In honor of “Throwback Thursday,” I thought I’d post the essay I wrote for my Medill application five years ago. I think it’s a question some journalists will always ask themselves. I, on the other hand, never have and never will. It is because of journalism school I am the journalist I am today. In the end, it’s like my mom always says: No one can take your education away from you. And that is why you can never put a price tag on it. See if you agree.
The Internet. The race to be the first on the air. Getting the facts accurately to make a deadline in the age of digital journalism. I was all prepared to write an essay on this important ethical issue until I read a story in The Reader: “Is it safe to send your child to J-school?”
At first, I thought the writer was talking about all of the risks we take just to get the story – like when I go rushing out into tornado-like weather in the middle of Missouri to report in the high winds of the destruction and the precautions others need to take. Or the time that I had to sleep overnight in a nearby hotel so I could make sure that I was at work first thing in the morning in the record-blizzard conditions. Or when I had to knock on doors when there were gun shots heard or a killer on the loose. No, that’s just part of the job.
The writer was talking about is it ethical to even recommend to a young person consider journalism as a career in this economy, knowing they will come out of school with loans and earning about $20,000 a year. The writer also talks of how journalists take others places they could never go, working as the eyes and ears for the world. Now, with the Internet, anyone who knows how to YouTube becomes an instant journalist. Still, for me, the answer is a resounding yes.
Taking a year out of one’s life to get a master’s degree from Medill is an opportunity as well as a necessity. I see journalism school not only helping me hone my reporting skills and make those split-second decisions when you are out in the field on your own, a so-called one-man-band writing, shooting, producing and then returning to edit your story to hit the top of the news show. But it also is a necessity in that you have to learn your craft as best you can – the stakes are high and the competition is stiff.
Sure, the pay now may be difficult to buy that cute skirt I spotted in the window of Banana Republic, but who really does this for the pay? It’s the passion, the excitement of not knowing what each day will bring, the adrenalin rush when you go live, knowing entire towns are relying on your reporting for their information and path to the truth.
There’s also that gnawing feeling of knowing that you are part of something so much bigger. Journalism is at the heart of the changing world, and everyone in it wants to be a part of making that happen. I see myself in sports, reporting for a large sports network, willing to work my way from the bottom up, getting there the hard way, knowing that I’ve earned it. So anyone who wants to tell me that j-school isn’t “safe,” I say, strap yourselves in. We’re going on one wild ride.