Aspiring journalists need student media

Posted on May 6 2014 - 2:58am by Jesse Major

My journey as a Lute is unlike most. I transferred as a first-year junior after doing running start and attending Peninsula College. Now I’m graduating college again.  I’m perfectly OK with leaving Pacific Lutheran University. The school is not what I’ll miss. I’m going to miss exactly the same thing I miss at Peninsula College — the newspaper and its staff.

Something weird happens when you spend several hours at a time with your friends complaining about InDesign, deadlines, InDesign, classes and InDesign. You become a family, which is something I’m losing again.  The newsroom is unlike anywhere else I have worked. Usually I get to know co-workers just enough to be able to work with them — but in a student newsroom you become very close.

As student journalists, we have conversations that almost no other students would be interested in. We have had in-depth discussions about fonts, picas, kerning, serifs and why Comic Sans and Papyrus shouldn’t even exist. The newsroom is where I’ve learned just about everything I need to know to work as a professional journalist. We are the only students on campus fighting to be paid less. It’s not unheard of for editors to finish working after the sun rises. The low pay and long hours will prepare us for the real world.

But in all seriousness, the student newsroom has also taught me to be a journalist. Sure, the classes and lectures are supposed to help us learn, but nothing can equate to hands-on experience. I firmly believe you cannot learn journalism in a classroom. That being said, “Communication Law” is one of the best classes I’ve taken. Learning how to not get sued is something I’d rather learn in the classroom anyway.

The newspaper is also the only place I’ve been able to learn photojournalism. PLU has abandoned teaching visual journalism. Visuals are thrown in on the side but not focused on, and photography is my passion, specifically news photography. The one thing I find appalling is that journalism majors can graduate this school without ever working in student media. At Peninsula College, the only way to study journalism is to work at the newspaper — it is the journalism class.

At PLU, it is possible to graduate with a degree in journalism and have no experience in the field. I would not be nearly as strong of a journalist if it wasn’t for student media.  I’ve even been able to freelance for two newspapers and intern for Metro Parks Tacoma and a wedding magazine, all because I actually had experience. Despite all this experience, I know there is a lot more for me to learn.

My problem is that in the classroom, you don’t worry about other people seeing your assignments. But in the newsroom, you know your work will be seen by hundreds, maybe even thousands.  When the public is watching you, you strive to be your best. Your name is on the line, and if you mess up, the public will hold you accountable.

But the public is not the scary part. At a student newspaper, your friends read every word you write and find every mistake — and there’s always a mistake. This piece alone has been edited by at least three editors. Working at a student newspaper has prepared me to be a professional. Not only has it taught me journalism, but it has taught me to deal with stress, deadlines, people and every other aspect of working in the real world.

Unlike other jobs, you can’t call in sick if you’re on deadline. The reality is that if you say you will do something for the newspaper and you don’t, there will be a huge hole in the paper that someone else will have to fill. You don’t do that to your friends.  This is unlike the classroom. If you don’t turn your assignment in to a professor, the only consequence is a lower grade. As student journalists, we are always held accountable for what we do or don’t do.

I’m shocked PLU allows journalism students to graduate without experience in student media. An internship is required, but it doesn’t have to have anything to do with journalism.  My experience at The Mooring Mast has been amazing, and it couldn’t have been with a better group of people. It’s an experience all journalism students should have.