We are all here to better our education and find success in the professional world, but it really doesn’t have to be so damn scary.
As students, we are regularly quizzed on what our plans will be once we are free from the gripping perils of college existence, but as journalism students, we are constantly reminded that we may be studying for a career that is facing undeniable extinction.
As it could be expected in any field of study, hearing about real world experiences from professors and guest lecturers can be exhilarating and inspirational. But at some point, the candy coating dissolves and students begin to learn of the hidden realities that maybe aren’t so attractive when one is trying to determine how to spend the rest of his or her life, or at least until retirement.
In July of 2013, President Obama spoke of the changing landscape of the journalistic career, recalling a time when newsprint publications were widespread.
“If you wanted to be a journalist, you could really make a good living working for your hometown paper,” Obama said. “Now, you have a few newspapers that make a profit because they are national brands, and journalists are having to scramble to piece together a living, in some cases as freelancers and without the same benefits that they had in a regular job for a paper.”
Across the country, small town publications struggled to stay afloat, many unsuccessfully, and in larger cities, newspaper consolidations left highly skilled and tenured employees at the back of the already overwhelming unemployment line.
In 2014, several news stories emerged about the beheading of various hostages from around the globe by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The barbaric nature of these actions created a new fear in homes all over the world, but when the names of journalists like American freelance reporter James Foley started appearing on the victim list, suddenly there was a new topic of discussion making its way into the classroom setting here at home.
This month, two gunmen marched into the offices of the French satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo and opened fire, killing 11 people and injuring 11 more. People around the globe watched in bewilderment as Al-Queda claimed responsibility for the attacks in retaliation for published content that had jabbed at the Muslim faith. In countless newsrooms, suddenly the notion of a journalist’s right to free speech, even in jest, didn’t seem so secure.
Last week, Sports Illustrated laid off its remaining six staff photographers in conjunction with a restructuring plan within Time Inc.’s editorial departments. As wire services and stock photos become more readily accessible and less expensive to attain, salaried photographers seem to be the next dying breed in the world of traditional journalism.
In the curriculum of the department, journalism students are taught the basic fundamentals of news writing, reporting and media law and ethics. More advanced classes help advance photographic and multimedia skills, but nowhere in the program does it ever teach a young journalist how to survive a company-wide layoff or escape imminent death from a national terrorist organization.
Yet we remain, the last of our kind: student writers, reporters, photographers, videographers, artists committed to a craft that continues to find itself on the chopping block. But why?
There is something inherent in each of us, and this applies to other majors on campuses nationwide. We possess the instinctual desire to succeed, to better ourselves and to leave a lasting legacy in our particular field.
As journalists, we aim to document life as accurately and effectively as humanly possible. We acknowledge the obstacles that will continually thwart our attempts to report life as it grows and prospers around us, and we consistently search for new ways to get that news to the people.
And when the naysayers try to knock our decision to nurture this area of expertise, we will proudly step onto the frontlines and tell our stories to those who will listen.