I was apparently selected to participate in the 2011 National Survey of Journalism & Communication Graduates through the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Georgia. I bring this up not because I’m bragging (selection was random) but because the survey made me think a lot about the successes and pitfalls of my education.
I’ve said a couple times in my time since graduation that if I could do it over again, I’d pick a field to be an expert in and then target writing specifically to that area. If I’d discovered my passion for religious studies earlier, for instance, I could have majored in it and more accurately aim to be the next Lisa Miller. I also never explored fields like science, which I’ve always loved, because I knew I didn’t want to be stuck in a lab. But writing about what goes on in labs is a different story.
So at the end of the survey, it asked for me to give advice to future journalism students, and I wanted to do something that got at that core “why am I here?” angle. The results:
“Don’t go into journalism because you like to write. That helps, but I’ve found almost every other aspect of my job to be more important. If you have a passion for the beat you’re covering, a connection with your sources, an eye on your deadline, a hard-on for research, a healthy respect for ‘due diligence’ and a slightly inflated sense of justice, you might be in the right place.”
If I’d heard those words my freshman year at Michigan State University, I definitely wouldn’t have been swayed, because I’m stubborn, goal driven and confident in everything I pursue. But hey, maybe they’ll work as a sorting hat for somebody else.