When I turned down the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern to go to Georgetown as an undergrad, I wasn't sure what would become of my journalistic aspirations. I loved journalism, but wanted the freedom to explore other subjects and get a solid liberal arts education. After a brief stint as a staff writer on The Hoya, I decided that I wanted to explore broadcast journalism, so I joined the staff of the fledgling GUTV. Over the years, I served on the board, produced, and directed campus TV programs. I spent my sophomore summer interning for my local ABC affiliate in Charlotte, NC, and then moved to ESPN for my junior summer. At ESPN, I was actually able to write and produce some short segments that were aired during halftime shows.
During my junior year, I decided that I wanted to write a thesis in journalism. I was starting to become interested in print journalism again, and I wanted to compare the New York Times' coverage of the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941 with their coverage of 9/11. With some help from Professors Joan Holmer and Barbara Feinman Todd, the English department allowed me to write the thesis in conjunction with the English Honors Thesis program. I had a great time writing my thesis, and even got to interview former Washington Post executive editor Ben Bradlee.
However, as my interest in journalism grew, I was also developing an interest in law. I decided I wanted to combine these two areas, so in fall of 2003, I started law school at UNC Chapel Hill. Despite the stress and inertia of my 1L year, I didn’t lose sight of my passion for journalism. This past summer, I worked as a reporter/intern for the Legal Times newspaper in DC, which is owned by American Lawyer Media. Among other things, I helped cover the Supreme Court for the Legal Times and Law.com. By the end of the summer, I ended up with a good number of bylines and sharpened journalism skills. This year, I am writing for the UNC First Amendment Law Review; now that I've tried "law journalism," I'm now looking to explore "journalism law." I don't know whether I'll end up as a lawyer or a journalism, but I've found that law and journalism are two interests that can very easily go hand-in-hand.
Okay, so working for a public relations firm isn't quite what I had in mind when I enrolled in my first journalism class at Georgetown University, but I don't think I that could have been better prepared for what I do on a day to day basis as an account assistant for the socially conscious strategic communications firm the I currently work for in Georgetown.
First thing every morning, I collect news clips covering HIV/AIDS infection among African-American women. While Google's automatic news search function makes gathering these clips significantly easier, it doesn't help me quickly siphon through hundreds of similar clips to identify new information about the epidemic and new trends in the media's coverage of it. My journalism classes taught me how to craft the news, which also helped be to become an expert at reading and deconstructing it, a skill that I now heavily rely on.
At my current job I also draft and edit press materials on a regular basis including press releases, drop in articles, PSA's, Op-Ed's, etc. Thanks to a Georgetown summer writing program encompassing journalism and communication skills, I successfully breezed through the writing test during my initial interviews for this job, and can now piece together a news release with confidence beyond my entry-level experience.
Although I'm currently not employed as a journalist, I do have the frequent pleasure of working with reporters, pitching them on various news and events, and following up with them as their stories come to fruition. Having been taught the most important elements of what can and cannot be considered news worthy throughout my journalism coursework, I feel like I have a tremendous advantage when I get on the phone with these journalists who are usually already under deadline and aren't in the mood to have their time wasted with weak news or incoherent babbling.
While still a Georgetown journalism student I acquired a number of contacts, mentors and friends from a variety of media organizations and publications including the Washington Post and People magazine. Not only have I remained in personal contact with these people, but I've been able to take advantage of numerous networking opportunities that have proved invaluable in my current profession.
In fact, I wouldn't even have my job if not for the editorial internship that I completed at People Magazine immediately following my graduation in May of 2001. My very first day at People Magazine I was sent to a communications firm in Georgetown to interview Della Reese who was in Washington, DC for a cause worthy initiative she was heading on behalf of senior citizens. Not only did I publish an online clip for the People Magazine website, but I also made some great contacts at that firm that would eventually lead me to working for them in the position that I hold today.
I haven't given up on journalism just yet though! I'm currently trying to hone my freelance skills pitching stories to small online women's travel publications. Right now I'm working on a piece titled "Getting Somewhere, Going Nowhere" -- it's a story for cubicle bound women like myself who dream of someday traveling the world, or at least beyond the fax machine.
By the time I began Professor Feinman's Introduction to Journalism class, I was certain I wanted to be a journalist and I had already had many internships in the field. I knew, though, that I lacked the formal introduction and that my knowledge was limited to only the issues and experiences I had encountered on the job, so I felt that I needed to learn some of the techniques and guidelines in the classroom. I think anyone who is interested in journalism should also learn abut the field in a classroom. Regardless of the experience level, there are things that one can only learn thought the assignments and lectures of formal instruction.
Not only did I learn important aspects of reporting, interviewing, and writing, but Professor Feinman encouraged our class to think critically about the differences in media outlets and publications and focus on the individual journalist's role; the potential impact one person can have, in civic journalism for example. One journalist who investigates and seeks to uncover a societal ill can spur change that can affect many people.
Aside from becoming more enthusiastic about my profession (in Intro to Journalism and also in Media Techniques) these classes were my favorites in all four years at Georgetown, because they were exciting, interesting, and rich in information.
Every assignment fit perfectly into a class program aimed at simulating situations journalists may encounter. I often think of the lessons and examples from class in my journalistic endeavors.
Some classes were devoted to difficult ethical questions, we also compared coverage of events and how various news organizations differed in their news judgment. The array of speakers who came from varied backgrounds was an essential component of the Intro course and personified the examples from class. All of the guest speakers were lively and energetic and made me even more eager to begin a career in journalism.
Though there are certain applications and techniques that one can only learn in the classroom, these are best complemented by experience in the workforce. That was the focus of the Media Techniques course: the class that included an internship requirement. We filled out a journal entry of what we did at work that week, and at the end of the semester, the presentations from each student gave us insight into the workings and job responsibilities at various news outlets.
After graduating from Georgetown I interned at Washingtonian Magazine and started working at the Associated Press in Washington. I am in my second year at the AP, and I have covered a wide range of topics at this fast-paced organization. I have covered news conferences, protests, hearings on Capitol Hill, speeches, in town travel pool with the president, and I have also gotten to write feature stories.
I enjoy working at the AP, where I never know what event I might be covering any given day. I thrive off the excitement off this, and the fast-paced atmosphere created by the constant deadline.
I am most interested in political coverage, which I was fortunate to cover at the AP during the Democratic Primaries and the presidential election. But, my first exposure with an election "all nighter" was during my internship at NationalJournal.com for the Media Techniques course. At NationalJournal.com I worked on stories and polling information during the 2002 midterm election. That experience prepared me for this election night, in which AP played a pivotal role.
I highly recommend both courses for anyone interested in pursuing a career in journalism, or anyone who is simply curious about the intricacies and the influence of this powerful fourth branch of government.