Information can travel around the world instantly with the push of a few buttons. More and more our world feels connected on a massive and global scale. What does that mean for reporting news and the field of journalism today? “Journalism can never be silent: that is its greatest virtue and its greatest fault. It must speak, and speak immediately, while the echoes of wonder, the claims of triumph and the signs of horror are still in the air,” said Henry Grunwald, journalist and editor of TIME magazine. Going into the field of journalism will enable you to do just that.
Journalism -- the gathering, documenting, and disseminating of news and reports -- has been an integral part of human civilization for centuries, offering us connection and vital ways to learn of events and news, both locally and from around the world. Freedom of the press is essential for a fully functioning democratic society and you can play a pivotal role in this by studying and working in journalism.
At the university level studying journalism, either in a bachelor’s or a master’s program, provides time, mentorship, and opportunities to network and practice the craft of journalism before landing that great job. Alongside your studies, whether as part of your course or off your own bat, you may gain experience and contacts in the industry -- for example, by blogging or working for a student paper or local paper. In the UK, the National Council for the Training of Journalists (commonly shortened to 'NCTJ') accreditation is widely valued as a route into the industry and several bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism in the country include this accreditation, while there are several other centers offering NCTJ-accredited courses.
There are many good reasons to study journalism and we’ve rounded up four reasons you shouldn’t miss.
1. Speak truth to power
Journalists can shine a light on wrongdoing and help bring about change in the world. In few professions is the oft-used quote "speak truth to power" more applicable. This quote, attributed to a 1950s Quaker pamphlet, has become a popular phrase to represent the importance of speaking out against injustice. Journalists are uniquely qualified to provide accurate and important information to the general public. An informed public means a healthy civil society.
The American Press Institute encourages good reporting. It asserts, “News is that part of communication that keeps us informed of the changing events, issues, and characters in the world outside. Though it may be interesting or even entertaining, the foremost value of news is as a utility to empower the informed.”
The Newseum, a permanent museum dedicated to showcasing news exhibits and hosting traveling news exhibits, allows visitors a visual and physical experience to deepen their understanding of the importance of high-quality news and reporting.
Additionally, Christiane Amanpour, a well-regarded CNN reporter, notes the importance of journalism; she says good journalism can make the world a better place. It is no doubt that we rely on journalism to be “the voice for the voiceless.”
2. Pursue your passion
Journalism covers a vast and varied field of subject matters. It allows you to the ability to pursue your passion for writing and whatever else that might interest or intrigue you. Are you a sports enthusiast? Sports journalism is a robust and thriving arm of this industry. Sports journalists comment on, research, and often are the experts on a particular sport.
Can’t get enough of new music? Music journalists interview, write about, and hobnob with the hottest music artists. The Guardian offers some tips for those who want to break into music journalism. It explains, “If you're reviewing a single or album, it's important to demonstrate you understand what makes it good. This could be analysing the lyrics, the production or the way the songs are constructed. It would be worth knowing any previous work the artist has done so you establish a difference.”
Is travel and exploration your thing? Well someone has to write those enticing travelogues. It could be you! Travel journalism is a competitive field, but once you establish and prove yourself as a competent writer, get some articles under your belt, you’ll be one your way to lounging on sandy beaches in Bali or to reporting on the state of the pyramids in Egypt. The sky’s the limit here!
Cutting-edge political news more your thing? Well, of course, that’s possible, too. Suffice it to say, there are many more types of journalists needed in today’s fast-paced, ever-changing news cycle. Good writers are needed to do this work. Learning writing skills that directly apply to the field of journalism, and being guided by a mentor, is just some ways you’ll benefit from pursuing a degree in journalism.
3. Step outside the office cubicle
Is the 9-5, office cubicle life not for you? Do you feel the walls caving in and you can’t breathe in such a confined space? Many journalists work remotely -- choosing the location of your own desk, eschewing the traditional office cubicle, might be one of the biggest perks of being a journalist. Travel and being sent “on-assignment”-- to research and report on a special topic or event -- are just some of the ways journalists get out of the office. Many are also in charge of their own schedules and work as freelancers. Your writing becomes your business and you can make your own hours and set your rates as a freelancer.
If the cubicle isn’t for you, then studying journalism will help launch you into a career where you can work from a desk of your own making.
4. Understand the world
Our interconnected world requires understanding and being aware of diversity and other people’s point of view. This has given rise to “open journalism,” which former editor-in-chief of The Guardian, Alan Rusbridger, describes as journalism that is “fully knitted into the web of information that exists in the world today. It links to it; sifts and filters it; collaborates with it and generally uses the ability of anyone to publish and share material to give a better account of the world.”
Open journalism is the concept of news and information continuing to be at the forefront of providing accurate information so much so that it is considered a “public good.” This allows for more understanding of others and opportunities for more voices to enter into the news and reporting. The London School of Economics and Political Science points out that “journalism is now interactive, inter-connected, participatory, more open, more global, multi-platform, multi-linear, a stream of data, analysis and comment. That can be wonderful. It gives the journalist extraordinary creative and communicative power.”
The purpose of journalism is to provide citizens with the information they need to make the best possible decisions about their lives, their communities, their societies, and their governments. Journalism is a fulfilling career path that will challenge and expand your understanding of the world.