A letter to my 18-year-old self as a journalist

Dear 18-year-old self,

It’s hard to believe you’re already in your first-year of college. It feels like high school graduation was yesterday. Oh, and you want to be a journalist? As you begin your journey to becoming a professional journalist, you should know that journalism requires more than just communications skills, according to Mashable’s list of must-have traits for journalists. Let me advise you on the true meaning of journalism and show you what kind of journalist you should be as you embark on this new experience.

First off, I should congratulate you on a job well-done for choosing a field as dynamic as journalism. It’s a crazy industry with long hours, busy days, low pay and little opportunity for starting a family. Don’t let these traits discourage you from stepping into the journalism world, instead, let them encourage you to become that much better in your field. Learn early in your career to balance your time well and manage your daily schedule so that it is bearable.

Here is why you should pursue a degree in journalism, an industry you have selected since you were in middle school. According to the Houston Chronicle, with a journalism degree comes opportunities to travel, constant learning and versatile skills. These are all factors that you need to take into account as you learn the ropes of the journalism industry.

Being a journalist lends itself to an infinite amount of travel experiences and opportunities. No matter what beat you decide to pursue or the type of outlet you hope to work, know that travel is expected, even if it’s across the country, and each one will be its own experience. Travel is a major component of The Poynter Institute’s The Pyramid of Journalism Competence because it emphasizes the ability for a journalist to use language fluidly in order to tell a story. Most importantly, it commands that journalists should have cultural literacy, or the ability to be sensitive and knowledgable toward cultural differences, diversity and multi-culturalism.

Journalism also allows you to constantly learn. Although it is a fact that you are always learning about new topics and subjects, journalism also pushes you to become critical and analytical. Through constructive journalism, you learn to become a better reporter by telling stories that engage the audience and present a narrative that is both accurate and truthful. Eventually, you will become a well-rounded journalist with the ability to pursue any story and possess general knowledge in a variety of subjects.

Lastly, receiving a journalism degree presents you with versatile skills and prepares you for jobs in other fields outside of the journalism industry. With knowledge in photography, data analysis, social media, audio-visual techniques and the ability to speak with anyone, a journalism degree lends itself to employment in other sectors, including business, public relations, law and health. It is okay if you do not pursue journalism after college graduation; for, you will find a job in another industry if you find journalism is not right for you.

I will leave you with one last note. I’m sure people tell you all the time that journalism is a dying field or that you will never get a decent paying job. They constantly remind you how you will be struggling to pay the bills and how unstable your rate of employment will be. I want you to know that journalism is not a dying field; it is a growing industry that is being revolutionized each and every day. In the age of the Internet and digital media, it is important to understand how to market yourself for work in online media and digital journalism. I will tell you this: know that the journalism industry is changing, and the more skills you can learn, the more successful you will be in your chosen career.


21-year-old self

This post was published on Storify. Check out the extended version with additional content at “A Love Letter to Journalism.”


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