(Jas’ note: I’m thrilled to welcome back Jessica Malnik to the blog for a guest post.)
*A bit of a disclaimer: I left the journalism rollercoaster world for the adventures of marketing and PR a year ago. I haven’t looked back since. That being said, there’s not a day that goes by where I don’t apply something I learned while at the University of Missouri Journalism School.
Is a journalism degree worthless? I’ve heard this question come up quite a bit over the last couple of months. As more and more traditional media outlets crumble or suffer massive rounds of layoffs, the skeptics come out and immediately question any college student or recent grad- like myself- who majored or is majoring in journalism. I think that’s a real shame.
It’s awful that countless numbers of high school and college students these days are being detracted and sidelined from pursuing a major in journalism. I firmly believe that a journalism degree is just as valuable today, if not more so, than it was 10 or 15 years ago. Here’s three reasons why.
1. The core journalism skills translate well for a lot of careers.
At the very core of journalism, it’s about communicating effectively. To be successful, you have to be articulate and a good writer. Both are very valuable skills at the core of dozens of jobs- from public relations and marketing to engineering and medicine.
Factor in that most journalism students today have at least a basic grasp of multimedia skills, and you have the core foundation to be successful at almost any pursuit.
2. It’s not what you major in that matters, it’s how you choose to use it.
This goes for everything from journalism majors to sociology and classics majors. So many people box themselves inside the parameters of what they decided to major in at college. When in reality, your major is just the foundation for your career. It’s how you choose to apply the core skills that you learned that really matters.
To sum it up, there’s no bad majors. Don’t be afraid to use your journalism degree- or whatever you majored in- in a different way. A journalism student doesn’t have to be a journalist. You can end up being a marketer, PR pro, engineer, lawyer, etc. The sky’s the limit.
3. Journalism breeds curiosity and solid listening skills.
Most people, who major in journalism, have one thing in common. They are all curious about the world around them. They seek out ways to ask questions and listen to the people around them to understand issues and convey messages to a larger audience.
The ability to ask tough questions as well as listen for subtle nuances and clues is an art form. It’s a skill that can take you far in whatever career path that you choose.
By now, you probably have heard and read about the controversy that surrounds Apple CEO Steve Jobs and the email exchange he recently had with a New York college student. To summarize: journalism student Chelsea Kate Issacs originally called Apple’s media relations department to ask about iPads being used in an academic setting. She didn’t get a response, so she wrote Jobs. His first reply?
“Our goals do not include helping you get a good grade. Sorry.”
After another exchange between Issacs and Jobs, the Apple CEO finally said this to her:
“Please leave us alone.”
At first glance, this is a PR problem for Jobs and Apple. You have the CEO telling a young college student to basically buzz off. Then, you have Apple’s media relations office ignoring her as well. Whether you are a Fortune 500 company or a business of five people, not answering an inquiry is flat out wrong.
However, I take issue with the student as well. I don’t have a problem with her inquiring for a comment. I may seem nitpicky here, but my issue is with Ms. Issacs saying, “The completion of this article is crucial to my grade in the class, and it may potentially get published in our university’s newspaper…”
Why mention the grade part? Jobs is right. It’s not Apple’s responsibility to help her get an “A.” And it “may potentially” get published? If you are a journalism student, never say potentially. For example, say “I’m working on a story on (insert subject) for this week’s edition of the (newspaper name).”
I’ll let you read the actual emails over at Gawker.
Ms. Issacs was annoyed at the fact that Jobs was rude in his replies. She’s right. He acted like a world class jerk. And Apple’s media relations should have had a statement at the ready for inquiries like this. But, let’s be honest. We’ve all heard that Jobs isn’t exactly the warm and fuzzy type. That’s not an excuse, though.
When I read the mails from Ms. Issacs, I detected some snark and, honestly, desperation. This is a great lesson for any young journalism student. Don’t make it seem like you are begging and never get testy with a potential interviewee. The chances of getting the response you want will drop.
Of course, the media is giving Jobs the business. As a PR person, it annoys me that he wouldn’t have the sense to, at least, call his own media relations department and ask them for a short response. And who’s running Apple’s media relations?
But, Ms. Issacs should also have some criticism. Steve Jobs was rude to you. It stinks and isn’t acceptable. But going email-to-email with him solves nothing. A journalist should never make themselves the story.
What are your thoughts on Jobs’ responses? And is the student in the wrong as well? Leave your comments below.