You Thought Journalism Was Easy? 10 Real AF Struggles Journalism Students Face

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In high school, you took your first intro to journalism class. Wide-eyed and mind-blown, you learned about Watergate and how two rookie reporters at the Washington Post uncovered a scandal so huge that it led to Nixon’s resignation. Now Woodward and Bernstein are household (and textbook) names. Inspired and invigorated by this, you promised yourself, ‘That’ll be me, someday.” Years later, you’re studying at your dream school. Your major? Journalism. Obvi. And it’s hard. Sure, you knew becoming a journalist wouldn’t be all cover stories and interviewing celebs, but you didn’t expect it to be so much late night editing and troubleshooting audio recorders. Here are 10 of the reasons we’re riding the struggle bus.

1. Adhering to Deadlines

As journalism students, we know exclusively writing for our classes just doesn’t cut it. We have to write outside of class, too. And if you write for a publication, you have deadlines to meet. That’s fair. But balancing your writing deadlines with all the other deadlines in your life really sucks sometimes. You have a paper due for class tomorrow? Hopefully you started it a week ago, because it won’t be the only writing assignment you have to do on any given day.

2. Explaining to your close friends why you can’t use them as sources

“I’m a Bio major! Just interview me for your article on saving the sea turtles!” they’ll say. And you, you ethical little journalist, will tell them you can’t, because it’s not Gucci with the code of ethics. They’ll ask you why, and you’ll explain that interviews with close friends are inherently biased, because they want to give you certain answers, and you want to preserve the friendship. Nine times out of ten, they’ll sigh and tell you that’s stupid. SMH. I guess they’ll never understand.

3. AP Style

Not all publications will force you to use AP Style, but your classes definitely will. What’s AP Style, you ask? The agreed upon guide for abbreviations, capitalization, titles, contractions and other equally exciting grammar topics. Searching Amazon for your own AP Style guidebook yet? Me neither, even though it’ll probably be on my syllabus. Worst of all, it changes yearly. So, even if you have a eidetic memory and can recall all the rules, they will likely change soon enough. Yay.

4. Technical difficulties

Have you ever recorded a great interview in a time-crunch, just to realize you never plugged the microphone into the recorder? No? Well, I have. Thankfully, all it took to remedy this one was guiltily walking up to the subject and asking her if we could do it all over again. But I’m sure I’m not the first to F this one up, and not all interviewees forgive so easily.

5. The heartwarming and exciting “you’ll never make a living with that major” convo

You can make a living doing anything, if you have enough talent and you work hard enough. So, goodbye. We don’t want to talk about it. But we just might write about it…

6. Finding people who will let you publish their quotes

I love spending an afternoon scrolling through Facebook groups, creepily messaging randos about the article I’m attempting to write, but can’t complete without quotes. Sike. Once you inform people that you can only use their quotes if you can refer to them by their full name, major, university and year, they get a little sketched out. “Can’t you just use my first name?” No, well-meaning almost-source, because then nobody will ever know if I fabricated this quote, or if you even exist. “Can you make my quotes anonymous?” No, I can’t. That privilege only applies to those whose livelihood or wellbeing face danger as a result of the quotes. Sorry ‘bout it.

7. Fact-checking

While the internet helps a budding journalist enormously, it does provide a lot of conflicting information. If you want to be a journalist, or a successful student, you have to learn to sift through a lot of crap to get to the truth. I won’t bitch about this one too much, because this life skill comes in handy for anyone in any profession.

8. Online formatting

Researching and writing the actual article should be the hard part, right? Well, for someone as technologically challenged as I am, this falls far from the truth. Picture yourself snuggled up in your favorite chair, done with your daily responsibilities, about to dive into the new Harry Potter. You wonder absentmindedly why your latest article hasn’t gone live, yet—and then you get a text from your editor, gently informing you that you F’ed up the formatting of all your carefully curated, hilarious gifs and they can’t post your work until you fix it. At this point, I thought I’d have a handle on that one.

9. Working around other people’s schedules

Remember those random people on Facebook? Well, some of them actually will agree to be interviewed and quoted. The struggles loom when a source, typically a professor or business person who (rightfully) has a jam-packed calendar and a lot to say, wants to schedule a phone call instead of just typing written responses. I enjoy a solid phone interview as much as the next journalist, but this is not a GT when you work 9 to 5 and the person can only speak then. Nothing like sneaking away from the cubicle for a quick phone interview in the bathroom, though, am I right?!

10. Finding a fresh angle in a world of clickbait

Don’t get me wrong—I’m genuinely ecstatic that Buzzfeed, The Odyssey, TSM and TFM, Elite Daily and countless other online, millennial-focused publications exist. It brings actual joy to my heart to see so many people engaging in journalistic writing. But as we all attend college, we tend to care about and write about similar things. I want to write something boring and overdone just as little as you want to read it. Sometimes, though, you don’t even realize how cliché something comes off until after the fact. Alas, we do what we can. Dramatic, I know. But it’s only because I care!

Sara is a senior broadcast journalism major at Penn State. She loves traveling, watching cooking videos, and puppies.

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