20 Things Only Journalism Students Will Understand


1. There’s no deadline like a journalism deadline. There is nothing as intensely motivating as an angry editor either.

2. Opinions are not for us. You have to embrace the life of not taking side, and you end up doing it more than just in your work.

3. You wouldn’t dare go to an interview without obsessively taking notes or checking the batteries of your cameras and recorders prior. Some call it mild paranoia, you know it’s just that you can’t afford for it to be a complete waste — or total embarrassment.

4. You have to read as much as you write, and though this applies for all writers, even more so when your content is niched, when you have to at once develop a voice that is unique and yet not present at all.

5. Your networking connections will save you, time and time again. Save the numbers of your interviewees and associates for the rest of your life. You always end up needing them at one point or another.

6. You attend journalism seminars half for the information and half for all the free stuff and chances to meet your journalism idols that nobody else would know about.

7. “A journalist’s most important tool is not a notepad, tape recorder, digital camcorder, and computer. It’s the ability to write a story.”

8. You have to be incomparably nice to your interviewees. Before, during and after the interview. It’s a requirement, no matter how uncooperative they were.

9. You know what it means to write a story like an “inverted pyramid.”

10. Coffee is alternative water when the article is due tomorrow and your editor just emailed to make changes.

11. Headline writing should be left to the copy editors, but often isn’t, and it’s a shame, because it’s the hardest thing to make up.

12. Forget about “rest” days. I mean, forget about holidays too. It’s the obligatory part of taking Journalism. We are required to cover special events and occasions. The days that most people are off and celebrating are the ones you’re covering for a piece.

13. “Stories don’t come with a convenient label: you need to be able to spot them.”

14. You have to learn to write not to impress, but to express.

15. The difficulty of journalism is that it also requires research — research you don’t always have time for, and research you often don’t really want to do. But you can’t let laziness wreck you like that.

16. Intense edits are always humbling and brutal, but they’re also necessary and important learning opportunities, ones you only cheat yourself by not embracing.

17. Seeing your byline in print makes everything else worth it.

18. You learn to keep your mouth shut in the face of the overly-critical editor (but tactfully bash them to your other journalism friends behind their backs.)

19. Plagiarism is the black plague of writing. You don’t dare copy someone else’s writing, needless to say your career will be over not to mention you probably won’t be able to sleep at night with all of the ethical wrongness and intellectual theft you’ve committed (yeah, professors get to your head with this one.)

20. Your professors will scare you from the pressure of the course, don’t let that sway you. I once had a professor who tried to get me to drop Journalism because he thought I couldn’t handle the pressure. I am currently an information officer/press release writer in a provincial government. Follow the guidance of your superiors, but ultimately, follow what your own gut tells you. You’re only as held back as you let yourself be.  

image – Lois & Clark