As a perpetually stressed graduating journalism major, I live by two basic essentials – coffee and writing.
I grew up watching Devil Wears Prada, Sex and The City, and Beauty and The Briefcase, and they all contributed to my passion for writing. As early as 15, I already knew what I wanted to be, thus I chose journalism. Behind the love stories and romanticization of the job, is the reality of its danger and duty to the people. In a matter of 3 years, I learned the value of truth and justice through countless paperwork and ethical lectures.
Getting down to the nitty-gritty, no one can survive journalism without a genuine passion for public service. That’s the annoying truth that professors would constantly remind you of, hence the need for coffee (or alcohol if you’re old enough). Despite the warnings, my dedication to writing and being the voice of the public outweighs all these challenges. So, if you are thinking of applying to journalism, consider my tips on how to successfully survive the 4-year course.
Survival Tips for Aspiring Journalism Students
Write, write, WRITE!
If you hate writing, then you will definitely have a problem with your classes. Expect that most subjects, especially majors, in journalism will require you to write different kinds of paperwork such as articles, essays, research, and more. This means that a lot of the exams are in a form of write-ups instead of the usual multiple choice. With this, you will also experience a lot of burnout moments in between difficult assignments.
Therefore, the best way to prepare yourself is to make writing your habit. For starters, keeping a diary or journal is helpful for practicing and tracking your progress. To keep yourself accountable, try joining your campus publication or organizations for writers and journalists. This will not only expose you to the practice, but it will also force you to write regularly.
Make reading your hobby.
Most writers I know started writing because of their love for reading books, newspapers, and magazines. I, for one, discovered my potential in writing after my John Green phase in 2014. It became easy for me to be good at it because of my exposure to different writers. Just like the These Violent Delights author Chloe Gong, I am a mix and match of my favorite authors’ writing styles.
Literature is by itself critical of the real world. In this sense, I think, literature is subversive.Mario Vargas Llosa
Furthermore, it is a must for journalism students to be aware of current issues. Whether you plan on writing for lifestyle or sports, every journalist should know the importance of being updated and informed all the time. Either way, everything is political as it interconnects for the good of everyone’s safety and well-being.
Connections… Connections that you should have!
I will forever thank Laida Magtalas version 2.0 from It Takes A Man and A Woman for this line. It truly makes a difference if you know people that will help you in different areas of your career. In fact, a professor (shout out to Sir Nix) once told us to keep a list of contacts of individuals or offices for interviews and case studies.
Use social media to your advantage. It also helps to follow various media outlets for sources and updates. In addition, create a professional account to separate it from your personal one in case there are personal tweets you need to hide from the public.
Researching and fact-checking will be your best friends.
I cannot stress this enough. You cannot escape research in journalism, it is part of the job and your duty as a conveyor of information. Without skills in research, your stories will not go anywhere.
Moreover, protect your credibility by making sure you are upholding the truth. Although you cannot guarantee that you won’t make mistakes, you must also remember to accept constructive criticisms and hold yourself accountable. It is better to own up to your faults than to defend a lie.
Remember the inverted pyramid.
One of the first things you will learn in class will be the inverted pyramid. It is the basic structure of journalistic writing where you will start the article by laying out the most important information and then ending with the least important information. The inverted pyramid is an effective way to catch your readers’ attention. This also enables them to immediately understand what the article is all about.
Invest in a camera for photography classes.
As early as freshman year, professors will require you to have a camera. It is an essential tool in your studies and future projects. So, do yourself a favor and invest in a decent DSLR or mirrorless camera. Do not be like me who has to settle with an outdated second-hand that got broken right away. Otherwise, you will dread your photography classes because I did.
Know your rights!
Pay attention to media laws and ethics classes because you will really need them. This is, of course, just a precaution or self-defense in case something happens. Given the risk, you must always prepare yourself for the worst possible scenario. Remember that you are protected by the constitution.
Learn to protect yourself.
Speaking of self-defense, prepare yourself for a lot of commuting and traveling for legwork and coverages. Ensure your safety by having something to protect you with every time and anywhere. I personally carry an SOS keychain with a flashlight, whistle, alarm, pointy object, and pepper spray. Also, make sure to always alert your families and closest friends of your whereabouts.
The most important weapon is your courage. It takes guts to interview and it takes guts to report the news. I actually used to fear public speaking. Well… I still fear it today but I have slowly learned to endure and enjoy it.
Another teacher of mine (shout out to Sir Marlon) pushed me to face this fear back in senior high school. Even if the impromptu speaking exercises were traumatic for my self-esteem, I grew to be grateful for that part of my life. If it was not for that, I would probably not be able to survive college.
Because whether you believe it or not, the information you hold in your hands comes with power – unbelievable power! – and that power can be used to either build or destroy. It is the journalist’s sense of freedom that fuels that power.Joel Pablo Salud
Oddly, in journalism, professors will do everything to fearmonger you from being a journalist. I found it funny at first until I realized how important it was to take this seriously. Without a doubt, journalism is one of the most life-threatening and exhausting jobs in the world, but it is also the most fulfilling. I have no regrets about choosing this path because I love what I do. If you love it too, then this is the course for you!
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Lea Briones' love for writing and reading books led her to the path of journalism, molding her to become the outspoken feminist she is today. At fifteen, she already knew she wanted to be a writer as she aspires to be her own version of the hopeless romantic it girl, Carrie Bradshaw. This introverted Virgo sun, Leo moon, and Libra rising is an astrology enthusiast and an avid crystal collector who found solace and comfort in writing her thoughts and innermost feelings.