be great future journalists, but struggle in exam or interview situations.

So now that it’s more open and available, why do it?

It’s a rewarding career. Coming off six months of interning in the field, I’ve learned it really is fun to investigate a story you’ve always wanted to cover or chase after people (not physically, of course) to get their opinion on something, or get assigned to go find out about a breaking event. You get to be nosy about things and you know what? In this profession, that’s a good thing.

Yes, it’s rigorous. You might not have to take the online exam or have a sit-down interview with one of the school’s professors to get in, but once you’re in, the assignments take time, effort and attention. So much so that you’ll miss meals; you might even miss sleep – but then again, what university degree doesn’t come with some toil and personal sacrifice?

But is it worth it? Well, I still have another semester to go (which I hear is the toughest yet) but after the first year and two internships, I’d say so.

Still not convinced? Why not take a class or two to gauge what it’s like. Take the photojournalism class, for instance. You’ll get an idea of how to shoot for news and you’ll be assigned to shoot actual news and sports events throughout the semester.

Or take Journalism 100. It’s a class for students not yet in the J-School who get an understanding of journalism and what being a student in the J-School is like. Each week features a guest speaker who is either in the industry or was a student in the program. You’ll get to hear from someone who battled – uh, I mean worked – their way through the school to get to where they are.

Yes, the industry is changing. Yes there is negative rhetoric toward the profession. Yes, it is hard work. But it’s fun work and it’s work that is still needed today. It’s a phrase I often hear from people who hear I study journalism:

“It’s still a worthy profession.”

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