Students Still Want to be Journalists: “It is Who We Are”

Last week, I came across an interesting piece in the Chicago Sun-Times from DePaul University journalism professor Laura Washington.  Her main premise is the same-old this just in . . . students don’t read newsprint statement of generational disbelief but the sentiments she gathers from students are very telling.

She asked one of her classes point-blank what attracted them to a field in such dire straits.  The vibe she received from students: It’s not about the career prospects as much as following what’s in their DNA and achieving the emotional high of a perfect news report.

One student’s thoughts, beautifully put: “I think we want to be journalists because it’s who we are, as people.  We are willing to work for close to nothing because it is who we are.  It is an art form. Just like there are starving artists, we are starving journalists.”

Now one point of contention with the piece, something I’ve similarly mentioned about others: Washington reports that “[a]t the outset of every term, I ask my students, ‘What newspapers do you read?’  The answers come in blank stares and sheepish grins.”  It’s fine for an anecdote but does not seem to be the case worldwide. All told, students ARE reading newspapers.  What they’re not reading are OUTSIDE newspapers.  The ones they are reading: their OWN, the campus papers.

As I shared last semester during a chat with Center for Innovation in College Media director Bryan Murley, I’ve found that students are either such ingrained or oh-by-the-way readers of their school papers at times they don’t even recognize that what they’re reading (or at least skimming) are still considered newspapers, in the print-and-ink, dinosaur-old media sense.

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