Why we choose to become journalists or media professionals is, of course, a unique decision to each and everyone of us, but the common dream of every student who pursues an academic degree in journalism is universal. That common dream is to change the world. We enter this field hopeful and naive, filled with a fervent passion for finding knowledge and truth in a world that is in a constant flux of change. Academically and career-wise, we are tabulae rasae, blank slates that are still fresh and raw, waiting to be molded and chiseled by knowledge and experience.
My university has offered me a distinct opportunity in my media studies. The program it offers is labeled as Mass Communication, i.e. different media and information communication forms amalgamated into one major. What makes this program special is that, as a Mass Communication student, I am exposed to various aspects of media, ranging from print journalism (my personal favorite), broadcast journalism (my least favorite, considering I am the least photogenic person on earth), advertising, to public relations, and etc. Naturally, as a college student, I might not have enjoyed all of these courses, but as a media student about to enter the workforce, I certainly do appreciate the wide knowledge they endowed me with during my academic career so far.
The challenges we face as fresh graduates are simple. Firstly, the spectrum of journalism, or what can be labeled as journalism, is much broader now than it was fifty years ago. Any Tom, Dick, or Harry can start a blog, create content, and call it news or journalism, but that doesn’t make Tom, Dick, or Harry legitimate journalists. This is not to criticize citizen journalism, which I wholeheartedly encourage, but to distinguish between real journalists and people who simply want to share their stories or information in a subjective form.
Secondly, media is a very wide and multifaceted field, and one can find an endless array of paths to choose from within it. The variety that it offers media students is what makes it beautiful, but it also creates an issue for the young, possibly indecisive graduate, and that is the question of “Which path should I choose?” We are given so many options, and unless we already know which path we want to follow (like me and my undying love for the written word), we are faced with a million difficult choices, and we must ultimately choose which path we want to embark on.
Thirdly, is the issue of safety. This applies to hostile environments and locations, the internet, even in our homes. We live in a dangerous and volatile world, and as journalists, we are entrusted to represent it and help people better understand it. However, that does not inherently protect us, not from bullets, lawsuits, scandals, backlash, or anything that may come at us, and we have to be ready for it. I imagine that it’s not easy to cope with negative backlash or the proverbial can of worms that may erupt in any situation or due to any story. Granted, in some cases, consequences are warranted, in cases of libel or fallacy or whatnot, but it should not be an inherent issue in general, as it sometimes is. Journalists deserve to be protected and safe, not targeted because of their work.
Fourthly, is the issue of ethics. Obviously, I hope for all media students going into journalism, TV production, advertising, public relations, or what-have-you, to be ethical media professionals and to have integrity in their work. However, many people do not possess ethics and integrity, and the young graduate is somewhat ill-equipped to handle unethical or Machiavellian activities, and they shouldn’t have to, and should strive instead to remedy these issues.
Personally, I believe that the media field is a very tough arena and those who enter it are brave souls. We are stepping into a field that influences much of how the world perceives things, including politics, society, economics, and education, even things like beauty, sexuality, and psychology. We are exposed to media from birth; we are molded by it to an extent, and to willingly become a part of its inner workings is a proactive action. The reason I believe becoming a journalist or a media professional of any kind is proactive is because we are actively taking part in the industry that influences and represents the world as we know it. Ultimately, it is worth it, because we are each making a difference.