When I signed up for Journalism 4450, the Columbia Missourian’s staff reporting class, I already wasn’t a fan.
I knew I didn’t want to be a reporter. I’d been there, done that for a year at The Maneater, MU’s student newspaper, and I already knew I wanted to be an editor. (Well, I’d kind of known that since high school.) Reporting really stressed me out, and I had only really enjoyed a few of the 50+ articles I’d written since coming to MU. Essentially, I signed up just to check off a box on my graduation form.
Add to that everything I’d heard about the Missourian reporting semester — how stressful, time-consuming and difficult it was — and I was actually terrified when I walked into Lee Hills Hall for orientation on that cold, bleak January morning. (But really, I was. And I don’t use that word lightly.)
But now, as I’m headed into the last week of this infamous reporting semester, I’m pleased to say that this class has been a pleasant surprise.
No, it didn’t make me want to report every day, and what everyone said was absolutely correct. It was stressful, it was trying and I spent pretty much every free hour between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on a weekday (and then some) in the newsroom or in a corner of Memorial Union talking on my cellphone, scribbling barely legible notes onto a stenopad or furiously typing into a Django file. There were days I felt overwhelmed or like I was going nowhere, and some days, I even wanted to quit.
But I didn’t, and looking back on this semester, all that stress was incredibly worth it.
I learned more this semester than I could have anticipated. I worked with wonderful editors and fellow writers who made me want to do better, to be better, and to set high goals for myself. Under editors’ guidance — particularly that of Liz, the education editor, and Zach, the education assistant city editor — I felt my reporting and writing improve as I worked on crafting stories both informative and interesting. (And yes, Liz, I’m still working on that.)
But perhaps most importantly, it made me realize that journalism is what I want to do. Journalism is how I want to serve the public. Journalism is how I want to make a difference. And at this point, I couldn’t see myself doing anything else.
But someday, I might want to try something new, and if I do, I know I’ll have the skills necessary to be successful. As CNN Digital Vice President and J-School alumna Meredith Artley said in her speech to this year’s graduating class (and when some other journalism ambassadors and I accompanied her to Shakespeare’s Pizza for pre-graduation lunch), journalism school trains me in skills that are just useful life skills to have.
In reporting, I’ve learned how to effectively communicate with others. (And I now have zero qualms about talking to complete strangers.) I’ve learned the importance of accuracy. I’ve learned how to listen. I’ve learned to ask questions, and what questions I should be asking. And I’ve learned to always do my research.
I know I’ll take what I learned to The Orange County Register this summer as a copy editor. I’ll take it back to the Missourian as a copy editor, designer and community outreach team member. I’ll take it to my internship abroad next spring, to my internship next summer and wherever else my travels take me.
And hey, maybe I’ll even use those skills to turn around an interview with The New York Times like Artley did. A girl’s got to have goals, right?