What I wasn’t taught in journalism school

There’s a statistic people love to cite when college students haven’t yet declared a major. It’s along the lines of, “undergrads change their major seven times on average before they graduate.” This number might not be exact, but it never mattered to me much anyway. I always knew I wanted to be a journalist, so throughout college, I had a narrow view and sharp focus for my life post-grad. I was just keeping my eyes on the prize, I thought. What I didn’t realize, though, was that by being so decisive with my career path, I may have limited my knowledge in other areas that could open me up to so many journalistic endeavors.

I graduated from the University of Oregon in June (go Ducks). I landed a summer internship reporting for a public radio station — this is exactly what I had in mind for my career. I was stoked! I felt so proud that, fresh out of school, I already had my foot in the door and was on my way to landing my dream job!

You can blame the pandemic, the gross underfunding of journalism, my young age or lack of experience — whatever. It doesn’t matter, because when fall rolled in, so did my debilitating unemployment. My goal of being a full-time radio reporter didn’t seem like such a viable option anymore.

When I met Craig in the parking lot of Safeway, I was wallowing in my self-proclaimed failure as a journalist. We started talking, and he told me about the various businesses he’s been involved in. He told me about his faith in a Artificial Intelligence software that was recently launched by Open AI. He also shared his predictions for the future of media, which he believed to be newsletter-based platforms. I thought he was crazy, and I thought he was kind. When he offered to pay me for a few hours of research, I gladly accepted.

Over the next few months as I continued my work with Craig, I became deeply familiar with Artificial Intelligence. It was definitely not something that was ever brought up in any of my liberal arts classes at university, so I never thought it would be very relevant to me. I was very wrong.

Reporters need to be curious, well-informed, and actively stay up-to-date on media trends and models. The research I’ve been doing on AI is an important part of that. I’ve been working as a research and teaching assistant with Craig, who’s an adjunct at Lehigh University’s journalism school. In the fall, we were tasked with incorporating AI into an introductory media and society course. This term, we’re working on an entrepreneurial journalism course for upper-classmen, focusing on building an audience with newsletter-based platforms. These projects have taught me so much that I never would have learned in college. The most important thing I’ve learned is this: because media consumption is rapidly changing, I’m going to have to be flexible in my career.

Maybe Substack is the future of journalism or maybe it’s TikTok. Regardless, I have to be willing to venture into unconventional paths and be entrepreneurial in my approach to success. That means capitalizing on my strengths, staying informed on trends, and making it work for me. My professors were beyond intelligent, had astounding credentials and insight. Their advice was invaluable. But many of them began reporting in a vastly different media landscape than the one we’re in now. I wish there was a course that taught me how to use my existing skills and interests to take my success into my own hands in the current news climate. Ideally, it would have looked something like the entrepreneurial journalism course I’m helping teach now at Lehigh as part of an unexpected post-grad gig.

My knowledge of Artificial Intelligence developments sets me apart from many other journalists my age. I regularly practice the distillation of complex information into understandable and concise narrative. I’m a strong communicator and can translate jargon-y tech-nerd stuff into user-friendly journalism for fellow liberal arts folk who don’t have a background in tech.

I’m the go-to friend for advice or feedback. If you need an email edited, or help practicing for an interview, or even an update on your Bumble bio, I seem to be the one to call. I’m helpful and easily excitable — I’m passionate about journalism and feminism and literature and poetry and visual arts and the history of hip-hop. I know a lot about all of these things, but there was an intimidating starting point for me. I don’t want anyone who is hungry for knowledge to be intimidated by elitist circles and high-level language. My role as a journalist is to be a medium for accessible information. Where this driving motive will take me is still to be decided. But as of right now, I want non-tech people to be informed about the world of Artificial Intelligence so that they feel equipped to implement it into their own lives.

Making Artificial Intelligence a little less intimidating