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What is journalism?

Updated on June 6, 2014

Journalism? What's that?

Warning: PG-13 language used, not heavily, but it's in there because I felt it necessary to get my point across. Continue,

First off, we can’t be friends anymore. How dare you! Secondly, according to our handy-dandy friend dictionary.com, journalism is defined as: “1: the occupation of reporting, writing, editing, photographing, or broadcasting news or of conducting any news organization as a business, 2: press, 3: a course of study preparing students for careers in reporting, writing, and editing for newspapers and magazines, or 4: writing that reflects superficial thought and research, a popular slant, and hurried composition conceived of as exemplifying topical newspaper or popular magazine as distinguished from scholarly writing.” Asleep yet? Yeah, me too. Those are some very un-fun definitions of journalism, but they are correct. Before we get too much further, I’m going to define communication (it’s relevant; I promise). Again, as defined by dictionary.com, communication is “1: the act or process of communicating; fact of being communicated, 2: the imparting or interchange of thought, opinions, or information by speech, writing, or signs, 3: something imparted, interchanged, or transmitted, 4: a document or message imparting news, views, information, etc., 5: passage, or an opportunity or means of passage, between places.” Last time I’ll put you to sleep. I just really like definitions, and to understand where I’m coming from, I felt that those were necessary to share.

Now that I’ve bored you to death, it’s time to get you psyched up and excited!!!

A little back story...

Around sophomore year of high school that terrifying question, “what do you want to do with the rest of your life”, came into my life. Like everyone else, I panicked. “Holy shit. What AM I going to do the rest of my life??? Well, I really like science but there was that one time where I struggled because science. Maybe math since it’s easy. Oh, I have to do trigonometry? Haha! No! History? You can forget it! English? Eh. Getting warmer.”

Thinking about English was a good start. I’ve always been good at English, sometimes even fascinated by it. “tea and tee sound the same but are different things? Neat! Read and read and spelt the same but have different meanings? Woah!” You can call me a bit of a word nerd (Ha!). English had always been easy for me so why not peruse it? Because I can do something better! That same year, sophomore year, my calling came to me in my favorite place: English class. We were assigned to write a piece of creative writing from the perspective of a mayonnaise jar forced to sit in a basket in a grocery store while two teenagers flirted. Perspective of a mayonnaise jar? What? Yes, just let it sink in. Twenty minutes later, I put my pencil down and turned it in feeling like I had just written the best thing ever. Apparently, my teacher agreed and read it to the whole class. While she was reading it, the girl next to me was sitting in her desk with her mouth open in disbelief “holy crap. A student wrote that?” I started giggling and couldn’t stop because HELL YEAH A STUDENT WROTE THAT! AND THAT STUDENT WAS ME! Proudest day in sophomore English class. After that, I had decided it was in my destiny to take a creative writing course. Junior year, I was in creative writing course. Loved it! Made my best friends in that class, actually. At the end of junior year when I was signing up for classes for senior year, I was like “I really want to expand my writing skills. Let’s take newspaper.” So I did. Senior year I took creative writing two (which I loved more than creative writing one (project-wise anyways)) and newspaper. Loved them both. Yes, newspaper was a little bit more stressful than creative writing, but it was still a blast.

Senior year was also when I had to crack down and really figure out what I was going to do with my life. I had picked English so that was a good start. Until I looked at the classes that I would have to take: old English something-or-another, Shakespeare, classic literature. Half of my college career would be spent taking classes on the subjects that were most difficult to me in every English class ever. I just cannot understand old English without having someone explain it to me. I don’t know what it is. I just can’t do it. But, I had gotten that far: I want to do something like English that’s not English. A little bit of reading later, communication found me. Want to be a reporter? Communication is for you! Want to edit? Communication is for you. Do you like to communicate in any way to people? Communication is for you! Huge sigh of relief. I had figured out what I wanted to do with my life before going to college. High-five for me! I told my mom “good for you.” When I told my dad, it was like I could feel the air going out of the room. What was even worse was when I told him I didn’t want to be a legacy and go to the school that both he and my brother went to. In the end, he relaxed a little and it was basically an “okay, whatever, do what you want” situation. It still kind of is. I’m currently working on the “I told you this would work out great” phase. It’s going, well, pretty great.

"I told you so"

We’re still in the “I told you this would work out great” phase, but now we’re in the first semester of my freshman year of college. I took my general education classes. You know, those crappy ones required by every school to make you a “well rounded intellectual”, but I did manage to get myself some unpaid work editing for the school online newspaper. Second semester of freshman year, I still have the same major AND I declared my minor. I declared a writing and rhetoric minor because I missed creative writing (as well as any other writing that wasn’t a research paper). I got into a few of the classes required for a communication major. Those were my favorite classes that semester. I was still editing for the online newspaper. First semester of my sophomore year, still a communication major, still editing for the online newspaper, the classes for my major are still my favorite. I even got a work study job in the communication department doing nothing organizing files. My thought process in that was if I work in the department then I can make friends with everyone and then I can get a super cool internship or something awesome (still working on that part). Second semester of my sophomore year, basically the same stuff. I wasn’t as focused on editing for the online newspaper because they had made a lot of changes in how everything worked together and nothing was communicated very well. I still had my work-study job. I still loved my communication classes. However, this time around, one of them really stood out. COMM 303: writing across the media. It sounds sort of awful, but I actually really loved it. No, it wasn’t super easy. Yes, it required a lot of work, but what college course doesn’t? I think the teacher and the environment she created really stood out to me. I rarely skipped that class and loved the people I sat by. About halfway through the semester, that teacher started an SPJ chapter. At the interest meeting, we sat down and she basically gave us the floor and was like “okay, go.” WHAT? Who does that? Anyways, I found my leadership abilities somewhere and jumped right in. We elected officers, made bylaws, had a group dinner, had bi-weekly meetings, got our shit together for next semester. It was pretty incredible. For those of you who don’t know, SPJ is the Society of Professional Journalists. It had my name written all over it! I think that club is my proudest achievement so far.

Any time I joined something new or had a cool experience that related to journalism or creative writing or communication, I would call my dad and it would be yet another “I told you so” conversation or a “look at all the cool shit I’m doing with my life” conversation. Let me tell you something. Coming from a predominately math and science family, being the only one in such a liberal major and doing so well with it is one hell of a feeling. My parents are proud, my friends are proud, I’m so proud. I never would have thought that doing something I love would be this great.

Why do I love it?

Why do I love it? WHY do I love it? Why do I NOT love it? Are you crazy? I get so excited about journalism and anything even mildly related to it that I can’t even put my thoughts or emotions into real words. All I can do is squeal and jump and act like a teenage girl who is about to go see her favorite boy band in concert or a sorority girl who can’t even!!! The funniest part of that sentence is that I am a sorority girl, but we’ll cover that in another post. Anyways, I don’t know how to explain how journalism or writing makes me feel, but for you, dear reader, I will try my best. I want you to share in my excitement and love.

When I write almost anything, it takes me to this whole other world. It sort of puts me in my happy place (except for when it’s a research paper). Anything that I write that doesn’t require any citations or research puts me in my own space. It’s like meditation for me, or a Scrubs monologue. I somehow take what I’m writing and put myself into it. Maybe I’m not the main character in a piece of prose or maybe I have nothing to do with a breaking news story, but I’m in it and I can see it happening and I can feel the emotions that are there in that moment. It’s like when you read a really good book that you get so lost in that you stop seeing the words and start seeing a little movie in your head. It’s happening right now as I type this. I’m imagining me standing on a stage talking to thousands or in front of a class full of high school kids explaining to them why I love what I study or even at a job interview for who knows what, but I’m in the story. I’m here and I’m feeling it and I’m sharing it with you and it’s great. The words are just falling out of my brain, down my arms, and into my fingers who are just typing up a storm. It sounds like a really great song, hearing my fingers hit the keys. I love this feeling. I love this feeling more than any other feeling in the world. It makes me so incredibly happy. No one can ruin it for me. It’s like having a really good day that no one can ruin for you. I love it.

Then we head to the reporting part of writing. Have you ever watched breaking news? Of course you have. I think breaking news is the coolest shit ever, no matter what the breaking news is. Someone died thirty minutes ago? That’s cool as hell. No, listen. Someone died halfway across the country from you just thirty minutes ago and it’s on the news right now. Movies take years and years to make, but breaking news is on the TV in just a matter of minutes. You cannot tell me that that isn’t the coolest thing ever. One of my favorite museums in D.C., the Newseum, has a whole room full of that days front pages from every state in the country as well as a few front pages from other countries. I think that it is one of the coolest things in the world that you can go into that room the day after a big national news story breaks and all of those newspapers will have essentially the same story but it will be done in so many different ways with so many different pictures and phrases and words. I think it’s great. I think it’s better than great; I think it’s awesome, astonishing, overwhelming, stunning, wonderful, impressive, magnificent, and breathtaking and that doesn’t even begin to cover it. I just can’t find the right word to explain why I think that’s so great. I could write the same story over and over again and each time, it will be written differently. If you don’t think that that is the coolest thing ever, then I don’t know what to tell you. Sort of like angles. Angles are super cool, okay? Say a horse and its rider somehow manage to get stuck in a mud puddle that acts like quicksand. That right there is angle number one. Angle number two could go like this: heroic owner of horse dies after saving horse from mud puddle. Same story, different angle. The super-duper cool part of angles is that they can change as many times as your creativity wants them to, and with Photoshop, you can even have picture to prove it. With that same story, you could change the horse into a unicorn and the owner into a wizard and sell the story to Esquire or some other tabloid magazine. Super cool stuff here, people!

Source

What am I going to do with journalism?

Honestly, I don’t know. That’s the only thing that has changed since I started college. I went in thinking that I wanted to be an editor, but now, after taking a few communication classes, I don’t know. I’ve been exposed to more branches of communication and now I really don’t know. Do I want to write stories? Do I want to write news reports or be the anchor? Do I want to be in the spotlight or behind the scenes? Do I want to run a super rad blog like I’m doing right now? I don’t know. I have no clue where I want this major to take me, but I do know that I’m in the right place. Nothing and no one can convince me otherwise. I have fallen in love with it and every experience I’ve had because of it. I do know that I will do something great. I do know that whatever I do, I will be just as much in love with my job as I am with my major. If I’m not, I will work my ass off to get the position that will make me as happy as my major does. It will be the last chapter in my “I told you so” phase. I will do and be something great.

Next time...

I know that was long and I apologize for that! That's why I needed three different posts to talk about feminism. What can i say? I just can't keep my big mouth shut when it comes to things I'm passionate about.

Next time,

  • True life: living with hoarders. I will cover what it's like being a neat freak with hoarders for parents. They hoard everything from antiques to dust bunnies.

After that,

  • concert life: why is it so dangerous for pre-teens and teenagers?

Kindness and Kittens,

Liz.

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