Viewpoint: Journalism Schools

To the young writer with “fire in their belly” as an old professor of mine used to say, journalism school might seem like a good idea – train with other bright young writers in the way of the pen and go on to become future wordsmiths, the like of such never before seen. To these budding writers, all one must do to succeed is enroll in a good journalism school, graduate and then begin to work and write in the same league as their idols, figures such as the editor of the Chicago Tribune, a renowned staff writer for the Washington Post, or perhaps a writer for People Magazine.

Attaining such prestige in the competitive, fast-paced world of journalism is nowhere near as simple as one would hope. It takes years of hard work for more often than not, pay that if it were in any industry other than journalism, would incite worker rebellion. Journalism school also possesses a darker side, one of fierce competition over the best assignments, the most interesting interview subjects, and the most senior position on the campus paper. If competition is not your thing, then perhaps you best reconsider, for journalism is indeed a fast-paced, cut throat industry where the weak or the feint-hearted are quickly left in the dust.

For every negative side of journalism schools, there is also a positive. If the writing student needs to learn to adapt a professional journalistic style or acquire the tools necessary to become a good copy editor, there is no better place to attain them than in the halls of a journalism school. Educators add the extra polish that their students need to stand out in the often times overcrowded world of journalism and allow them to learn through valuable processes such as college newspapers. It is true that there is no better way to learn than by doing.

The decision whether or not to attend journalism school should be made carefully. Some students have found great benefit from taking an early internship with a local publication before making the decision. Internships are a wonderful tool that allow the student a safe, relatively risk free way to ‘test the waters’ and see if journalism is right for them. In addition, it also has the benefit of helping the student gain entrance to journalism school, win a scholarship and get those all too important contacts in the industry. My final suggestion – take your time and try it out before you make the decision to attend journalism school.

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