Since my first semester of university, I’ve been what you might call a campus journalist. I first started working as a staff writer for Augustana’s campus newspaper, the Dagligtale, and eventually co-founded the Augustana Medium – a monthly print magazine.
And have I learned anything through these experiences? Of course! Even if I don’t pursue journalism as a career (which I still might), I’ve picked up a few skills. Here are the top six things I’ve learned from my experience in student journalism so far:
1. It’s okay to talk to strangers
My very first story was about the grand re-opening of Augustana’s Founder’s Hall. I attended the celebration and was expected to casually interview attendees who I had no personal connection to (outside of being at Augustana too). And yes, the dean, was included in that interviewee group. I was terrified.
But, I did it – I talked to alumni, students, and yes, even the dean. By acknowledging my role as a journalist, I was able to push myself to initiate conversations that I would have never even dreamt of trying to launch before. I was able to open myself up to the risk of rejection, and as a result, I’ve gained the skills I need to talk to absolutely anyone. Now I call random people on the phone all the time, and it doesn’t phase me (I used to have trouble booking my own doctor’s appointments).
2. Fact Finding
In journalism, you can’t afford to have incorrect information. Everything you write has to be based on facts and backed up by credible sources.
It’s the same in university, you can’t just write an essay without referencing the information. As a student journalist, I have learned how to really dig for information and how to think critically about information presented to me.
In this era of fake news, it’s so easy for us to blindly believe the latest trending articles, but often, these articles present inaccurate information and even a small amount of research would make this obvious. Finding the raw facts is helpful when writing a paper for school, but it’s also an increasingly critical skill to have in everyday life.
Journalism has taught me that doing the research is one: not as daunting as it might seem; and two: entirely worth it if you want to be capable of understanding the world around you.
3. Networking… with People
In October, I had the opportunity to attend the ACP National Media Convention in Washington, DC. At the conference, I met students from across North America, and professionals from some of the best news outlets in the world.
At the conference, I learned a lot about how to both connect and maintain working relationships with professionals in the field. In our social media age, networking is highly important and can really help students in their future careers. Because of the connections I’ve made through my student journalism efforts, I have links with the realm in which I want to pursue a career.
4. I CAN Be More Productive
Full confession - balancing my coursework and my work as a journalist has been difficult at times. As a university student, there are so many opportunities outside of school that it can be hard to make time for everything.
I’ve found that I need to start saying no to a lot of little things, so that I can say yes to the big things. Productivity is about tracking your time, setting goals, and questioning the purpose of everything you do.
As a journalist working with tight deadlines, time management and productivity are key, especially when university life is a factor as well. As a result, I’ve had to learned to be more effective and efficient with my work, and I’m thankful that I have.
5. Deadlines Matter
There is nothing worse than submitting something late. In journalism, submitting an article or a photo after deadline can be detrimental to the publication – and you might lose your chance to be published. In the professional world, submitting work late could result in job loss.
In university, meeting deadlines is important too. While you can sometimes get an extension in certain circumstances, it’s can negatively impact your grades if you don’t submit major assignments on time. Further, meeting deadlines shows that you are reliable and effective at time management.
6. How to Take Criticism
As a student journalist, I’m aware that I still have a lot to learn. I’m constantly focusing on my personal growth and development, which means I will gladly take constructive criticism and work towards improvement.
I’m no longer afraid to ask people for feedback because I know that it will benefit me. This is also significant in the professional world because you will get negative feedback – however, you have to learn how to not take it personally and use the feedback to advance. The same is true in the classroom – if I were to receive a poor mark, I’d ask my prof why – not to be confrontational, and not to question their choice, but to find out what I should do to improve for next time. Constructive criticism is crucial for anyone seeking self-improvement.
Journalism is a fast-paced job that can be stressful and demanding – however, I am thankful that I have had the opportunity to try it out. It’s provided me with the skills to be a better student, citizen, and storyteller.
So, if you are ever given a chance to write for a campus publication, take the opportunity and learn everything you can! Take a risk because you never know how much it could benefit you.