Why I’m Not Going to Journalism School

When I realized that journalism was truly an endeavor that I wanted to partake in, my first thought was, “Holy crap I’m at the wrong school.”

Not to say that the University of Northern Iowa is a bad school by any means. (Furthest thing from it. I absolutely adore the school.) But for the typical journalistic path, it was definitely the wrong school to go to, when there were two other state schools that had successful journalism programs.

And I was very close to going to one of them. I had been accepted into the Greenlee School of Journalism at Iowa State, and I was ready to pack my things and head there to start a new journey.

That didn’t happen.

And here’s why:

1.) You don’t need a journalism degree to do journalism

That just goes with almost anything. If it doesn’t require a specific certification, chances are, you don’t need a degree in it. For journalism, there’s really only so far studying can get you. When I first started, I had never taken a reporting class. In fact, I covered events that included visits from Republican GOP candidates Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul without learning an ounce from a professor or a textbook.

Right now, I only have a minor in journalism. I won a journalism award this year, will be covering three beats next year and I’ll be news director of a radio station. All without going to j-school.

2.) There’s less competition

That can either be a good or bad thing. The good thing is, I can get experience at my school without competing with upper classmen or graduate students. The bad thing is, competition breeds higher quality work. But this also leads into…

3.) Experience, experience, experience

Real experience is an absolute necessity for aspiring journalists. It’s why so many programs require internships: because a whole semester of class can equal just a week of practical experience. And while some journalism classes do incorporate practical experience, but because I’m not at a j-school, I’m out looking for as much practical experience as I can get. This includes writing for the school paper, learning multimedia features, being news director, blogging and looking for freelance gigs.

At some j-schools, upper classmen status is a requirement before undertaking certain roles or productions. As an electronic media/political communications major at a school not prominent in the journalism field, I’m able to pick up experience and learn from high quality people without having to wait. I’m also not getting experience in just one thing. I have experience in a multitude of areas and I’m able to have a specification in politics.

But even while I’m content with my decision, there are many moments where I still fear not going to j-school. What will my competition be like? What am I missing from not having like minded peers? What type of journalism education am I losing from staying at UNI?

I’m still happy with the experiences I have acquired and am curious; if you’re going/have gone to j-school, why would you recommend it? Vice-versa?

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4 thoughts on “Why I’m Not Going to Journalism School

  1. rileysnyder says:

    You make a ton of excellent points, and even though j-school professors hate to admit it, you gain much more practical experience interning or working for a publication than you do sitting in a classroom. For me, the biggest benefit of journalism schools is the networking aspect, with both professors and other students. Sure, you’ll meet plenty of people working on a student media project or at an internship, but working closely with a professor or in a student group can lead to an extremely beneficial professional relationship. It’s not necessarily the education factor, but the human and connecting aspect that makes journalism school so appealing.

    • linhta7 says:

      You make a really great point. The professor and student relationship, or even just the student to student relationships that occur have their benefits. If I decide to go to graduate school, I’ve decided that I’ll definitely look into enrolling in j-school.

  2. I love this post. It pretty much echoes what I said in my “anti- J-school” post that you commented on. The best education in journalism is experience, that’s a given. The quality of your work and your experience, networking, clips, etc. should speak louder than the name of the school you attended or whatever major you chose.

    • linhta7 says:

      Agreed! There are time when I question whether I should have gone to another school, but hopefully the large amounts of experience I’m gaining will outweigh the name of the school.

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