A True Journalist Never Stops Learning

 Are you undeclared and anxious? I was there: lost in sea of gen-eds, searching for guidance as debt loomed overhead and time faded. The liberation of the undecided status quickly faded as thoughts of impending doom rushed in to replace it. You lie in limbo, grasping for some foundation in which to build your future, to no avail.

Now that I have you properly terrified, let me suggest journalism.  

Many majors deal with formulas and theories that are difficult to tie to real-world applications within the confines of a classroom. Most of my education, prior to journalism, frustrated me. Blame it on immaturity or impatience, but I hated learning skills I couldn’t immediately implement in my life.  

What sets journalism apart from most studies is that it fully immerses you in your surroundings, making you an active participant in your life. The skills needed to be a reporter are useful in day-to-day interactions and force you to reconsider what’s happening.

Let’s say you’re at the bar. You spot someone across the room who catches your eye. Play it cool. You don’t want to scare them off, you don’t want to seem too desperate and imagine the despair if you are ignored. The same goes for an approach to an interview. 

Journalists are experts at the ancient style of “schmoozing”: the sacred art of small talk. If you shove a recorder or notepad in someone’s face they freeze up; you will hear their voice change to a choppy, robotic tone. Start slow. Get to know where they’re from, what they do and try to figure out what they’re here for. 

A big part of this learning process is listening. Being a man who loves the sound of his own voice, I must work diligently to listen more than I speak. Remember you are here for their story and to get it requires your undivided attention. When you are engaged and enthusiastic about what someone says, they open up, speak comfortably and tell you a lot more than you’d expect. 

Once you’ve got your content, the only thing left is to throw out that hard question, the one on your mind since you began speaking. Don’t let the fear of rejection stop you from asking. In the end everything’s a new learning experience. Hopefully you find the answer you’re looking for. 

Journalism also requires you to be constantly skeptical and curious about the world around you. Some of the best stories are found on hunches. This requires reporters to actively engage in their community and recognize arising issues and controversy. 

They constantly consume media, talk to sources and inquire about the forces that shape their lives.

It’s difficult to attack an issue that you’re passionate about fairly. We live in a society fueled by activism and thedesire to disrupt the norm. 

The youth is passionate about their beliefs and defend them ferociously. While this drive has lead legislative and social reform, this mentality often clouds their ability to appreciate the other side of an argument.

Stubborness is a characteristic shared by most people across the political spectrum. In an effort to bring their dreams to fruition they often will discredit their opponents as ignorant and irresponsible in their actions. I believe this is a key component of the shattered sense of unity that ails our nation. Journalists attempt to attack their stories from an objective standpoint and aim for honesty. 

The next time you hear an argument that makes you want to scream, I challenge you to argue the opposite position. Imagine you were a person who embodies the values you deplore. Picture their hometown, their family and all the other factors contributing to the person they are now. It’s impossible to understand another’s view without taking this crucial first step. 

Journalists believe that no single truth exists. Race, gender, sexuality, nationality and numerous other factors manifest in an unending amount of lenses through which people view the world. It is irresponsible to assume that the solutions to the problems we face have single solution exclusive to one ideology. 

The power of the media to sway public opinion is a powerful tool that must be used responsibly and for the greater good. The ability to equally weigh the factors of an argument is crucial in understanding the way people think and act.   

The chief duty of a journalist is to give a voice to those who are don’t have one. 

As the three branches of government check and balance each others’ power, the press’s duty is to watch over all three and the rest of the world. We seek to empower the disadvantaged and hold those in power accountable for their actions. 

Before journalism, I was tired of waiting to join the real world. For so much of my life I stood idly as a spectator, searching for a sense of purpose. I think I’ve found it. I’ve always wanted to teach, but feel claustrophobic in a classroom. Now, my classroom has no walls and my teachers are part of my life. I will never stop learning, never stop teaching and never stop trying to understand.