Published September 2019 – by Sean Mortell
I’ve always wanted to be a journalist. A sports journalist, to be specific.
Unlike many of my friends throughout high school, I’d worked out what I wanted to do early on and never waivered. It just seemed I was best suited to writing — in particular, writing about sports that I had devoted a lot of my life to. When it got to year 12, I thought the obvious way forward was to study journalism at university.
I wasn’t sure what to expect — what can they teach? How do they prepare us for work? As my first year of uni comes to an end, I’ve realised that it has taught me a great deal about the industry itself.
An article on Mumbrella suggests that a journalism degree isn’t worthwhile because the industry is more focused on experience. Similar views have been echoed by the occasional guest lecturer at uni, as well as older, more experienced journalists I’ve spoken to. They all perpetuate the idea that as long as you can write well and can build contacts, you will be fine to gain experience from the get-go. They have a pessimistic air to them — they encourage us to move quickly because the journalism industry is weakening with job cuts.
It’s scary. There’s no talk of enjoying the craft or of the great time we will have learning the details of this profession — just a push to get going before we’re left behind in a terrible state of unemployment and stagnation.
On the other hand, this piece on Junkee gives both sides to the story. Sure, the media industry is notoriously difficult to get into. Experience and contacts are essential. The article also mentions something I have discovered for myself this year: a journalism degree is versatile and can offer a lot to wide-eyed young adults like me. If you learn to write hard and soft news pieces, how to create a portfolio that increases your chances of securing a job and how to interview people for great quotes, then you’re ahead of someone who has gone straight into a cadetship without a clue how to tackle these challenges.
If I hadn’t studied journalism this year, I would’ve thought of the industry as primarily focused on writing skills, fancy language and world-defining stories. However, the writing skill we’re developing have a focus on how to tailor your writing to suit your audience — not on jazzing it up to make yourself appear smart. Journalism degrees can be used as an entry point for many areas of work. The primary skills of versatile writing styles, obtaining contacts and conducting yourself professionally are critical in media, marketing and professional relations. I’ve learnt about advertising, sales and much, much more.
Despite many ex-journalists being negative about the future of the industry, every other member of the teaching faculty has been vibrant, optimistic and experienced. They have all worked at major companies and have decades of journalism experience. There’s no better way to be taught the foundational skills of journalism and learn about the types of jobs and scenarios that are waiting to be tackled.
Ultimately, a journalism course has changed in my eyes as a helpful ticket to get into the industry, to something that teaches essential skills to prospective journalists.